By: Emily Blum
All too often we hear stories of women being violated or harassed, and then told that they provoked and deserved it. Too many women and girls are told that someone’s abusive, aggressive, or threatening behavior was something that they asked for simply based on their existence in society’s eyes as an enticing object.
I think it is safe to say that most people agree that women are viewed and treated as objects. But what does that really mean? This means that women are not regarded or treated as being of equal value to any man in that they are not human, but as exist as items, objects, gadgets, devices, things of use to and for men. The definition of an object is “a material thing that can be seen and touched” or “a thing external to the thinking mind or subject.” This means that women, ripped of their human status, are objects to be seen and touched, but not heard.
“Women need to respect themselves in order to get respect” is an idea that is blind to a system that works against women no matter what choices they make. This idea also denies women respect based on their innate humanity because in this society they are marked by gender and de facto stripped of their personhood. For one, respect for oneself has absolutely nothing to do with what one deserves. And secondly, high levels of sexual behavior do not indicate a lack of self-respect- that is the key idea that people miss when they talk about women having “self-respect.” And most importantly, self-respect is crucial to thriving in any life. But how can women thrive in a society where women are not respected, yet constantly scolded to respect themselves under the “guidance” of people who disrespect women?
Any woman, who respects herself, her body, and her mind in whatever way she chooses, will always be the subject of criticism. The irony is that the person criticizing a woman assumes they know how she should respect herself better than she does, when really, while shaming and blaming her; they are being the most impudent. For example, a woman who respects herself in the sense that she might claim herself to be a feminist, regarding her body, mind and soul as deserving of equality, humanity and respect, is not only disrespected by a system of oppression, injustice, violence and inequality, but also belittled by individual men (and individual woman) who claim that her self-respect is unbecoming, inappropriate and out of line. The bottom line is that it is to have so- called, “self-respect”, by societal standards, means self-betrayal.
She who is woman is belittled, discredited, her voice silenced, diminished, and trivialized any time she speaks of this disrespect or oppression, ironically her voice coming from a place of self-respect, enough to warrant her passion and desire to earn equal respect from the world around her.