A very crotchety old man was once a guest speaker in my Women’s Studies class in high school. He was actually my Chemistry teacher who earlier in the year had made fun of a girl in class who had asked him to re-explain something she didn’t understand, just to give you an idea of the kind of guy he was. True to my upbringing, I still showed him respect, but needless to say I was not his biggest fan. [For the record, I actually said something along the lines of, “I think you’ve made your point” after his third or fourth joke made at my classmate’s expense. He stopped. Though I probably remember it differently than anybody else in the class, I remember it as one of the most heroic things I’ve ever done.]
The purpose of the Women’s Studies class (or at least as I perceived the purpose) was to plant the seed that would one day reverse the effects of years of sexist messaging embedded in childrens’ movies, teen magazines and every love story ever told, one seventeen-year-old girl at a time. Since our Women’s Studies teacher was already tackling women’s issues, this guest appearance was not to address the sexism that negatively impacted our perception of what it is to be a woman, but the sexism that impacted our expectations of a “good man”. Unless that changed, why should the perception of “good women” change?
While his extreme statements, made only to get a rise out of us, made it difficult for me to take anything he said seriously, years later I still think about the heart of his message and the clear conflict he pointed out. I want to be treated as an equal in any relationship I have, to be respected and valued for the skills, talents, knowledge and heart I have. But first I want to be swept off my feet, fall head over heels, in other words, I want my socks knocked right off. Can a girl have both? Can I expect to be courted and respected as an equal?
I would like to say yes, I really would, but I am conflicted on this matter. Would you like to weigh in?