Monday, February 5, 2007

Women’s Earning Potential: Respect

I don’t respect Women.

No more than I respect Blacks, Jews, steel workers, billionaire oil tycoons or Swahili-speaking window washers. Or any other arbitrarily chosen group, for that matter, based solely on its identification as a group. That goes for Murderers or Monks; Philanderers or Philanthropists. And so it goes for Women, a group so broad and diverse that surely, though the group’s feminist citizenry would disagree, at least one out of the bunch is undeserving of respect.

Indeed, respect is a privilege that is earned individually not collectively, through deeds, actions, intentions, values, integrity and social impact. It is NOT a birthright conferred on any person born with a vagina and a set of breasts.

Still, it is quite common these days to hear carping about not being shown enough respect “as a woman”. Feeling like they’re constantly put-upon by “chauvinistic pigs” (read, men), these women spend a disproportionate amount of time declaring their independence and even more time decrying the perceived lack of respect shown them by men. “You don’t respect women,” they cry, to whatever man will listen who they’ll end up sleeping with anyway. “As a woman, I demand to be respected,” comes the familiar refrain.

As a feminist, I take great umbrage at these sorts of declarations. Women who feel this way are being more discriminatory to themselves than men could ever be to them. Like the beneficiaries of affirmative action, there is an implicit admission of inferiority and lack of ability in someone who demands to be treated differently because of their genetic coding.

Not only that, but it is at stark odds with the basic tenets of feminism and the female empowerment movement--sexually, politically and socially—that I value as a feminist. To wit: notions of equality, fair treatment and equal pay, sexual liberation, personal and financial empowerment. I believe in these feminist ideals. Unfortunately, the loud-chirping shrews who eternally, futilely, seek the respect of men while slipping on their panties, day-old makeup scrubbed sideways and condom wrapper on the floor, are doing the rest of us feminists a disservice.

And here is what I mean: Any group who requests preferential treatment based on nothing more than their naked social identity—“Beautiful Black Women”, “Suffering Alcoholics”, “Holocaust Survivors,” “Children of Holocaust Survivors”—are disempowering themselves by acknowledging their own inferiority and inability to rise above circumstance. Do NOT do them the disservice of according them their sought-after respect.

With women it’s no different. It’s just a little harder to do because they’re pretty and they have tits. And they know this. But if they cannot earn it individually, they have no right to demand it collectively. So next time a woman says to you, “you don’t respect women,” tell her she’s right; you respect people, men and women alike, who demonstrate their worthiness, and as an avowed feminist you find her remarks offensive and insulting to women. Then leave.

Remember, it is no coincidence that women who seemingly are always complaining about their lack of respect and blame men for their problems, never seem to get it. Meanwhile, the silent minority—the Oprah Winfrey’s, the Greta Van Suestren’s, the Melinda Gates’ and the Meryl Streeps’ of the world, just to name a few—receive effortlessly the respect and admiration of men the world over. Not a word about lack of respect ever leaves their lips. They, along with myself and men like me, are the true feminists.

To these women, respect is something that is earned not demanded. They are the wives and the single mothers, the homemakers and the corporate executives. They have strengthened their husbands and got the same in return; raised children and commanded their bodies as vessels of beauty, purity and sanctity; they have risen proudly in the workforce and staked their rightful claim in industry, politics, enterprise and social policy. They have earned it. And as a feminist I salute them all.

Meanwhile, the carping little girls who are put-upon and abused and disrespected (wah, wah, wah…) ought be ashamed of attaching the hallowed feminist credo to their limp existence. They are a disgrace to the word. All the gold-diggers and largess-seeking husband hunters, all the women who use their looks to get plied with drinks at bars; all the unemployed parasites with sugar daddies, the lot of you ought to be ashamed of yourselves for ever using words like “respect” and “woman” in the same sentence.

To the men out there, these are the same “women” who preserve their maiden name or demand you hyphenate yours, adopt masculine qualities of austerity and over-aggression in the workplace to validate their position and feel “respected”. Watch out for them like a field mouse stays alert to lurking rattlers. They’ll eat you alive.

It is, instead, that rare breed of woman who has harnessed the ideologies of female empowerment, embraced sexual liberation and earned female independence in a constructive way while maintaining the reverence for the respective differences in our inherent natures as men and women who are the heroic figures of the feminist movement. Not the vocal majority.

In conclusion, yes, women have changed. Today a woman needs to be gratified sexually and should expect to be. Women in the workplace are a blessing for which all men should be grateful. Their novel ideas and variegated perspectives have enriched corporations and paved inroads previously uncharted. These women seldom need to insist on hyphenated last names or bellow about lack of respect in order to be admired and revered by men. Their value stands on its own.

These women always feel like real women, and their true genius lies in their ability, in the face of female empowerment and sexual liberation gone awry, to still make their men feel like real men. Because yesterday, today and, yes, still tomorrow, nowhere will a man ever feel like more of a man than in the tender cradle of strength, nourishment and dignity of a woman’s love. That will never change as long as men and women are alive.

Respect women? As a feminist, never!!


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