The year is 2016 and women are as in the spotlight as they ever have been, but this time it’s different. Women are heavily involved in politics, have high paying jobs, are extremely educated and juggle the financial responsibilities of their household while also raising their children (if they choose to have them) as best they know how. I happen to know a lot of women who represent this and I feel lucky to know them and respect them greatly. Maybe it’s because I’m re-watching “Mad Men,” or maybe because I’m almost 30 and have experienced a number of things in my life so far that sparked my thinking on this subject, but some things are still in need of major change, even in 2016. Plus, we deserve respect. Simple as that.
This morning, I walked my husband to his office for work with our dog and then walked back home afterward. On the way, a car drove past with a young man in it, yelling at me out his window, “Hey there, good looking!” I ignored him as I usually do with remarks like this because, well, what else do you do? Yell back? Flip him off? The last thing women want is to start a dialogue with people like this, and sometimes it can even feel unsafe to do so. So I ignored it. Also, side note, I am 6 months pregnant and it is pretty darn obvious. I couldn’t help but think of all the times this has happened and not just to me, to women everywhere, all the time. And to be quite frank, this wasn’t even a blip on the spectrum of the nasty things that I’ve heard from men out of car windows. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
What is it that is being done wrong when we raise our boys who then become men who think this is acceptable? Or is this something that happens later in their lives that has nothing to do with how they were raised? Bold questions, I know. The last thing I want to do is come off as judgmental or critical of mothers and fathers in any way, and I honestly just want to know. I see this as a huge problem. I want to point out that I have never been personally cat-called to while with my husband or children — I am always alone or with my dogs. So there’s also an advantage-taking aspect to this that I am extremely uncomfortable with.
I bet I could ask any woman of any age if she has ever experienced this type of thing in her life and the answer would be yes, and some much worse, unfortunately. To me, this behavior is not only unacceptable, it makes a statement for an entire gender. It’s saying that because nothing is ever done about it on a societal level that men and boys can treat women this way without a second thought. And because I ignore it, it almost grants approval for this kind of behavior. I resent that I am put in this position automatically, so what can be done? I’m not talking about starting an uprising against men who make disgusting remarks to women on the street, but what can we do or implement as parents to ensure that our boys will be respectful to women and know that blatant degradation is never OK?