When It Comes To Respecting Women, The Key Is Raising Our Sons Differently

by Lauren Martin

My roommate recently told me a story about walking down the street in Spandex shorts on the way to the gym.

She told me that she felt the stares of every man on her legs and thighs; it got so uncomfortable that she experimentally stuck out her tongue and not one man noticed or removed his gaze.

She told me she couldn’t believe it, that even distracting them with a tongue wouldn’t stop their stares. She told me she was sick of feeling this way -- dirty and violated just for walking down the street.

And I know this feeling she was describing, the deep sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach when you’re thrown into the dripping, salivating reality of men.

When you realize you can’t walk down the street in jean shorts without feeling like a whore. That feeling that you really are just legs, thighs and breasts to them.

You are a KFC order, completely subhuman with no purpose but sexual gratification. You are just another woman in a world of men.

She then told me she was never going to wear her gym clothes out again, that she’d wear pants to the gym and change there. I told her that would mean that we were giving up our right to wear what we want just because men make us feel uncomfortable, and that’s not fair.

We should be not only allowed, but unashamed to wear gym shorts to the gym and dresses to clubs. We shouldn’t feel the weight of shame when putting on a skirt or wearing a V-neck. We shouldn’t have to endure the disgusting and perverted stares of men who refuse to look us in the eyes.

We shouldn’t have to walk past catcalls and whistles, feeling uncomfortable in the street we’re supposed to share.

But what can we do? Cover ourselves up and never leave the house? Scream back, kick and yell? Write poetry, essays and theses? Conduct research, surveys and more stats? We’ve done all that, or at least we've started to.

And we should keep doing it, until men learn to respect women, until they can learn to keep their catcalls to themselves and their whistles for ball games. But one thing I don’t think we’ve thought of to break this vicious cycle is one that begins and ends with us. We will change the way we raise our sons.

It’s a pretty revolutionary concept and a simple one at a that. We have the opportunity to change the way men think about women, to break the cycle and start a new one.

We have the power to raise another generation of boys, a new type of man. For we have more power than anyone (the media included) over men because we will be their mothers, their providers and their role models. We will be the guiding light of what's wrong and right, their first and last teacher.

We will have the power to raise our sons differently. We will be able to mold new ideas about women and our roles in society.

We will have the opportunity to raise gentlemen instead of thugs, perverts and playboys. We will be able to teach them chivalry and respect.

We will start another class of men, a class that knows they shouldn’t gawk, tease or whistle just because they can’t stop thinking about sex. Yes, they will be different; they will be gentlemen.

They Will Share The Sidewalk

Rather than standing there, staring, catcalling and pushing women off the sidewalks, they will share it like gentlemen. They will let women walk down the street like any other man, comfortable and secure.

They won't yell out of cars, making women nervous to pass vehicles full of men. They will respect a woman’s right to wear shorts without making her feel violated and ashamed for showing skin on a summer day.

They Will Make Requests, Not Demands

They will not ask for naked pictures or any of the other sexual perversions the over-stimulated boys of today expect from the women they are talking to. They will not treat women like the prostitutes and slaves in their video games.

They will take women out to dinners and bars and ask permission to take them home. They won't expect sex on the first date and they won't treat women poorly after they've done it. They will expect the same things that women expect from men: respect and love.

They Will Remain Faithful

They won’t text 20 girls at the same time or deceive the women they are with. They will give women the same attention and respect that women should also give to men.

They will not make the women they are with constantly worry if they are enough for them. They won’t make girls experience that sickening feeling that comes with finding out the men they love don’t love them enough to stay faithful.

They Will Be Peers, Not Captors

Our sons will have a new view of women. They will look at them as their peers, companions and equals. They will respect, not objectify, women for their beauty and grace, and they will not use either as a reason to treat them as lesser beings or things to be conquered.

They will hold women's opinions and feelings on the same level as their male counterparts' and never question a woman's intelligence because of the size of her breasts.

They Will Understand Women

Rather than just trying to get to know female anatomy, they will take the time to understand a woman's feelings and opinions. They won't label her "crazy," "high maintenance" or "hormonal" because she decided to speak her mind.

They will never ignore her ideas and her feelings simply because she is "just a woman," nor will they dismiss legitimate arguments and claims simply because it's easier than respecting her.

Photo via We Heart It