Respect

I was reading an article about a young lady that had been suspended from her school for a dress code violation. Her clothing was called “provocative” by the school administration. In the comments she was called variously a “slut” and a “whore” for dressing comfortably. She was told that she had no worth because of the way she dressed. They said that the “lust” in the minds of her peers and teachers was HER fault. She was blamed for the thoughts of others.

There is a huge disconnect here. This is the same mindset that puts a rape victim on trial. This is the same mindset that allows violence perpetrated on the LBGT community to be excused by saying “they brought it on themselves”. It is the mindset that allows men to treat women as objects. It teaches that there are humans that are not human. It allows otherwise decent people to believe that some people have somehow earned what was done to them.

The issue is a lack of respect. It is a lack of respect for the victim. It is also a lack of self-respect for the person that causes the harm. When I say “she deserves what I did to her”. What I am really saying is “I am incapable of controlling myself. I do not respect MY ability to treat her with the respect she deserves, so I am going to allow myself to hurt her. I have no respect for my own ability to act as a rational being.”

What I do not understand is how we’ve gotten to a point where this is acceptable. I was taught, from an early age, to be polite. I was taught that women are not second class citizens. I was taught to show respect and kindness to everyone. Sure, I have a temper and in the heat of the moment I can be a jerk. When I do, I have made a choice to be angry. That is not the same as the basic failing that allows people to rationalize treating people as sub-human.

I do not understand, and do not want to, the “blame the victim” mentality. I do not understand spousal abusers that say “you brought it on yourself”. Victims do not instigate the violence perpetrated upon them. Rapists are the cause not the victim. If I look at a young lady and my reaction is lust, it is not her fault, it is mine. My mind holds the lack of respect, not hers. If I allow myself to dehumanize someone, I am not being victimized by being around them. They did not earn my disrespect.

Before we are willing to blame the young lady in the story that prompted this, we need to look at ourselves. We need to realize that we are responsible for our own actions. That how she decided to dress does not cause her to be anything other than a fellow human being. That she deserves enough respect to be able to dress how she pleases without being threatened or degraded. Her clothes were not the issue. The lack of respect for both her and themselves in the people around her was.

I can not say it strongly enough. NO ONE earns violence. There is NO circumstance that makes rape permissible. There is NO occasion that will ever make it acceptable to assault someone because of their gender or for being LBGT. Period. There is no clothing choice that will make it right to call a woman a “slut” or a “whore”.  The lack of basic human respect that allows this to happen is WRONG. It will NEVER be right.

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