This Valentine's Day, don't shower the women in your lives with roses; shower them with respect.
It's true, that compared to much of the world, women in America don't have it so bad. It's not culturally acceptable or encouraged to abort a female fetus simply because it is a female nor is it culturally acceptable or encouraged to not send a daughter to a doctor or to school, phenomenon common in the developing world. Yet every six minutes a woman is raped in this country, and every 15 seconds a woman is battered. One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Domestic Violence is America's greatest gender injustice: we breed a culture where it is acceptable for men to release their anger on their wives and girlfriends. Until the 1990s, there were more animal shelters than womens shelters in the United States.
Women in America still have a long way to go to achieve the promise this country holds for us.
On Valentine's Day, teach your children about honoring the women in their lives.
As a recent college graduate, I cannot think of one female friend who does not have a story of unwanted attention, touching, or sex. We have been followed, grabbed on the street corners, and disrespected when we said no, to a kiss or more. Even during informational interviews during my job search I was told to be aware of the image I gave off in the workplace, and to be careful of how I behaved if I attended events with men.
Our parents taught us (and our brothers) that girls are valuable, that girls are equals, but somehow, too many men roaming our university campuses, and now, our city's bars and streets, did not heed, ore receive, the same message. We have become accustomed to expect these men, and when we meet good men, many of us are hesitant and mistrustful of people who give us no reason to not trust them, other than the fact that they're men.
The most frightening part of this is not that women are subjected to danger just because they're women. No, it's that some men are not even very aware of what their actions mean to the women they approach. I am very glad for the men in my life that they are not subjected to flirtations from cab drivers or strangers grabbing them on the metro. It must be nice to be able to walk through any neighborhood, at anytime, and to view assertive women approaching them in bars as attractive, rather than a threat.
I do not have these privileges.
An article I read recently paints a picture for men, informing them they are "Schrodinger's Rapist." (Schrodinger was a physicist who became famous for an experiment that presents a cat that might be alive or dead, depending on a previous random event). The author articulates the difference between how a woman views a strange man approaching her versus the opposite. She explains the possibility that this person will do her harm "is never 0%."
Example: A few weeks ago we were out celebrating a friend's birthday. Someone I was dancing with who I had just met handed me a drink. I did not see him get the drink. Instead of saying "thank you," I, half jokingly, asked him if he had rufied me. Because I was in a safe environment with many friends around, I took the drink (it was sans rufi). But the fact that I even thought that it could be a possibility shows women are always on their guard, and we are taught that nothing is impossible.
The Schrodinger's Rapist article calls on men to be careful of women's body language and to put themselves in women's shoes. When advising men when it is appropriate to approach women, the author encourages men to "Ask yourself, 'If I were dangerous, would this woman be safe in this space with me?' If the answer is no, then it isn't appropriate to approach her."
When has a man ever had to think about his safety like that from a woman?
Until this country accepts a stance that women are equal and deserve equal respect, Valentine's Day will merely be a national charade of honoring women amidst an atmosphere of continuous staunch inequality.
No matter how you spend your Valentine's Day this year, may your day be filled with the respect and love that you deserve.