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Self respect as a weapon against women
One thing I’ve been hearing a lot over the years is women and men telling me that I should have “self-respect”, often this statement is used in contexts such as “Look at that short skirt you’re wearing, don’t you have any self-respect?” or “You engage in BDSM or one night stands? Don’t you have any self-respect?”
It’s not until recently that I have realised what people mean when they tell me to “get some self respect”.
1. Not only do they obviously disagree with what I like or what I am doing in my life.
2. They assume that because what I’m doing would make them uncomfortable, obviously it has to make me uncomfortable. Therefore in order for me to choose to do something uncomtable, I must hate myself.
My answer to these types of people are: Fuck you, yes I have self-respect.
I’ve come to the realisation over the years that the concept of “self-respect” used in the above contexts is nothing more than a weapon used against women to police them further into oppression and to shame them into thinking that what they are doing or what they like in their life is somehow wrong.
Psychology Today has released a great article on “Self-esteem vs self-respect” and defines self-respect thusly:
“The person with self-respect simply likes her- or himself. This self-respect is not contingent on success because there are always failures to contend with. Neither is it a result of comparing ourselves with others because there is always someone better. These are tactics usually employed to increase self-esteem. Self-respect, however, is a given. We simply like ourselves or we don’t. With self-respect, we like ourselves because of who we are and not because of what we can or cannot do.”
So if self-respect in this case is considered as persons ability to accept themselves and like themselves because of who they are, the opposite of self-respect is then self-loathing. Self-loathing is defined as:
“A self-loathing person, by definition, feels essentially inadequate in some way. I say “essentially” because this is a feeling that is deeply ingrained and therefore resistant to persuasion or evidence. No matter how successful the self-loather is or how much praise he or she receives from other people, something prevents the self-loather from believing he or she has value or worth.”
By the logic of person A who tells person B “Why don’t you get some self-respect?” this implies that person A believes that on some level person B lothes themselves or at least has a level of self-loathing. By engaging in practices such as BDSM or wearing short skirts, person B must hate themselves so they punish themselves because they feel so bad. Or perhaps person A believes that person B loathes themselves because person A would only do those things if they loathed themselves.
In my case, I love BDSM and I love short skirts. I do and wear these things because they make me happy and they are a part of myself that I accept and I love doing things that make me happy. So in the real world, I do indeed have self-respect because I respect myself enough to want to be and do the things that make me happy.
However people who try to define self-respect in terms of what others can and can’t do based on their worldview then makes self-respect conditional on their terms. It’s saying that they only way to have self-respect is to do ABC rather than XYZ because ABC is what the person who is questioning your level of self-respect wants rathar than you being happy and accepting yourself.
It’s gotten to the point that everytime I hear someone say to me “Why don’t you get some self-respect?”, all I hear is “I’m going to shame you into thinking what you’re doing is wrong because I believe if you like those things, you should hate yourself and you have no value”.
It’s no wonder that eating disorders and body dissatisfaction in women and young girls are at a high of 70% in Australia, if woman and young girls can’t accept themselves, how on earth are they going to have good levels of self-esteem and feelings of value? Self-esteem is a persons ability to evaluate themselves positively and hold themselves in high regard. If a woman or a young girl can’t see themselves in a positive light, how on earth are they going to accept themselves?
They won’t. which is why utilising the concept of self-respect as tool of oppression is so useful for individuals who wish to gender police women. Oppression is all about beating women down until they submit and do what others want (in this case the patriarchal system we live in), so by shaming women into feeling bad and telling them the only way to get self-respect is to do what others want, rather than what makes them happy – we have a revolving door of generations of women who have little self esteem as a result of social conditioning and gender policing.
Remember kids: Self-respect means doing what makes you feel happy and accepting yourself. It does not mean to do things that others want you to.