In a Swedish newspaper there was a debate article yesterday that made me happy and hopeful. It was written by a man who in his frustration regarding the recent writings in media about sexual assault towards women in different parts throughout the world, lead him to compose 10 commandments that he thought every man should read and follow.
Translated from Swedish, the commandments are as follows:
- Never let your sex drive compass over your respect for other people’s integrity.
- Learn to read other people’s signals, especially those that imply that what you are doing is not desirable behaviour.
- If someone sends out signals described in point 2, stop immediately whatever it was that you were doing.
- If it becomes more difficult to follow points 1-3 under the influence of alcohol, learn where to draw the line, or abstain completely from drinking.
- If other heterosexual men in your surroundings have problems following points 1-4, make it a habit to always reprehend them verbally.
- Make sure that you in depth understand the meaning of concepts like feminism, gender-power order and privileges.
- Help other heterosexual men to in depth understand the concepts in point 6.
- Understand that you in the reigning gender-power order are one of the most privileged people in society.
- Use your privileged position to lift someone who is less privileged.
- A gentleman is strong, brave, unselfish and puts others’ well-being before his own. Be a gentleman!
He wrote these because he felt and saw a need for drawing lines, since apparently, many do not know when they are crossing them. Because it is time for men to take their responsibilities and stop blaming women for their own assaults. Because these assaults are not “freak events”; they happen daily, regularly, to women all over the world.
I would like to make my own contribution in the spirit of his. But my attention is towards women instead. Here are 10 suggestions for women (I deliberately did not want to call them commandments, since women have in my opinion, been commanded to do this and that, be this and that, since the beginning of time, and who am I to command anyone to do anything?):
- Do not be afraid to speak up; speak your mind. After all: you are woman, let’s hear you roar.
- Do not be afraid to say No; nobody should try to force or convince you to do anything that you do not wish to do. No still means no.
- Do not feel ashamed if you have ever experienced any form of sexual assault; try talking about it and of course report the incident if possible. Remember that these things happen to most women in some degree, and it is not something that you should feel ashamed of, it is a shame on the society in which you live and it’s the assailant who should feel shame. Not you.
- Dress however you feel like dressing, use make-up, or don’t, shave your legs/armpits/whatnot, or don’t. Just remember that the choice is supposed to be yours. Do not let anyone or anything (for instance advertising..) try to convince you that you are less of a woman or a person if you do not follow their standards. There is no such thing as “normal”, it’s just something people have made up.
- Remember Spice girls? Well, one thing they did very right was express the importance of “Girl Power”. Remember this concept, cherish it, live by it.
- Do not be afraid to call yourself a feminist: even though there are people with wild misconceptions about this term, the basis of feminism is equality. It is not about man-hating hairy women without bra’s wanting to abolish men and all their misogynist ways. No, it’s about fighting for each and every individual’s right in society = Women and Men.
- Stop being so judgemental towards other women. There are countless studies that have shown how men in organizations for instance, help other men reach the top (eg. see Kanter), while women on the other hand are fighting both other women and other men. But who helps women? We must help ourselves, let’s change that and help each other as well. We are sisters, not enemies.
- Remember that being a woman is a social construction: It is not something biological, it is not something stable, it is not something universal. Thus, be whatever woman you want to be, just be yourself.
- Learn more about concepts such as feminism, gender, power structures, institutionalization, norms, patriarchy and so on. They will help you understand what it means to be a “woman” in today’s world, and thus, help you to fight against old-fashioned notions that should just be put out of their misery already. For more information, read: The second sex, by Simone de Beauvoir. She explains it all so well.
- Encourage other women around you to follow suggestions 1-9.