“Teach your son to respect women.”

“Teach your son to respect women.”

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This billboard makes me so mad for a number of reasons. This billboard is trying to get across the message that we should teach our boys to respect women instead of teaching our girls to protect themselves because most domestic violence is incurred by men. My parents taught me to protect myself and had in fact put protective measures in place to keep me safe from such violence. But I internalized it very differently: Boys are bad. Boys are terrible. Boys will only hurt you. What kind of message is that to send to a person? Boys are people just as any other people. They have feelings. They hurt. They love. They laugh. They care.

Do you want to know how I internalize this billboard? I don’t receive the message we should be trying to prevent domestic violence against women by teaching our boys to not hurt women. The message I receive is that boys are innately evil, that that evil should be beaten out of them at an early age, that they are robots who need to be programmed not to harm women. I do understand the intent of this billboard, but I think it fails on a number of reasons. And it is just plain insulting. We are teaching our boys to hate themselves for what they are. No one is innately anything. Human beings have no instincts. We should be teaching our children in general to respect other human beings, and everything else will fall into place after that.

I have met many wonderful men in my life, including my own dad and my fiancé, and I hate to think that these messages are being perpetuated and internalized by boys and men that this is something only they are capable of and that it must be beaten out of them at an early age so that they never participate in such behaviors.

I get it. We live in a patriarchy. Violence is more prevalent against women than men. Women should not be taught how to protect themselves from such violence, when such violence does not need to be taking place period. I have experienced the patriarchy firsthand through catcalling and gendered name calling and the comments of articles where women try to point out sexism or misogyny, but are torn down for it, their experiences invalidated. I know the statistics, I know the power structures in place, but I know…I KNOW that most men are not this way, and this billboard absolutely breaks my heart and makes me so beyond furious. I understand the “most men” argument should not be used when women are speaking of their experiences against violence, but don’t you think it’s important that women have a positive view of men, that one man should not determine how all men are viewed? I think so.

I was taught that boys are terrible, and I frankly hate that I was taught that because for a while during my early teen years, I did resent boys. I know parents in general mean well, but sometimes they need to pay attention to the messages they are sending across to their children because children are very sensitive to messages, ESPECIALLY in their teen years.

It is on the onus of men to prevent violence against women, but this billboard is not the way to do it because it is putting the blame on them. You can argue we should put the blame on men for incurring violence, but what kind of message is that to send to men? That’s only going to make them ashamed of being men.

I am a humanist, and while my depression may make me despise people from time to time, it is my depression doing that to me because it might be out of paranoia that I don’t want anything to do with people. Otherwise, I am a very caring person who wants equity for all, and this billboard just isn’t doing that for me. Simply put, it is dehumanizing boys. Just look at that hoodie.

We want to argue that misandry doesn’t harm men, but hatred is hatred is hatred. Whether or not hatred harms, it is harming to the person who is hating. And we don’t need any more hatred in this world. We need compassionate, loving people who see more good in people than bad, and I choose to see more good in people. I choose to understand why people are the way they are–to a certain extent, of course.

So what should the message be instead? Teach your CHILDREN to respect people, and all else will naturally fall into place. They are looking. They are listening. They will internalize.

We do need to have the conversation that men should be the ones to prevent domestic violence because they have it in their power to do so, but this billboard, again, dehumanizes them. It is the hoodie that is most troubling to me.

I seriously want to hear your thoughts on this.

There are plenty of men who don’t need to be directly taught to respect women because they were taught to respect human beings in general, and respect needs to be taught in general.