Tag Archives: gender roles

On “Love” Without Respect (And How Men Do It)

Can love exist without respect?One would say love can’t exist without respect. There is some logic and truth to it – true love doesn’t come without respect for a loved one. However, there is a sad reality of many people who confuse admiration with love and who can feel a deep affection for someone without truly respecting them.

Dare to say, men are the main culprits here.

Men tend to be more susceptible to this (due to different socialization and gender roles). This isn’t really surprising – it’s the way society tells them how to treat women. It goes with the perception of women as ethereal and beautiful, but ultimately strange creatures a man can never truly understand. A man builds an admiration for her beauty, her charm or maybe even her character, but this affection falls short on the respect because a woman is seen more of a beautiful object than a fully human being. This was a traditional way of viewing women and femininity.

Luckily, things are changing these days, but these feelings are still present surprisingly often. This is how you get men who will claim to love a woman but without understanding her as a person, men who want to protect and support a woman but without accepting her agency and opinions, and, ultimately, men who have deep feelings for a woman while still considering her an inferior.

It all comes from the power imbalance and unchallenged gender roles. Women, on the other hand, often internalize these opinions. This is why you still find many women who believe that a man finding them beautiful is the highest praise there is or that being admired by a man is more important than a basic human respect.

I must say I am not familiar with this feeling. I am not a type of a woman men admire or find beautiful. It sure made my self-esteem shaky as a teenager. But paradoxically (or not?), the lack of sexual attraction and admiration often led men to respect me. I don’t mean they necessarily liked me (in fact, I am not particularly liked; I’m too awkward for it). However, any dislike or animosity came from a dislike for my individual character. In other words, I was treated as fully human, for better or worse. As if lack of attraction or sexual interest made men able to see me as fully human, as if it made them respect me on a basic human level.

And yes, I could tell a difference. Fashion magazines tell you a bit of makeup and trendy clothes make a lot of difference, and they’re right. I know what is like to dress up and “prettify” yourself, and yes, it makes men see you differently. Those moments resulted in a heightened interest by men (I am usually ignored – many men ignore women they don’t find attractive), but the type of comments I’d received and the way my opinions had been received clearly showed the lack of human interest. As if being attractive somehow made me less human. This the disrespect I’m talking about.

The main point is that men (or whoever has a problem of “loving” someone without respect) should understand that a person they love is a fully human being not so much different than “their kind”. The whole idea of men and women being inherently different is particularly harmful here because it essentialises gender differences in a way that prevents people to see those of a different gender as “one of their own”. As a result, it leads to Othering and exoticism of the other gender(s). And as we all know, Othering & exoticism = no true human respect.

Not to say women are not susceptible to this. However, women as a group still don’t have equal power in the society; society is still male-oriented and catered to male needs. Men are presented as fully human all the time: they are leaders, teachers, doctors, flirts, fools, cowards, heroes and anything in between. They are still seen as a “default human”. In this sense, women are constantly aware of all the different ways men are and can be; women can’t simply forget men are fully human and they can’t forget all the variety of their behavior. Sadly, the way women are portrayed is still reduced to a few types, often defined in a relation to men: a mother, a wife, a daughter. There’s still a harmful dichotomy – the one that leads to the whole “admiration without respect”, the horrible “Madonna vs whore” dichotomy.

What is the solution? There isn’t an easy one, and it probably requires redefining gender roles from scratch. I don’t see it happening anytime soon. At the same time, I must say I do notice a bit of a change in a good direction. Still, we have a long way to go before this problem is fixed.

PS- My personal litmus test here was to never trust a guy who wouldn’t respect you if you had a one night stand with him. I suppose it’s a bit unorthodox way to go, but it worked for me.

Photo credit: francisco_osorio via photopin cc


I am a tomboy.

I’m not one of those masculine, “tough” tomboys. I don’t enjoy many “masculine” activities (such as watching football), and I didn’t like to play with car toys when I was a kid. But I am what you call a tomboy. I used to think it makes me “different” and “speshul”, but it doesn’t: there’s nothing more special about tomboys than there is to girly girls.

However, analyzing the way people perceive tomboys (and the tomboy label itself) can reveal a lot about culture and society. There isn’t one way to be a tomboy (and to be seen as such): some think sexual orientation and, above all, “masculinity”, or interests (and fashion style) are what make a tomboy.

The first thing that is interesting to note is that being a tomboy is more, or less, a neutral thing. However, it also brings some advantages, and only one disadvantage.

The disadvantage is the fact men (and also, women) will often not perceive tomboy as “truly female”. This can bring difficulties in dating and love/sex life for tomboys. Tomboys are often seen as less attractive than “girly” women, and men tend to be less interested in them. Because being “pretty” and getting a man are often seen as woman’s top priorities, it makes it seem women perceived as tomboys have an important disadvantage.

However, I believe the label brings many advantages. Because tomboys are often seen as not “truly feminine”, it can help them in other areas of life, such as work. Sadly, many people (mostly, but not exclusively, male people) don’t treat women as true equals. Women often find it difficult for people (especially males) to accept their ideas, or to prove themselves in professional setting (especially if the profession requires intelligence, education and authority). It’s not because they can’t do it; it’s because they are not taken seriously. So not being seen as “really feminine” helps people see you as a “regular human” and are more open to listen to your ideas.

