Headlines and Guidelines: How To Treat Women

I rarely respond to headlines, trends, or hot topics on this blog. Most of what is posted here stands alone, immune to current events or the latest trends.

However, the recent headlines about sexual harassment–and a message from one of our readers, Chris, on Twitter–have prompted me to address the subject of the proper treatment of women.  The recent scandals  have developed a tsunami-like quality. They originated, perhaps long ago and far away, in unseen depths, but now they have built, crested, and crashed upon our shores. Reputations, marriages and careers are being destroyed and swept away. The landscape afterwards will be very different. And everyone will have to take some time, look around, and assess the damage.

Debates about the permanence of this ‘watershed moment’ fill the columns and airtime of media outlets at present, and probably will for some time to come. This is understandable. How men treat women is an issue as old as recorded time. The inequality and injustice of some of this treatment is, sadly, just as old, because men have traditionally held a position of power over women. Men are generally physically stronger. We have historically made more money and wielded more political clout. We have viewed and recorded history from our perspective, too often exclusively. We wrote marriage vows that included ‘to love, honor, and obey’.

Sociologists, psychologist, historians, and activists will pontificate, politicize, and debate the factors that contribute to men’s less than noble behavior toward women. They will propose legislation, regulation, and sensitivity training. Maybe some or all of these things will have a positive, constructive effect on men.

From my perspective, it is very simple: boys and young men will imitate and emulate what they see, not what they are told. Their first teachers are their parents. It starts at home. Whether it’s domestic violence and sexist attitudes, or a healthy, give-and-take, talk-and-listen relationship between parents–they’ll see and learn that first.

Second, it’s peer pressure at school. If older students cast a long shadow over younger students and instill a tradition of respectful actions and language toward and around young girls and women, that will shape behaviors large and small. If a senior informs a freshman that certain things just aren’t done to or around young women, the edict will be obeyed, even if the rationale behind it is not completely or immediately understood.

Finally, gentlemen, when you’re interacting with a woman, it is helpful to see them first as someone’s daughter, someone’s mother, someone’s sister, or someone’s wife. Start with that concept. Consider how you’d like another man to treat your daughter, your mother, your sister, your wife. Act accordingly.

It’s simple, and it’s the right thing to do, headlines or no.

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7 thoughts on “Headlines and Guidelines: How To Treat Women

  1. I frequently tell my girls (now teenagers) to watch how a boy treats his mother. That is how he will eventually treat his wife.

  2. Please give some tips on how to deal with the challenges we face these days viz celebrity culture, over sharing on social media, 24 * 7 news, tv, internet connectivity, smart phones etc

  3. One could conclude that your last paragraph takes one towards the essence, which is how to treat others in general — regardless of gender, race, beliefs or status. This is what Kant aimed at through his categorical imperative: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law”.

    Ergo, it could be equally pertinent to question women’s less virtuous actions towards men. Perhaps, speaking of abuse would be rather exaggerated here, and a more balanced terminology could be “calculated insincerity” or “advanced self-interest”. Some of us may know situations in which women treated men as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. Philosophically speaking, whether abuse is verbal, physical, financial, or else, it is unethical.

    A question could be raised among the thinking part of the population: How could an independent, talented and elegant women be so careless as to choose (and keep for years) as a husband, a man with a solid history of abuse? And, in another questionable context, how could it be considered fair, philosophically speaking, that a woman becomes a millionaire, after a brief marriage, claiming through divorce a fortune which she didn’t proportionally contribute to?

    While speaking of “abuse” wouldn’t in such cases be entirely correct, these are things that, with time, may become socially unacceptable too. And so we may reach the last steps in the process of gender equality. The realisation that women are not per definition more caring, sincere, reliable, sensitive, reasonable than men. (Un)fortunately, we are equal.

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