Openly disrespecting women

William T. Robinson, Jr.

Recently, for whatever reason, U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho verbally accosted U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in a vulgar tirade, where he allegedly called her a f…king bitch. Verbal incendiary attacks between men who are vehemently opposed in political views (however wrong) have become commonplace. But to openly subscribe to the level of verbal obscenities toward women is trending in uncharted waters.

Let’s not ever, as a country, become comfortable calling women vulgar names. It is definitely not an acceptable practice. The truth of the matter is that we have let some well-known men get away with disrespecting women, the main culprit being the POTUS. People usually say what they mean. Apologizing  and making excuses is meaningless and usually ineffective when the cogent, derogatory power of what they said has resonated. Usually, the person spewing such offensive dialogue toward a woman is so comfortable using such offensive words around their circle of friends that they may slip or just think it is acceptable to express such offensive views in public venues. Only when they see public outrage do they become defensive and apologetic. They may even have their friends make excuses for them, saying they didn’t mean what they said or even say it was taken out of context.

Some men will adamantly swear they didn’t say what they said even though it has been recorded and videoed on national TV or personally witnessed by many. Give us a break. Men, usually powerful White men, have become so snug and comfortable in their positions that they feel they can disrespect women (especially women of color), and their faithful base will exonerate them. Men disrespecting women with lewd, derogatory and offensive comments is nothing new. But let’s not become desensitized to the message it is conveying in a male dominated society.  Women have a responsibility and an obligation to call out the culprits of such deliberate verbal abuse. Maybe then, disrespecting and holding them liable and accountable would cease to be a problem.

With no exceptions, the African American community should especially take notice in the sexual exploitation and vulgar name-calling they have allowed some rappers to use in their lyrics. We have supported and allowed some rappers to become very wealthy. We attend their concerts and buy their sordid lyrics calling women whores, bitches, and freaks. We all know some rappers who have relegated women to being sexual toys, therefore promoting the sexual exploitation and dehumanization of women. Many would argue that those who continue to support these men, who may also be entertainers, politicians, or professional athletes, are complicit or just as guilty.

You’ll find some women who find calling each other foul names such as bitches, whores, and freaks endearing. Some will even argue that you’re taking the power, ugliness and offensiveness out of obscene word by using them in an endearing way. Personally legitimizing the value of a word or how you see it being used doesn’t collectively take the sting out of such highly offensive language.

No, you cannot have it both ways. If you want the obscene vulgar name-calling to stop, stop using it—especially with people you may not especially like. While everyone should work to stop the public devaluing of women, women should not tolerate its presence in any venue. Just imagine the number of women who allow themselves to be disrespected by dancing to a song that outright dehumanizes them. They should demand the song be discarded.

It seems that big corporations and national sponsors of products are setting an example by not sponsoring or endorsing certain athletes or celebrities for their products who may have openly abused or offended women. Some would argue that such ‘sponsors’ look the other way, depending on the celebrity status of some big name artists, athletes or entertainers. But if there is enough public outcry against such ‘spoke persons’ or representatives, they will be dropped and replaced.

No one is trying to take away anyone’s freedom of speech. That is a very important right guaranteed by the Constitution. But people should be aware there are varying consequences to the things they may do or say. It is human nature to disagree, but we should listen and respect the rights of others if they   convey their opinions in a respectful way. Be aware of the way you address someone. It may be detrimental to your job, position, or career. We are living in a time when foul, vulgar, and indecent comments may prove to be highly unproductive toward meeting your objectives. In fact, it can contribute to your downfall.