Aretha Franklin has this song called “Respect” which debuted in 1967 that speaks to a man not respecting his woman. Basically the woman is begging her man to respect her when he gets home. She laments that she’ll give all her money and in essence everything for him if he’d only respect her. Now the song is catchy and it is very well-known but I pause to think about the implications of it and how it translates in popular culture.
In the age of twerking, instagram queen, slut shaming and everything else that goes, I wonder how do we maintain respect as women. Granted, there are women who do not seek respect, and then there are those who desperately require it. And though the outside forces are dangerous and attempt to skew perceptions of worth, we cannot lose sight of the women we were called to be.
Respect ladies starts with yourself first, contrary to popular beliefs. It begins in the depths of your soul and transfers into the world. While respect should not be weighed upon whether a woman is dressed appropriately or not, it is. So what can we do? How can we show respect and demand it simultaneously?
While there is no formula for this, here are a few things that I’ve done to make sure that I am given and represent respect.
- I found my value. Simple huh? Well it’s more complex than that honestly. I had to learn the long hard lesson that my worth was not wrapped up in a relationship. There were moments in my past where I would become desperate for a man and do anything to keep him. Well almost anything. Nonetheless, in those moments I lost respect for myself. I laid my self-esteem down by the riverside and I compromised a lot. He however is not to blame, I am because I willingly did these things. I think back to the Franklin lyrics and she is begging the man to show some respect, stop cheating and recognize her as the woman she is. She is begging. How many times have you begged? How’d you feel afterwards? Desperate? Less than? Unworthy? Possibly. You have to stop the vicious cycle.
- I covered up. I always see before and after photos of people on the internet. The before picture would show them clubbing and the after picture would show them in the most holy attire sometimes. While I get the message behind it, the photos don’t really show the transformation. I contend that it is the time in-between both of the pictures that count the most. Now I’ve never been an overly immodest dresser because I wasn’t allowed to be as a youth. However, when I went to undergrad I did purchase club attire: short skirts, tight body con dresses etc. These clothes I wore at night when I went out partying. However, there were moments in my life that I did feel uncomfortable wearing certain things. When I continued to graduate school and became a teacher my attire changed and from there it has become increasingly “adult-like.” I’m not saying that I wear starched dresses to my knees and turtlenecks, but I do dress like a lady should. I see no value in showing off my body to men who only wish to explore the curves of my thighs. Yes the attention might satisfy a momentary hungry but in the end will leave you starving.
- I read the bible. Now this is the most cliche thing that someone can say but I find truth in it. Before I became a regular reader of the bible I used to cringe when people would say “you need to read the word.” Ok, yea you might be right but you gotta come with one better than that. When I started reading the bible it seemed to have come to life. I would see women in there and I would put their lives up to mines and find the inconsistencies. In retrospect it was God who was changing my heart through the stories of the women. When God changes your heart it is difficult to go back to what you used to do. Your old ways become repulsive and unimaginable.
The aforementioned things seems simple enough but they took time and in some areas I am still developing. However, if you have the courage you can make to shift as well.
Respect starts within you, you are the common denominator. If you keep this in mind you will be better equipped to radiate and demand respect of yourself.