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How Would You Teach a Teenage Boy to Respect Women?
July 13, 2015


While poverty, lack of education, lack of citizenship status, and other aspects of family history are among the most important “hard” reasons why trafficking happens and to whom, a culture of undervaluing women is often cited as one of the most important “soft” reasons — and thus one of the most amorphous, difficult to pin down, and resistant to change. In some communities, domestic violence is the norm. In many cases, wives are meant to turn a blind eye to their husbands’ affairs and mistresses. One of the reasons prostitution is so rampant is because men AND women believe it’s in men’s nature and within his rights to sleep around. I’ll refrain from painting too detailed a picture here. Instead, I want to pose the question: what happens if we succeed in raising our students’ expectations of themselves and their lives? When girls and women become highly educated and respect themselves more, I would argue that they are going to be less likely to put up with second class treatment. What happens when they demand better if their male peers can’t stand up to — let alone beside — a strong woman?

Ending trafficking is not just about saving potential victims. Consequences ripple outwards, and we must try to anticipate them. Building a culture in which women are valued means not just raising women up in circumstance, but also raising men who can be worthy partners. And protecting young boys from harm likewise requires developing a strong moral code to help guide them.

And thus, the idea for a “How to Be a Good Man” workshop was born. In this workshop, I plan to cover topics like: building a strong moral code, building self respect, the relationship with father (especially if you want to break from bad family patterns), on being a good friend, and on dating and marriage (including: the value of delaying intimacy, how to communicate needs, and how to show love and respect).

I was trying to put together a list of things men can do to show their respect for women, and naturally I turned to Google. And article after article repeated the same refrain: Teach by example. Which is all well and good, except it seems like passing the buck. What if the person leading the example does not have a clear sense of how to respect women? We need more than this to go on.

While part of me, as a woman, feels unqualified to build a workshop teaching young boys how to be men, as I began putting it together, I realized it’s not just a job for men. It’s a community effort. As a woman and as a mother to a young son, my voice is important–BUT SO IS YOURS. As fathers, as mothers, as sisters, as brothers, as friends and neighbors, we all have a stake in guiding our youths. So I would like to ask you: How would you teach a group of teenage boys to become good men? What would you say about defining one’s own moral code, about demonstrating respect, on manhood and traditions, and what it means to be a friend? Please share your thoughts! I would love to hear them–and include them!

Obviously, one workshop isn’t going to automatically reverse lifetimes of patterns of thinking and acting. But what it should do is open up the conversation and expose them to new ideas. The hope is it’ll at least bring forth a new avenue of possibility.

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