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Self-respect? We all have it.

March 3, 2014

 I know plenty of progressive, liberal, adult men who openly say they’re looking for a “good girl”—who prioritize some paternalistic illusion of “self-respect” over personality and chemistry.

– Lindy West, on Jezebel.

Yeah, I think she’s onto something, here. This quote got me thinking. What is “self-respect”? I honestly have no clue.

Is “self-respect” the same as “self-esteem”, or self-confidence? Because I don’t have high self-esteem or self-confidence, but I guess I’d be pretty irritated if someone said I had no self-respect.

Why? If I don’t know what it means, how can I be offended?

Because somewhere in the back of my mind I do know what it means; enough to know it’s insulting, it’s is rarely ever true, about anyone about whom it is ever said, and it’s unequally used across the genders.

“Self-respect”… Of all the times I’ve heard this term used, it’s always been about something someone’s done which someone else disapproves of. Taken drugs? Got no self-respect. Slept with a stranger? No self-respect. Allowed someone else to tell you what to do? No self-respect.

There’s a big difference between those last two. For me as a male, having someone else tell me what to do is more likely to make someone else question my self-respect, I guess because it would be very submissive of me to accept someone else’s decision in relation to something that vaguely relates to parts of my life that I may or may not care about very greatly. And you know, as a male, I can’t be submissive, that would make me A Failure As A Man.

Sleeping with a stranger, however, reeks of the old double standard; I could do that several times, as a male, and not raise too many eyebrows. Women are the one’s who are most likely to attract criticism, along the old “self-respect” vein, for their sexual encounters or expression. That stretches across everything from what she’s wearing to what consensual kinks she’s interested in.

I think we should dispense with the notion of self-respect, not just because it is just one of many ideas that exposes a gaping valley between women and men, but also because it’s not for anyone else to say how much respect you have for yourself. I mean, seriously. How they bloody hell would they know?

When I see reams and reams of semi-sexy selfies popping up all over the place, my first thought isn’t that the people who took them don’t respect themselves. My thought is closer to the opposite; that day, they were proud of themselves. They felt good within themselves, and they wanted to share it. You know what? Good for them.


From → Gender Politics

  1. As a rape survivor I understand the feeling dirty, worthless and undesired. It’s something I’ve struggled with in my past. It’s amazing you posted that I posted today.

    To answer your question yes self respect is different than self-esteem. To esteem anything is to evaluate it positively and hold it in high regard, but evaluation gets us into trouble because while we sometimes win, we also sometimes lose. To respect something, on the other hand, is to accept it.

    Nice read though thanks for pointing me to it. For me being a good man has nothing to do wih how many women you’ve been with and more how you treat women in your life. Are they a piece of meat or an equal you cherish time with.

    PS I known a bunch of bad boys and they never got with me. I don’t and never accepted being a piece of meat or a prize. Every BF waited until I said yes and some I never said yes to where others I did. Girls with a head on their shoulders can see those little boys coming a mile away and they aren’t willing to wait….But baby if you love me…girls turn that right around…but if you love ME you will stop making us about sex and make us about more. They scram and you move to a better guy.

  2. I like your distinction between respect and esteem. It sounds like self-respect is the more important, the humbler, and indeed the more common.

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