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What Is Respect & Who Deserves It?

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As much as we complicate love and what it means, I’m convinced that it’s much more simple than we let ourselves believe. Respect, as a concept, is much harder to explain. What is respect? The dictionary can only be so efficient in describing complex, personal human ideas fueled by emotion and interaction. In my attempt to define it on my own terms, I’ve come to the conclusion that in one context, respect means to treat a person or situation with a general attitude of worthiness, and that in another it means to hold someone or something in an above average regard. The first context says more about the subject while the second says more about the object.

More and more, I’ve heard phrases like, “women deserve respect,” and the more I’ve heard it, the more skeptical I’ve become of it. I believe that people should be treated with respect. Listen to understand and not for your chance to speak. Say please and thank you. Be patient. Don’t pee on people unless they’re into that. Pretty basic stuff. I think we can all agree that women, and people in general, should be respected in this sense. But is that what it means when some lanky 19 year old in a gender studies class means when he insists that he “respects women?” Is that what the feminists mean?

I doubt that a solid consensus has been reached about what it means to “respect women,” but I’ve been lead to believe that it has something to do with not treating them as disposable or sex objects, and maybe I have some intellectual growing to do, but I think there is room for improvement in that definition. Modern feminism frequently promotes promiscuity and casual, emotionless sex, so it’s logically inconsistent to encourage women to behave one way and condemn a man’s natural reaction to that behavior. Being a woman doesn’t mean that your only value should be physical, and that is a genuine issue that our society still needs to address. We shouldn’t be endorsing ideas as infantile and meaningless as “everyone is beautiful,” but instead teaching women that their beauty isn’t the single most important factor in determining their worth. But I digress. While being a woman doesn’t mean that your only value is aesthetic, perception mirrors presentation. If you present yourself like a piece of meat, you will be perceived as a piece of meat. When I put on a push up bra and a low cut dress and go to a bar, it’s not because I’m expecting to discuss why the Bergdahl trade was an administrational failure. Also, intellect doesn’t get you free drinks. Likewise, when male athletes do these scantily clad photo spreads for different magazines, I’m not thinking about a single thing besides how great he probably is in the sack.

So, do women deserve respect? People, regardless of gender, should not be peed on without consent. They should also be given a fair opportunity to prove themselves. But respect is something earned, and something that varies from person to person. At this point in my life, I don’t think anyone’s entitled to it.

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