A matter of self-esteem

November 21, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

We had a very interesting conversation with Travis Greeley this week. He is engaged as the only male employee at Family Transition Place (FTP), as their Violence Prevention Educator. In this special role, he works to talk to male students about respect and finding ways to deal with anger, and to female students about the same, perhaps, but also how to deal with sexual abuse, how to recognize it and to deflect it. 

Still, while he and I were talking, the initial – as I saw it – matter is feminine self-respect. Above and before everything, self-esteem in young girls matters. This begins with history of which we are all the victims. 

Much as we promote our history, history at all as a teacher and a foundation for traditions, we are also burdened by it. Social norms that have grown up over the millenniums, that are melded into our social structure, are all about women being second. 

Made from Adam’s rib, kept beneath man in God’s favour, referred to as next to the slaves and the oxen, the women of note were either as men in a women’s skin and who still led soldiers to fight or they were the power behind the throne.

What is not much in history is the independent woman – and not just independent but self-contained, self-aware, happy with self. It’s a regular life and a regular situation but one in which we are our own person and not afraid, nor selling ourselves short in favour of a man’s schedule or plan.

If women don’t see themselves as fully formed, as individuals with the right to their opinion, to their own everyday schedule, as a separate being within or without any given relationship; if women themselves put themselves as second to what a man wants, then Mr. Greenley’s life will be spent rolling a mighty stone endlessly up a mountain.

Look all around us at the modern version of the same old thing: online – every embarrassment and acquiescence to sexual demands and bullying now shown world-wide, whether the smaller world of local community or the globe, is academic.

Young girls are still preoccupied with pleasing and accommodating male persons, who are, in return, victimizing them. Older men still power-play with younger women; powerful men still think they have rights over their female employees.

It is, in some part, because we raise our girls to acquiesce. Mothers do it by example of “dealing” with the father’s, the husband’s, moods and demands, with always agreeing, whether she does or not. If she resists, he rebels and the fighting can begin.

In order to combat this pattern, it is still about self-esteem. It is still reactionary, not taking the initiative.

I like men. I have always had male friends and some of them have been and are my friends for decades. I treasure the difference in the conversations and I enjoy their take on the world around them – personally or their big picture. Not to agree or disagree but sometimes, to bounce ideas and perspectives back and forth. I think flirting is fun and I believe in safe intimacy. By safe, I mean no dominance, just happy coming together.

For much of my life, I am that image that I am trying to convey. Without belligerence, without trying to prove anything, to live a life and to be part of a whole society where gender in the broadest sense, colour, culture, money, fame, all of it matters less than what’s behind the eyes. Where we precede as people, equal on a certain level that talks about how we are each valuable. 

What goes wrong is our historical attitude toward sex, as the original sin. That makes it “dirty,” forbidden, so deeply attractive as an act of rebellion, of power, of control with love pushed to one side. If our attitudes toward the closest we can get to another person are based on that which is “naughty,” wicked – pornographic and – more – with the agreement of the whole culture, then the problems of assault are unassailable.

Living in London, England, lots of years ago was the best place in the world for a single woman. I could go down to the wine bar and sit at the bar with a glass of wine and just chat with whomever was next to me, often as not a man. He might buy me a glass of wine but there were no innuendos that threatened, only conversation that entertained. I was accepted as a person with humour and points of view and it was vey liberating.

Our perceptions of ourselves and the whole world around us begin at babyhood. It behoves us very much aa parents to teach both our male and female children that they are, first and foremost, worthy individuals, equals with the world and each other. 

That love is clean and giving; if it’s domineering and self-centred, it’s something else.

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