Also, many women find tiring to be approached and harassed by random (male) people, or to be objectified. A woman as a human being becomes unimportant and a target of harassment. Just because she is perceived as an attractive female. Tomboys don’t have this problem: they can go on with they day without being harassed or reminded their intelligence, ideas and PhD don’t matter at all and that all they are are a piece of meat. Feminine women often don’t have that luxury.

So all in all, being a tomboy is not bad; it’s not “special” and it sure isn’t different than being a “girly” female. It does make people perceive you and treat you differently.


Here are some common stereotypes about tomboys:

Tomboys are not feminine
It’s the one that make a tomboy, but it isn’t really true. Many tomboys are feminine; they just don’t think you have to dress or act a certain way, or to have some specific interests to be seen as feminine.

Tomboys wants to be men
This can’t be further from the truth. While there are women who’d prefer to be men, “tomboys” in conventional sense of the word are happy to be female. They simply don’t see their interests or way they act (or dress) as something that only boys can do.

Tomboys are ugly and unattractive
Being ugly has nothing to do with it. While it’s true many tomboys don’t like makeup and wear casual clothes, it’s hardly what make someone unattractive. It IS true, however, some men don’t go after tomboys, but there are many who do, and that’s one of the reasons being a tomboy is not such a disadvantage even in dating.

Tomboys like (sports, fights, etc.) and hate (fashion, shopping, makeup)
While it might be true some tomboys enjoy activities that are perceived as masculine, this can hardly be a rule. Many girly women, for example, enjoy sports; and many tomboys like shopping. People are different so what a particular person might or might not like is purely individual.

However, it is true some traits tend to give you a tomboy label pretty quickly (such as, a little girl who doesn’t like to play with dolls), but it has nothing to do with tomboys as persons: it’s the way society assign gender roles.

Tomboys are “tough”
Once again, it’s individual. There are many tomboys who are very emotional, romantic and display other “feminine” traits. Seriously, the fact someone hates fashion and prefers to watch a boxing match instead of “Sex and the City” doesn’t say anything about her as a person.

See also:

Women: How not to be seen as fully human

Women: How not to be seen as fully human

Women often complain about not being treated as equals. And when I say “equals”, I do mean “fully human”- in all what it means to be, first and foremost, a human being.

In my opinion, it has a lot to do with buying- or refusing- gender roles. So we must look at those who are considered, in a way, to be “borderline cases”: the tomboys.

Tomboys are feminine. Yes, they are. Just because they don’t buy gender roles and double standards when it comes to behavior, attitude, clothes and hobbies of choice doesn’t mean they’re not fully female. Just because they don’t like wearing dresses (and don’t know anything about fashion) doesn’t mean they’re not feminine. And yes, sometimes it’s all what it takes to be considered a “tomboy” or “unfeminine”.

Also, sometimes, it looks like being considered a woman, a feminine woman, means not being human above all else. Yes, it’s the sad truth.

There are all those adorable little girls who hate playing with dolls and prefer their bicycles and tree climbing. There are also girly girls, proud of their pink dresses, dreaming about their mothers’ high heel shoes. (Yes, I know it’s a bad generalization but it’s made for the sake of simplicity). While the first group is rightfully labeled “tomboys”, it’s not an indicator of that’s going to happen to those girls once they grow up.

There’s a moment in every girl’s life, when she’s around 11 years of age, when she decides- subconsciously- whether she wants to play “the game” or not.

Those who decide to play it must stick to their decision for their whole lives. Yes, they will be considered “normal” and yes, they will get (male) attention and be recognized as true women. However, that comes with a price. The game you must play IS the price. Slowly, you begin to fake your manners and pay attention on things you never cared about before, and before you know, the price you’re paying is the fact society sees you as a female first, human second. In other words, your humanity is questioned. The problem is when you start doing this yourself, when you start seeing yourself more as a woman than as a human being. That’s bad.

On the other hand, there are girls who never learn how to play the game. The choice you made here is not conscious- you don’t know what you’re doing. You simply fail to change. Not in a way you don’t want to grow up- you do, and you become more mature, you are not a child anymore. However, you never properly learn the game (your gender role): you simply refuse or, more often, you don’t realize there’s a game to play, because you were comfortable about who you were, or you were asocial enough not to realize the consequences. Note that this could happen to all those sorts of girls: a 6 year old tomboy and girly girl both have a chance to go either way when they’re 11 or 12. You can never tell.

Why am I writing this? Because I am an adult tomboy, a woman who doesn’t know how to play the game? Because I hate Carrie Bradshaw type of behaviour? Well, yes and yes, but that’s not the point. I truly believe all human beings should be seen as human first- any other label, identification or identity comes second. It’s the only good way to go. And ironically, while tomboy (“non-feminine”) women suffer for not being seen as fully feminine, attractive or wanted, “girly girl” women often have to face a worse discrimination- they’re not seen as fully and equally human.