Feminism: the Time Women Declared War
I'm late to the story, I know, but once "International Women's Day" splashed my feed yesterday (last Thursday) it made me start thinking about respect and boundaries because it's my firm belief that if we implemented those things a little more, we might actually get somewhere in the the progression of feminism.
Someone recently called me a feminist, to which I reacted slightly. There are aspects of feminism I respect and some I don't, so to throw all of it (along with me) out with the bath water made me feel a little choked. As I thought of the balance women walk every day between need and neediness, want and selfishness, I naturally went back to my diffident 18-year-old self. I was so different back then and yet, there was one thing I got right.
HUMAN RESPECT & FEMINISM
I was absolutely determined to learn something from everyone. It put me in a humble position, but it gave me a gift that has served me well: it gave me the gift of dignity. This was a enviable gift, but it only came after I gave it away to others. It was here I learned about basic human respect.
As I learned to respect people for who they are, where they are, I found magic. Doors opened, and I could carefully step into green places in people's lives that were fresh, cool, and lovely. Sometimes it was only one small plant in a concrete jungle, but that was ok too because once they opened a door and a little air got into the place the concrete would start to crack and life would pop out everywhere. This wasn't me, of course, but creating a space where they could let down their guard and let in some oxygen. The real cause and effect was an undivided attention of respect that created a place of safety for them to open the outer doors.
It was a strange treasure to stumble across and one of the harder things I've learned to do. Our first reaction as humans is to distance ourselves from differences and abnormalities only to forget that all of us face these feelings or facts. Some people just don’t fake as well as others.
It manifests differently, but for example if we are faced with someone who is behaving in a pig-headed fashion (likely brought on by a fear or insecurity), our first response is usually to cast our pearls before the swine (argue), and our second to walk away with our nose tipped high (ignore). The third response is the hardest to give because it is the most humble.
This principle is at the heart of all good relationships. If you determine to honor someone you won't gossip about them, or at least, discuss them in a malicious way. If you are determined to respect their ability, it will pave paths for confidence to grow. If you don't compromise on their basic right of dignity, it will allow you to talk to them in a way that doesn't throw up walls, even in difficult situations.
Feminists (and really everyone) have yet to learn this. I see where it’s hard; women in general have had more wrongs done to them, more injustices, and more boundaries transgressed than men. Women and children are often the vulnerable ones, and I have nothing in my heart but respect for the women who decided to take a stand and start guarding the borders of their land. It's why I believe feminism as a whole has been a good movement.
Men, as you know, usually start wars over their boundaries being crossed or violated, and feminism is the day the women woke up and went to war. There have been casualties, there will be more. Sometimes the toll seems too high, but so it seems in any fight.
Women should guard their boundaries. They should take responsibility for their lives, actions and thoughts. There is no excuse to slack off on anything because "I am a woman." If anything, there is more reason for us to stand up because our talents have long been relegated to one small corner of human ability. We believe we can't do more, so we don't. Now, women have begun to open their minds. Watch Hidden Figures if you don't believe me. The growing pains may be sharp, but it is better to suffer than to atrophy.
Life is an odd paradox of push and pull. Watching dancers will teach us that. One person may be doing the leading, but without the proper tension or "frame" it won't be a very beautiful dance. Each person maintains their own space, and so it is in life. Even in our community with each other, from making love to making taffy, our closeness is only as good as the respect we give to each other for the space we occupy. The general cry is for love, but that is too vague. In the name of love atrocities are committed, and conversations must happen, actions implemented, that give love boundaries.
These boundaries are respect and honor.
Respect gives a frame to love. If you have noticed in left or right wing politics, one gives too little attention to boundaries and the other too much. One creates a safe place for wrong to happen, and the other shuts all doors. I don't know much about politics, but I know enough about human nature to see that honor and respect is missing, and that this is the ingredient that would allow us to pull what is good from both sides to create better solutions.
The one element that absolutely must be discussed in conversations like these is consequences. Honor does not negate consequences. Love does not negate consequences. If we have done wrong we must face it. There will be justice. There may be mercy. Either way, actions that damage or wrong those around us cannot simply be waved away, and there are circumstances that violate boundaries and are therefore considered outside of mutual respect.
- sex offenses
- war crimes
When boundaries are crossed in such a way that trample respect and honor a new course of action must be pursued, and justice activated. Of course, a person who has transgressed could be restored, but at the very least they have removed themselves from that realm temporarily, and strong change will be needed to open those doors again. Through their own choice they shut themselves out.
In our fight for equality we must never forget that offenses are not under a system of equality. All humans are created equal, but not all humans behave equally. In raising our baseline of how we treat one another, we reevaluate punishment. Because we have changed how we treat humanity as a whole, what may have once left a debtor in prison with no food or water to die an awful death, may now be translated into a system where offenders are given a chance to pay their debt to society and learn to live honestly again.
Human dignity and respect is to always allow people to return to this elevated baseline of truth. We can never force this on people, only create spaces in which it is possible for this to happen.
Some systems, once you are shut out, will never admit you again. A girl who got pregnant outside of marriage in the 1800's was ruined forever, period, while men were readmitted through respectable marriage. They were given a chance to come back in while the woman suffered alone, for the rest of her life. The child, too, was treated differently.
This is the sort of inequality that feminism waged war upon, and the kind of thinking that we should shun. When the interest of humanity depends solely on one party it will never do justice to the needs of the world. Unequal balance of power and decision has never worked, and it never will outside of perfection.
The tie between this topic of human respect and feminism is entirely this: the chance to enact justice is now within reach of women, meaning that mutual respect is now also within plausible distance.
Now, more than ever is the time for men and women to guard each other's identity, dignity, interests, and humanity. If we can do that the war of feminism will have a resolution and humanity can move forward into a truer meaning of equality.