How to respect women*
Dominique Strauss-Kahn smiles (pre-scandal) at an IMF conference in 2009. Photo: Getty
Last week, social media – specifically, my Twitter account – was up in arms over comments made by former AFL player Dermott Brereton on a publicly accessible forum.
When former players’ agent turned professional buffoon Ricky Nixon took to his Facebook page to bemoan the use of truth and facts in an article written by Age journalist Suzanne Carbone, his followers were quick to mete out suitable punishment. Hearing that Carbone ‘obviously needs a good shag’, Nixon quickly nominated former AFL player Dermot Brereton. Brereton then quipped, ‘I don’t do charity like that..! Well, quite.
In a culture that prioritises women’s accessibility over intelligence, men like Brereton know that the only trump card they need is to denigrate a naysayer’s sexual attractiveness.
Dermott Brereton insists he has the "utmost respect for women". Photo: Getty
Ladies, know this – until Science discovers a more effective cure than a rutting penis for the troublesome burden of Having Opinions, you’d best keep your looks in line. Because these discerning gents don’t do charity, and you’d hate to miss out on the superior compliment of having them take you from behind.
Of course, Brereton’s comments aren’t wholly surprising. But what’s even less surprising is his follow up statement – that you’d probably find very few men who respected women more than he.
It’s the standard response from most prominent men caught in a moment of blatantly misogynist behavior. (See: Kyle Sandilands). We excuse it as the actions of Boys Being Boys. Blowing off steam. Having a laugh. They don’t really mean anything, because actually, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who respects women more than a man for whom the accusation of ‘fat slag with no titties’ is an appropriate response to a negative review written by a woman. Don’t we know that Brereton has done more than most people to improve the social etiquettes of males towards females, which is a phrase he probably even learned at Sensitivity Training? Why we gotta rag on him so much?
Unfortunately, these men probably aren’t lying when they claim to have enviable respect for women, precisely because they’ve packaged women into two identifiable brackets: women who behave, and all those other bitches.
Because of this, they exist in a vacuum of immaturity in which it’s not just acceptable but common practice to reward those who play nice with the extraordinary honour of penile validation. On the other hand, let it be known that women who challenge their position as Natural Born Rulers Of The Universe will be mocked and ridiculed as being beyond sexual consumption. Men, start your engines.
This brand of thinking was sadly demonstrated when the former head of the International Monetary Fund was questioned for two days over accusations of ‘abetting aggravated pimping by an organized gang’. Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s defense appears to rest entirely on the claim that he didn’t know the women present at the organized orgies he frequented were prostitutes – namely because they were introduced to him by senior police officers.
When questioned about his client’s case, Strauss Kahn’s lawyer Henri Leclerc claimed such a misunderstanding was possible because "in these parties, you're not necessarily dressed. I defy you to tell the difference between a nude prostitute and a nude woman of quality."
Ah yes. The problems really started when they stopped branding whores with scarlet letters. PC GONE MAD etc.
It’s a subtle variation on the Damned Whores and God’s Police dichotomy that walks hand in hand with the Madonna/Whore complex. Instead of sexual morality or social status alone dictating the split, the Prostitute in this variable happens to refer to any woman who behaves in a way that might emasculate a man or suggest he, and ergo his penis, is of little consequence to her. Because it’s apparently acceptable to treat Prostitutes with contempt, we can differentiate between the respect we afford real women and that which we deny their heathen counterparts.
When men use sexual taunts to criticize women who don’t pander to them, they aren’t being offensive to real women, because the only ones they know who fulfill that role do them in specifically non-sexualised ways: as mothers, sisters, daughters and wives. All other women exist for their amusement. These women are expected to like this arrangement; to play into it knowing good behaviour might win them a gold star and a pat on the bottom.
In a culture that prioritises women’s accessibility over their intelligence, men know that the only trump card they need is to denigrate a naysayer’s sexual attractiveness. The message is simple, and despicable: My only use for you is sexual, and if you don’t adhere to my rules I’ll deny you even that.
However repugnant, Henri Leclerc’s comments demonstrate just how women all over the world continue to be morally segregated. On our left, we have Women of Quality. They are mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, women who wear skirts no higher than the knee, women who claim they would never behave like those other women, women who know their place and women who know their role. These are the women who giggle when men make crude sexual references to other women because of the deeply ingrained fear that if they don’t, the poison darts will be turned their way.
Then there are Prostitutes. These are women who don’t play nice, women who are bold and outspoken, women who won’t get on their knees unless they want to, women who are called ‘ugly’ for disagreeing with others, women who keep disagreeing despite that and women who can differentiate between men who actually respect them and men who see them as walking vaginas.
Some men may not be able to tell the difference between Women of Quality and Prostitutes. But if a woman declaring her opinion is still a revolutionary act, then Prostitutes are all the women who consider revolution more important than validation.
I can tell the difference between that, and I know which one I’d proudly want to be.