“Respect is a two-way street, if you want to get it, you’ve got to give it.” – R.G. Risch
When it comes to the standards we place on men and women, we’re in an interesting place these days. Many societal expectations have been supressed, like women being the homemakers and men the breadwinners, and we’ve (mostly) passed the point where women who do choose to be stay-at-home moms are vilified for perpetuating antiquated standards. Feminism is still a hot topic, inspiring documentaries like WONDER WOMEN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines and discussion here at GenTwenty. There are still an unfortunate number of double standards that women face, both in the workplace and their personal lives. There is one double standard, however, that favours women over men and slips through the cracks in popular culture and our everyday interactions. Let’s look at a couple of scenarios.
Scenario number one: you show up early to meet up with your significant other and hear him making wisecracks about you with his friends. Maybe it’s about something you said or something you did with him, but you didn’t think it would go any further, and now it’s got entertainment value as far as he’s concerned.
How would you feel? Depending on the specifics of what he said, I’d feel hurt, betrayed, shocked. Reactions may differ but the fact is he broke your trust, and all for what appears to be amateur comedy hour with his buddies.
Okay, scenario number two: you’re having a girl’s night out and the topic of conversation inevitably moves to your significant others. You’re feeling lighthearted, it’s a great night and, oh, remember that cupboard your SO tried and failed to hang last week? He’s so crap at home improvement, it makes for the best story and your girlfriends are falling off their chairs laughing. What’s the harm? He’s not there to hear you, and it’s all in good fun, right?
Here’s the thing: maybe he would laugh it off, maybe he wouldn’t mind you sharing that particular tidbit with your friends, but turn it around for a second. How would you feel if he mocked your lack of talent in the kitchen, or lamented your constant absentmindedness when it comes to taking out the trash? Unless it’s an ongoing joke that you share, in public and in private, chances are you’d be pretty embarrassed.
These days, when you hear a man trashing a woman in any way, shape or form, it tends to get your hackles up. I know it rubs me the wrong way. But when a woman puts down a man, it’s played for a laugh. Popular culture has perpetuated the idea that this is okay, right back to shows like Sex and the City.
It all comes down to respect, and this goes for interactions about men with your friends, coworkers and family, and your interactions with men directly. Take something we’ve heard, and maybe even say, on a fairly regular basis: “Men are slobs,” or “Men are jerks.” Now flip it: “Women are bitches.” I’m willing to bet most people have a worse reaction to the latter than the former. When did it become okay to treat men with less respect than women? It’s about equality, not superiority.
Respect is crucial, and not so we have a leg to stand on when we complain about the way men treat us, but because it’s common courtesy. The oldie-but-goodie Golden Rule still has its place: treat other people the way you’d like them to treat you. I’m not saying it’s easy; as important as this is to me and as much as I value the men in my life, I’ve been known to spout off about them on occasion. Overall, though, I try to be self-aware and ask myself a few important questions before talking about someone, even with my closest friends, and I encourage you to do likewise.
With a bit of variation from time to time, those questions are as follows:
- How would I feel if he said something like this about me? (Sexual inadequacies, embarrassing moments and disclosing on sensitive topics make for juicy gossip but aren’t fair game).
- Am I making a sweeping generalization about men or is this based on his individual actions?
- How would he feel about who I’m saying this to? (Someone he wants to earn respect from is off-limits).
- Why am I saying this? (Inspiring a laugh isn’t a valid reason; searching for validation and/or advice could be a noble or false goal).
Are men perfect? No. Are women perfect? No. What we are is human, and one of the best things we can do for each other is (here’s that word again) respect one another. Some of us may already be pros at keeping our mouth shut, or maybe we still can’t resist that high school urge to momentarily get the spotlight, but I think we can all do better. Let’s practice respect for others and, in doing so, respect ourselves that little bit more.
“The truest form of love is how you behave toward someone, not how you feel about them.” – Steve Hall