Women must set an example of respect
I am a feminist, and there’s no way around that completely irrevocable fact.
There are three things that bring me to this conclusion about myself – my strong opinions about women’s rights, my belief that gender inequality is a real problem and my desire to feel comfortable in my own body, no matter the circumstance.
Though all of these issues are close to my heart, it is the last one that has been weighing on me most heavily in recent months.
With the growth of the #YesAllWomen and #HeForShe campaigns on Twitter, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of feminism-related social media posts, all stemming from the idea that men should respect women.
The #YesAllWomen campaign invites women to share stories in which they were victims of harassment or discrimination. Though the campaign doesn’t specify, a majority of the #YesAllWomen stories involve the violence of men against women.
I am not here to say that this is not a problem, because it most certainly is. I’ve certainly met my fair share of men who refuse to look past my gender when they interact with me. Everywhere women go, they deal with comments, looks and touches that make them uncomfortable.
However, it’s not only men that women need to watch for.
I have to be honest. I have probably received just as many, if not more, rude and disrespectful comments from other women as I have from men. Though it’s a different type of harassment, the comments that other women make can be just as degrading as a cat-call from a man on the street.
“Girls can be mean,” my mother told me back in middle school. It’s something that has stuck with me, even now as a junior in college. It does, however, sound quite a lot like an excuse.
I’ve read over and over again that the phrase “boys will be boys” isn’t fair because it doesn’t give men enough credit, making them sound immature and incapable of respect. Doesn’t “girls can be mean” do the exact same?
I like to think that both men and women are capable of more than disrespect and hatred for each other. Why is it, then, that people continue to degrade women or assign them stereotypes just because of the type of clothing they are wearing? If a woman decides that she is comfortable in shorts and a crop top, she deserves just as much respect as a woman in a floor length skirt and T-shirt.
I still hear that a woman who chooses not to dress in a “modest” fashion is “easy” and “not respecting her body,” with these comments coming from other women who decide that they know her simply because of the type of clothing she is wearing. Contemporary feminists profess that a woman is never “asking for it,” despite what she’s wearing. However, judgment continues to be passed when women label each other as “easy.”
I often wonder why it’s alright for women to degrade other women, but it’s not alright for men to do so. After all, if women can’t even respect each other, how can they expect respect from men? Once, I had the pleasure of conversing with a woman who said that stores should not sell yoga pants and skinny jeans above a size five. Just as a reference point, the average American woman wears a size 14.
The #HeForShe campaign asks men to stand alongside women and fight for gender equality. What right do we have to ask for this if we can’t even battle inequality within our own gender?
When it comes to feminism, people are told to teach their boys to respect girls so that they grow up to be men that treat women with dignity. The need for men to respect women has long been at the forefront of this conversation. I wonder when we are going to start teaching women to respect women