My friend, Mike, lived in a newer home in an upscale neighborhood in Sioux City. He and his wife had three daughters – the oldest the same age as my son and the youngest the same age as my daughter.
One day more than 30 years ago when our oldest children were freshmen in the same high school Mike and I were discussing the challenges of raising good kids in the that era. Mike expressed a concern that boys were not being taught to respect girls.
Earlier that week, Mike said, he was visiting over the backyard fence with a neighbor man when the neighbor’s high school freshman son arrived home from school. After a few questions about how his day went, the neighbor asked his son, “So do you have a lot of girls in your class with big boobs?”
The father-son conversation continued downhill on that theme, Mike said, with the father questioning and teasing his son about his female classmates’ physical attributes.
Mike and I agreed that high school boys already have enough hormonal stimuli and don’t need their fathers encouraging them to look at and treat their female classmates like pieces of meat.
To the contrary, parents need to help their sons learn to respect the girls and women in their lives. Healthy teenage boys are already aware that their female classmates are blossoming into womanhood but they can be taught by word and by example to practice respect and equality.
I’m a talkative old country boy. On several occasions I have innocently spoken to a woman only to be brusquely reminded that my conversation wasn’t appreciated.
While shopping for a shirt in a men’s store one day a younger woman asked where she could find a specific size. I pointed her in the right direction. A few minutes later I found another section of shirts in the size she was looking for and said, “Ma’am, there are more shirts in that size over here.”
She curtly responded, “I’m not sure my HUSBAND would like that style” and turned away.
I told my daughter about the incident and added, “I wasn’t looking for a date, for pity’s sake, I just wanted to help her.”
My daughter explained that too frequently when a woman engages in a conversation with a man with whom she is unacquainted the man assumes her response means the woman is interested in him. She then cited a frightening example from her own life where a man mistook her party small talk for interest and later wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.
So what kind of men are we raising today when women are afraid to engage in a conversation with them?
I was fortunate. I was raised by a strong mother who taught her four large sons to respect her and the other women in our lives. It may be difficult to believe but I was not a high school Romeo. I knew what “no” meant and so did most of my friends.
Too many young men today are being raised to believe that males are entitled to “benefits” from girls and women. Some folks will say that because of the provocatively way some girls dress they are “asking for it.”
Hey, I’m an old guy and I concede that many fashion styles these days show more of a young woman than was visible when I was a kid. However, under no conditions ̶ provocatively attired or not ̶ should a female’s “no” mean anything but “no.” Nein. Nee. Nei. Non. Não.
It’s up to parents and other adults to help children learn respect for others, including those of the opposite gender and those with gender identity issues. The late Billy Graham said, “A child who is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone.”
Men, it’s up to us to be sure our sons (and grandsons) learn to respect women and girls and to understand that “no” means “no.” Women, help your daughters (and granddaughters) learn how to conduct themselves around boys and men and when the situation requires how to mean “no” when they say “no.” Some self-defense training would be good, too.
Ideally, it’s a two-way street. It’s a man’s job to respect women but it’s the women’s job to give him something to respect.