When I was a kid, I was taught to respect people and act accordingly. I was taught to be gentle, loving, and sensitive to women. But culture also taught me that women are insecure about their looks. That a woman’s beauty is what means the most to men AND to women.
Culture taught us a lot. But that doesn’t make it correct.
Men often are attracted to women physically before being attracted to them in other ways. Men have always been regarded as the more visual half of our species. We see something we like, and we go after it. This is something I understood almost instinctually throughout my life. I know I certainly believed this and acted upon these notions in my teen years and early 20s. But as I passed my mid-twenties, something began to change.
It started with this conviction to want to treat women equally among each other. I started wanting to compliment and make someone feel better about themselves simply because they deserved it. I wanted to be able to be nice without ulterior motives. I would say things like “You look pretty today” or “I love your hair”, etc. It seemed harmless enough. And physical compliments are usually easier compliments to make, so it was easy to give them. After all, there’s always something you can compliment about someone’s looks, right?
Another few years go by, and my convictions deepen and intensify and extend to other areas.
Today I don’t feel the same as I did before. I actually uttered the phrase “You’re pretty” to someone the other day, and I felt incredibly guilty. I couldn’t quite put my finger on where these feelings were coming from at first, but after some time contemplating it, this is what I came up with:
- Women are not the summation of the opinions of their peers, especially their male counter-parts.
- A woman is more than her beauty
- A woman should be respected for her intelligence, wit, sense of humor, strength, character, and over all ability to accomplish amazing things.
Ultimately, I decided that if I really wanted to say something nice, uplifting, and encouraging, saying “You’re pretty” was the LAST thing I should be saying.
I get it. Some of you will think I’m overreacting and overthinking it. Some of you don’t see the harm in saying this. But As a white male entering into my 30s, I feel an overwhelming responsibility to speak against the cultural norm that has created this standard that magnifies a woman’s worth only by her beauty. This road has dangerous consequences. I’d rather try to avoid it if possible.
She Can do Anything Better Than Me
I’m completely of the opinion that women are more often than not more capable than I am at handling a multitude of tasks in the world. Women are strong, incredible, miraculous creatures.
I do wonder sometimes if men put women down because of their intimidation of women. Feeling inferior can certainly have devastatingly unhealthy and irrational reactionary behavior.
None the less, I make a valiant effort to not use language that sounds demeaning, disrespectful, or otherwise off putting of women in any context. I actually despise when this happens and will typically speak out against such behavior. It sickens me to think that a man would not treat a woman with the utmost respect, especially one he claims to “love”.
If you think a woman can’t run a company, a country, a household, an organization, etc. Then we fundamentally disagree.
The Results Of A Corrupt Mindset
We have so encouraged the objectification of women in our culture for so long, that we are finally reaching the point where we are seeing the serious implications of our broken ways of thinking. We have raised boys from a young age to think of women physically. Woman have “cooties” in kindergarten, but once we get a bit older, we begin to see them a bit differently. During this whole process, boys are allowed to be mean to the girls they like, being written off by saying “boys will be boys”, and teaching our daughters that “that’s what a boy does when he likes you”. How parents missed the implications of teaching their daughter such a blatantly terrible lesson is beyond me. Did they really think teaching their daughter that when a boy likes/loves/adores them, they will express it through physical abuse wouldn’t have negative implications?!
We continue the trend by teaching our boys that their actions are less crucial than women. That we won’t judge their thoughts, as long as they don’t act upon them. Meanwhile, we harshly judge a young woman for her actions. The way she dresses, the way she acts, the words she uses, the tone of voice, her facial expressions, all judged to twist reality to make everything her fault. If something unspeakable, unforgivable, and thinkably evil happens to her, then its her fault. Boys are taught this from preteen age on.
Fast forward to college. It seems that there have been a surge of rape cases being in the national spotlight lately. But have they actually been increasing? Or is it just better news?
According to stats conducted by the Justice Department, the percentage of rape cases actually fell 64% between 1995 and 2005, and then held it’s percentage for 5 years.
I’m not able to find reliable statistics for 2016 yet, so is it that it’s still falling and the media is putting it in our faces more, or is it just too early to tell?
All of this is part of a much bigger question; Have we become so desensitized as a society to the demoralization and objectification of women that we aren’t able to see that we have created a culture that allows and forgives unimaginably evil acts committed against an innocent woman, and allow it to go unpunished?
This is a hard pill to swallow. We have our parents’ generation and part of my generation to thank for this particular troubling issue that we face. But ultimately we have multiple decades of human history to thank. We over-sexualized women, suppressed sexual desire in young men and made it shameful to have such desires, and created this pressure cooker of a situation that was bound to create quite impactful results. Maybe this is the beginning of those results. The question is; How far will we let this go before we draw the line and say “enough”?
I refuse to stand by idly while any woman is disrespected in any way. I won’t allow such behavior to take place around me, or in my life in any way. It may not mean much in the big picture, but I’m willing to do my part with what small sphere of influence I may have in my own life.
I hope this encourages my fellow men to do the same. Change can happen one story at a time.