Someone on my Facebook posted an image with the following words on it:
“Destroy the idea that men should respect women because we are their daughters, mothers and sisters. Reinforce the idea that men should respect women because we are people.”
As a feminist, I’m supposed to support this. But, the view it seems to take is that if we are daughters, mothers and sisters then somehow we are “owned” by fathers, sons and brothers. Except, nothing is further from the truth. I am not the possession of my father nor my brother. If I had a son, I would not be his possession either. I have 3 nephews, and they certainly have no ownership of my self in any way.
There is no “possession” in that relationship. Yes, we need to respect women (and men) as people, owning themselves and responsible for themselves. But we should NOT be attempting to destroy the bonds of family in the process. I love my brother, I love my nephews, and I even love my father. And I am loyal to them. But I am not so blind as to take anything they say as gospel. I make my own decisions, and am accountable for them myself.
I am my nephew’s aunt, not because they somehow “own” me, but because of simply an accident of birth. But, if they associate other women with me as a guide, then they will expect a woman to speak for herself, to have an intelligent mind, and to be bluntly honest.
I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
I’m my father’s daughter, but he doesn’t own me (although, sometimes that may be to his chagrin, being he is a bit old-fashioned in that sense). But, I’m also the daughter that he taught to be independent, to have opinions, and to speak the truth.
I don’t think that’s a bad thing either.
I don’t have any children, but looking at my sister’s children, she taught them that a woman is strong, compassionate and capable. They look at a mother figure and see something worthy of respect and dignity.
And that’s certainly no bad thing.
I had two brothers, before one died at age 19. That one respected me, and turned to me for advice. The other one, well, let’s just say he had to learn things about women the “hard way.” But, he eventually did. And finding out some of the many things that happened to me growing up, things that he may have done to other women before he put his head on straight – that gives him a real view at the reality of women as people.
What it means is that these men, filtering their view of the world through the women in their lives, are more likely to have learned to treat women as people, not as possessions. The women in their lives aren’t “fragile flowers of femininity” but people who work hard, who have survived, and who still put their shoulders to the wheel and continue their lives.
I see no reason to deny men the ability to view the world through the filter of strong, loving women.
But that ALSO requires the women in their lives to be strong and worthy individuals too. It requires us to be able to look them straight in the eye and tell them the absolute truth.
It requires us NOT to hide our fears, our insecurities, or our emotions from them. I know exactly how hard it is for my sister to cry in front of any of my nephews, even the eldest.
It requires us to NOT destroy the personalities of the men in our lives. It requires us being willing to give them consequences if their behavior is not appropriate instead of excusing them because they are “men” or “boys.”
There is NO SUCH THING as “boys will be boys.”
It means that we women need to learn not to play emotional manipulation games to get men to do what we want. It means we have to be HONEST and TRUSTWORTHY to the men in our lives as much as they need to be those things to us.