Over the weekend I saw a retweet from my friend Niki Acosta (@nikiacosta) which stated:
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.
While I certainly agree with the latter notion, I don’t think that the former is very wise. We have a problem with men who treat women as nothing more than objects, and that translates into all kinds of hostile and dangerous behavior. First and foremost should be reducing the amount, and therefore the number of victims, of that behavior. So what is really needed is a way to modify their behavior; after that’s done we can think about enlightenment of their backwards minds, but until then, that’s a far-off luxury.
Men who exhibit these behaviors in general do not see women as people, so trying to appeal to them on this will have no effect. These men are brought up in environments where women are not seen as equal. Most come from the world of “traditional” marriage, where a woman was property to be exchanged among men in different families. They exist for men’s sexual pleasure, to bear offspring, and to do the “women’s work” of the home. In that world, women are servants. The notion that a woman is just as much a person as they are, and deserves equal respect, would seem ludicrous to them. But it is likely that they have developed some bonds with female members of their family, and so they can understand that if someone were to disrespect their mother, or their sister, they would feel that that action was wrong, and it’s possible that they might make the relatively small mental leap to seeing that the “objects” they want are indeed someone else’s mother or sister or daughter. It might cause them to think twice about acting on their thoughts.
As the saying goes, Perfect is the Enemy of the Good. It would be absolutely wonderful if we could raise the social awareness of everyone so that people treat each other well simply because of our respective personhoods, but if you strive for that, you’ll miss opportunities to make some incremental changes in the world. Let’s focus on improving the behavior of these problematic men before we worry about raising their level of consciousness.