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."
Poem written by an 11 year old Afghan girl
This poem was recorded in a NYT magazine article about female underground poetry groups in Afghanistan. An amazing article about the ways in which women are using a traditional two line poetry form to express their resistance to male oppression, their feelings about love (considered blasphemous).
I think feminism has gone the way of all our movements for social justice: Stuck on a pause. Same as we have seen for Black radical movements for justice. I was talking about Occupy Wall Street, which kind of gave us elements of activism. But we are not in a 99 percent world. We are in world with serious class complexes. It is one thing to be a college student with loan debts and another thing to be just dirt poor for your entire life. The challenge is to come up with more complex understandings of where we are, more global awareness of what connects Americans with what is happening with suffering and oppressed people all around the world. The future is not looking bright for any of us, be it women or people or color. We have to rethink how we live our lives.
I also think how feminism really pushed for jobs and money but we still have women caught up in patriarchy and sexism. A woman in an oppressive marriage with a job will leave. No. So many complexities keep women with jobs and careers in their terrible marriages. So much of civil rights and feminism have been challenged by reality. I think necessity requires us to rethink so much. That is the challenge of this whole Obama time. That sense of promise of Obama has not come true. Not Obama personally but he is a symbol of what we are talking about: What is success? What is a good life? What is our responsibility and accountability to others?"