I believe one of the greatest obstacles we have in changing the current problems facing Men is a lack of respect for Women.
Many of the voices out there calling for a change can be angry and vitriolic; they come from men who have felt under attack from Women for so long that they have started to see women as their Enemy. Once you have an Enemy, it is easy to start thinking of differing agendas as a cultural “War.” From there it is equally easy to make the grand strategical error of not respecting your Enemy. Not everyone reads the Sun-Tzu well.
The end result is a miasma of blogs full of anger, vitriol, and frustration being aimed at Women by Men who are otherwise promising their readers to teach them how to be better Men. Of course, they aren’t the only force out there that leads to the disrespect of Women. It is coming from a lot of sources:
Pick-up culture: Perhaps it feels empowering to be able to have a one-night stand without shame, preamble, or commitment, but it is nothing special. It rewards people of both genders for treating people as sex-toys. It leeches the most valuable elements out of sex while it’s at it, leaving it a mechanical act without context.
Mass Media: I don’t generally care one way or another for the arguments about “presenting women as objects of male pleasure”, those are too simplistic to be valuable. Rather, it presents a range of shallow caricatures of women up as role-models; ones that are generally dismissable. At the same time it presents men as idiotic beings who must be controlled or manipulated by women in an adversarial relationship.
HR Culture: Human beings have become essentially expendable Resources to employers, which would be enough in itself. However, it also creates adversarial cultures within employment, where people compete for jobs and learn to resent one another as groups.
Certain forms of Feminism: It is hard for Men to be anything but defensive when their sexuality is demonized, but that too is a surface point. Many Feminisms have started to hold Women to very different standards of behaviour to Men: they act as though every decision (especially regarding sex) made by Women is made due to external pressures, without any legitimate volition of their own; reducing them morally to children.
I won’t get into porn at all, for the sheer reason that grand, sweeping statements about Pornography fall flat the moment you look at them closely.
These voices forget something that is absolutely vital to the human condition: as communities and as a species we rise or fall together. Men and Women are meant to be partners; we have evolved to the creatures we are now to complement one another. Women are not, and never will be the Enemy of Men.
Nor can we lay blame for the current problems facing Men as being solely the responsibility of Women in general or Feminists in particular. Feminism is a natural result of pressures on our society that reach very far back in time. In fact laying blame at all is a distraction: we haven’t the time to bother with it, if we are going to create a better world for ourselves and our sons.
In order to make that world work, we need to form relationships with women as partners in a way that is very different from the partnerships of previous centuries. At the core of any partnership there needs to be respect.
Even beyond that, respecting Women has to be a part of maintaining our Integrity. To be Men of Integrity we need to hold other people to the same standards as we hold ourselves. We need to expect no more and no less of them as people and moral agents than we do ourselves. Likewise, as Men of Integrity we must accord them the same dignity and respect as we accord ourselves.
We also must keep in mind that their experiences, their emotions, their imperatives, and their motivations are different from ours. We need to understand that Women see the world through a different set of lenses than we do, and be willing to understand, accept, and work around those differences. Pretending they are not there, or are insignificant invalidates the life experiences of both genders.
So how does respect for women really look? That will vary from person to person, but I can tell you about a few things are core ingredients to it:
Understand a Woman owes you nothing: they are people. If you have no agreement and no relationship she is under no obligation to treat you differently. This means they have no reason to defer to you, no obligation to respond to your advances, and no more call to give you attention than a Man does.
Understand a Woman has a right to make her own choices: even if you don’t approve of them. Nor are you obligated to bail her out if she makes a bad one.
Do not put Women on a pedestal: they are neither morally superior or inferior to Men. They are just as responsible for their actions and ideas. Do not defer to them, worship them, or allow yourself to be intimidated by them on the basis of their sex: it is patronizing.
Be Honest: speak what is on your mind. Politely. Men get in a lot of trouble trying to dance around issues – or their motivations. If you want to go out with a woman, don’t try to be her friend first.
Don’t be afraid to call a Woman on her BS: being honest about your opinion is part of having Integrity. That not only means not hiding your true motives, it means not sugar-coating things either. If you catch dishonest, lazy, or selfish behaviour that you would call a Man on, call a woman on it, too.
Don’t condescend to be “Nice”: The world is full of people who believe in an unspoken contract that if they are nice, chivalrous, or clever, the world owes them some kind of recompense for it. It doesn’t. Being “Nice” does not mean that women are obliged to get involved with you. If you are going to be sweet and kind, do so for no other reason than that kindness makes the world a better place, anything else is inauthentic.
Watch for Fear and Anger: some women are accustomed to being afraid of men. Some are characteristically angry at them. If you see either of these things controlling your interactions you have two choices: address it and be understanding, or end the interaction. Don’t leave it hanging there; nothing that comes out of those interactions can be genuine otherwise.
Understand Women as Sexual Beings: this is not easy to cover in a few sentences. There are lots of points to this. Sex is an intricate dance best performed in a close relationship. It is full of risks and fears. I can guarantee half of what you have been told about Women and sexuality is dead wrong and another quarter is distorted. If you want to have sex with Women, learn about what sex means to them and to you first.
Compromise on Communications: Women are oriented towards a lot of spoken exchange and emotional openness that may be more than you are comfortable with. If you want authentic communication you will have to meet Women halfway out of respect for this difference.
Don’t allow yourself to be disrespected: this is implied in a few places, but not yet explicit. In any interaction Respect is extended as a bridge between two people. After first contact, it has to be earned. Some men let women trample on them out of a belief that it ought to be tolerated or is somehow justified. It never is. Ask for an apology or walk away.
Honestly, respecting Women and having genuine self-respect is a book waiting to happen.