Part of being a self-realized woman is learning to not be afraid of your own power. I have had to realize that a lot of people will be uncomfortable with my assertiveness and intelligence and strength but that’s their problem and not mine. I have had to realize that I don’t deserve to keep company with people who are threatened by me taking charge of my own life. Of my own life.
I’ve had to learn that every message to be more quiet, more demure, more obedient is spoken by people who are most certainly weaker than I am and are reliant on sexism to hopefully persuade me to give up on myself.
Early in her career as a women’s rights leader, Susan B. Anthony concluded that the ballot contained the real secret of women’s emancipation, and that sexism itself was far more oppressive than class inequality and racism. In Anthony’s eyes, ‘(T)he most odious oligarchy ever established on the face of the globe’ was the rule of men over women.
Anthony’s staunchly feminist position was also a staunch reflection of bourgeois ideology. And it was probably becaues of the ideology’s blinding powers that she failed to realized that working-class women and Black women alike were fundamentally linked to their men by class exploitation and racist oppression which did not discriminate between the sexes. While their men’s sexist behavior definitely needed to be challenged, the real enemy - their common enemy - was the boss, the capitalist, or whoever was responsible for the miserable wages and unbearable working conditions and for racist and sexist discrimination on the job.An oligarchy of wealth, where the rich govern the poor; an oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant; or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex which makes father, brothers, husbands, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters of every household; which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects - carries discord and rebellion into every home of the nation.
Most girls are relentlessly told that we will be treated how we demand to be treated. If we want respect, we must respect ourselves.
This does three things. Firstly, it gets men off the hook for being held accountable for how they treat women. And secondly, it makes women feel that the mistreatment and sometimes outright violence they face due to their gender is primarily their fault. And thirdly, it positions women to be unable to speak out against sexism because we are made to believe any sexism we experience would not have happened if we had done something differently.
I cannot demand a man to respect me. No more than I can demand that anybody do anything. I can ask men to be nice to me. But chances are if I even have to ask he does not care to be nice. I can express displeasure when I’m not being respected. But that doesn’t solve the issue that I was disrespected in the first place.
I can choose to not deal with a man once he proves to be disrespectful and/or sexist. But even that does not solve the initial problem of the fact that I had to experience being disrespected in the first place.
As a young girl, I wish that instead of being told that I needed to demand respect from men that I had been told that when I am not respected by men that it’s his fault and not mine. But that would require that we quit having numerous arbitrary standards for what it means to be a “respectable” woman. It would mean that I am not judged as deserving violence based on how I speak, what I wear, what I do, and who I am.