Thursday, October 20, 2016

How To Respect A Woman

Maybe it's the fact that I'm smack in the middle of falling deeply in love with the man I plan to spend the rest of my life with. 

Maybe it's the fact that I live and breathe politics in my personal life, and the recent rhetoric about women (and their genitals) coming from some conservatives and, most certainly, from one Donald J. Trump has me reeling and feeling particularly uneasy in my womanhood.

I think it's a combination of both. 

Reverence and respect for women appears to be a declining art. 

If you've followed the story of my divorce or online dating experiences or sordid dating life, you'll see no evidence throughout those stories of men showing true appreciation or regard for me. I certainly never felt any such thing from most of those men. Likewise, many of the articles published at Unchained Jane by other women carry that same lackluster note. The absence of even a basic level of respect and decency from these men crushed me many times over. And I've watched it crush the women around me - time and time again. In a million different ways, that I, nor they, will never be able to fully explain.

I've been watching carefully as the events in the news about groping women without their consent have unfolded. If I'm being honest with myself, I knew there would be a small contingent of folks who would make excuses for or try to distract our attention from that kind of rhetoric. There are always a few. 

What I did not expect was to see so many men in this country brush it aside, almost as if it's irrelevant to them. But then I realized that it's not that they're ignorantly disinterested; it's that they are consciously choosing to look past it. They feel no empathy for women. They feel no responsibility to represent their gender well. They have no esteem for the position they hold as fathers of boys, for whom they are setting an example. They feel no dedication to doing the right thing, even when it's the hard thing - such as when it may force them to change their vote. The women in their lives - their daughters, their mothers, their sisters, their wives - be damned. These are the same men that lay claim to "family values" and "cherishing" their wives above all else. 

As I've held my breath and watched their comments roll out online, their commitment has become clear: It's to themselves and their own egos. They do not revere or respect women. They do not cherish women. They do not hold them up. They do not serve as the protectors they've always claimed to be. They've hung their women out to dry in exchange for their own egomaniacal righteousness. 

It's a bit surreal to be observing this national conversation about consent, trust, and respect for women at a time when I'm simultaneously experiencing the most intense feelings of love and adoration for a man that I've ever had. I've been trying to square in my head my absolute dedication to this one man with my innate fear, as a woman, about what I've perceived as an incredible loss of honor and dignity and decency in men, generally. And would you like to know how it squares? Why I've chosen to walk down this path with him after all my prior hurtful experiences? After being repeatedly "looked past" by men like the aforementioned egomaniacs?

He respects me. Not in the submissive way. No, that's not what I mean. I mean that every day he shows me and our relationship the utmost reverence. I can see in his eyes and in his every action that I am sacred to him. He holds me above all else. He handles my emotions with the greatest of care and concern. He is tenderly empathetic to my experience as a woman and as his woman. His everyday priority is ensuring that I know just how dedicated and committed he is to me and to all that is important to me. He gladly sacrifices his ego and fears and pride in order to build trust and connection. He methodically and intentionally creates a safe space for me to communicate and to understand myself and my place within our relationship and in the world. I have a reputation as being a strong, independent, outspoken woman, who does not need a man to fight my battles for me; nonetheless, this man has made it crystal clear, time and time again, that he will not hesitate to openly support me, to stand steadfastly by me, or to rush the bench if I'm ever in need of anything at all. 

He will not let me fall. He will not allow me feel disrespected, disregarded, or "looked past." Not on his watch. 

And THAT'S how you respect a woman. 

My hope is that we, as a country, can regain some of the ground we've lost on what it means to truly honor women. It starts with our men remembering what it means to be selflessly committed to ensuring that happens.

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