“Don’t hit a woman — she’s somebody’s mother, sister, daughter or wife. Would you want somebody to do that to your mother, sister, daughter, wife?”
I hate when people passionately use this argument in the midst of a strong lecture, debate or article on feminism. Not because I support hitting women, of course, but because of the offensive implications behind these types of arguments.
I’m especially annoyed when people use this argument because I wholeheartedly support the cause they endorse, so I don’t rebut. Typically, I am nodding along right until the dreadful moment they open their mouths and those words come out: She’s somebody’s wife. She’s somebody’s mother. She’s somebody’s daughter.
You know what else she is? She’s a human being. She’s a person.
Her value is not contingent upon the relationships she has to other men in her life. In fact, her value is not contingent upon any relationship she has whatsoever. Her value is independent and stands on its own. The first step to truly advocating in a feminist framework is to understand that.
It’s selfish and frankly backwards if the only way a man can identify a female has rights as a human being is by somehow connecting this “other” gender to him — by creating an alternative reality in which this woman is part of his life. This woman does not have to be any part of his existence to deserve respect and dignity as a human being.
When we speak in these hypothetical terms, we’re essentially trying to cater the unfortunate situation of maltreatment of women so that we may address the consciences of men. That’s unnecessary — if a woman is abused or mistreated, it is not the right of a man to feel that she must be protected. It is her right.
Conversely, women are never told to think of men who have been abused in any way as potentially their brothers, fathers, or husbands. People do not stand in front of crowds and say, “Ladies, what if this was your husband?” Granted, this example is a little bit imbalanced because of society’s institutionalized and systemic gender order, but the absurdity of the argument comes across nonetheless. Women aren’t told to value men in relation to their associations with them, because men are innately and implicitly valued as humans. It’s as simple as that.
Men are not the only selfish parties; most members of our culture are guilty of this reasoning. We see it when ad campaigns on television attempt to “Westernize” children of the developing countries so that we can empathize and perhaps donate. We see it when we practice racism, tokenism or discrimination. It’s as if we have created a standard by which others must demonstrate their self-worth in relation to how their existence affects us — how they benefit us.
We should be working to move beyond this. We should be aiming to use, rather than the aforementioned argument, the following premise: Don’t hit a woman. She doesn’t have to be somebody’s mother, sister, daughter or wife. Don’t hit a woman, because she’s a person who deserves respect.