I used to hear it all the time when I was young. I myself am guilty of spouting the same idea:
“Girls, don’t expect guys to respect you if you don’t respect yourselves.”
At the age of almost 24, I didn’t think I would still hear grown adults say this. Shouldn’t be surprised though, I guess? Which is also saddening and unfortunate.
I’m not the same foolish middle schooler. When I saw someone post this, something in me was set aflame. I was angry.
“What kind of nonsense is this?” I thought to myself.
It’s not that I don’t get the mentality that it comes from. It’s not that I don’t get why, at some point, people might have felt that way.
Now, all I see is an extremely problematic statement.
Let’s just start with the underlying idea of “respect” first, shall we? How are we even defining respect? How are we defining self-respect? Don’t we all have different ideas of what it means for us to respect ourselves?
I assure you that I do indeed respect myself. That doesn’t change the fact that I could go out in a crop top and shorts, and have people look at me as not self-respecting.
Why not? Perhaps my outfit isn’t modest enough for them. “How could a woman who respects herself possibly be okay with flashing her belly button and thighs to the world?”
My self-respect doesn’t change the fact that people will perceive and judge me, according to their own standards. If I’m seen making out with a guy at a party, there will be plenty of people who aren’t bothered, and there could very well be plenty of people who will be.
It takes a whole lot of audacity to try and look at a girl and determine that they don’t respect themselves.
Does self-respect = basic human dignity?
The issue of endless ways to define respect and self-respect aside, there’s a deeper, more disturbing problem here for me. The inability to define respect in one set way is not what immediately repulsed me about this attitude.
Regardless of whether a woman is self-respecting or not, what the HELL does that have to do with how a guy, or ANYONE for that matter, treats her? Excuse me for repeating myself but, what kind of nonsense is this?
Although I don’t totally agree with the “I ain’t going to respect you if you ain’t going to respect me” attitude, this is so very different. To say that women shouldn’t expect guys to respect them if they don’t respect themselves is an entirely different sentiment.
One is about mutual respect, or lack thereof. The other is assuming a position where it’s permissible for your treatment of someone to be completely contingent on how they treat themselves.
What kind of cruel, compassion-less world would we live in if that’s how everyone behaved?
I am going to respect you, despite how you behave or what I perceive and inconclusively observe to say whether or not you have any self-respect. Why? Because you’re human, and I believe in basic human dignity.
Where is the love?
Maybe the woman does lack self-respect. Maybe she doesn’t have the same level of self-esteem that I do. All the more reason to show her respect, to treat her with basic dignity, to extend compassion and love.
We don’t know what kind of scars and trauma people carry with them. People who actually live out this problematic mentality – have you ever stopped judging someone and treating a person like crap to ask yourself, “Why are they like that?”
No, it’s not enough to say that a person is “like that” because they don’t respect themselves. That’s lazy. “Why do they not seem to respect themselves?”
Have you ever thought to get to know the person, to hear their story, rather than imposing your own “observations” and fabricated narrative onto them?
Please, be kind. Be respectful. Be compassionate.
For all you meninists and meninist sympathizers, don’t get your panties in a bunch. Every sentiment I’ve expressed is obviously applicable to people as a whole, not just women.
But not once have I ever heard a person say, “Guys, don’t expect women to respect you if you don’t respect yourselves.”