Culture is a constantly changing thing that we create and shape collectively, not a set of rules that are formally written and rewritten by some governing body. Sure, radio stations can be persuaded to drop a host who used racial slurs or Wal-Mart can be pushed to stop selling girls’ underwear with the phrase “Who needs credit cards …” on the front. Bans and boycotts can be used to great effect when they’re concrete and narrowly focused. But the feminist movement, at its best, does not simply decry negative media depictions or declare certain words off-limits; it creates better alternatives and rewrites narratives to be more inclusive. Kathleen Hanna didn’t start a “Ban Slut” campaign in the ’90s — she wrote the word on her belly with a Sharpie, owned it, and continued making awesome music.
Which is why it’s so frustrating to watch Lean In try to expand girls’ options by restricting the way we talk about them. It’s counterintuitive, and it makes feminists look like thought police rather than the expansive forward-thinkers we really are.”
“Here’s the thing. I was called bossy hundreds of times growing up and this is the first time I thought about it as something negative. One of Sheryl’s arguments for this campaign is that girls don’t want to be disliked. I would like to put out there that it’s more than okay to be disliked. And even go as far as to say it’s important. Be who you are and see who digs it. Those are your people. (Admission: I tweeted that last week.)”
Most girls are relentlessly told that we will be treated how we demand to be treated. If we want respect, we must respect ourselves.
This does three things. Firstly, it gets men off the hook for being held accountable for how they treat women. And secondly, it makes women feel that the mistreatment and sometimes outright violence they face due to their gender is primarily their fault. And thirdly, it positions women to be unable to speak out against sexism because we are made to believe any sexism we experience would not have happened if we had done something differently.
I cannot demand a man to respect me. No more than I can demand that anybody do anything. I can ask men to be nice to me. But chances are if I even have to ask he does not care to be nice. I can express displeasure when I’m not being respected. But that doesn’t solve the issue that I was disrespected in the first place.
I can choose to not deal with a man once he proves to be disrespectful and/or sexist. But even that does not solve the initial problem of the fact that I had to experience being disrespected in the first place.
As a young girl, I wish that instead of being told that I needed to demand respect from men that I had been told that when I am not respected by men that it’s his fault and not mine. But that would require that we quit having numerous arbitrary standards for what it means to be a “respectable” woman. It would mean that I am not judged as deserving violence based on how I speak, what I wear, what I do, and who I am.”