Behavior that denigrates women is prevalent throughout the world. Women are wives, co-workers, sisters, mothers, friends, daughters and over half of the population, and most of these women will be disrespected for simply being a woman. When women's issues are regarded as secondary to those of men's -- as illustrated by the recent struggles over equal pay, basic survival concerns, availability of contraception, representation in corporations and governments -- then these human rights often go unnoticed and unsupported. Too many institutions and countries support systems that disrespect women through neglect, exclusion and indignity; they restrict and disregard women.
I've listed a few areas where tragic abuse is allowed to flourish because of the inherent lack of respect shown to women:
Women make less money than men and women are more likely than men to live in poverty. There is a worldwide discrepancy between men and women's rights and basic resources such as healthcare and education. It is estimated that 70% of the illiterate adults in the world are female. Discriminatory laws prohibit fundamental rights and freedoms from being accessible to women throughout the world. With women forming the majority of primary caregivers of children, living in poverty perpetuates the cycle of being judged and treated with a lack of respect: this, is turn, contributes to the devaluation of women. Those women who have full-time jobs are in all likelihood also responsible for the childcare and the management of the home. Add to this the responsibility of caring for their parents as they age, and it's easy to see how women become overloaded, especially when the workload in the home is often not shared equally.
Lack of Power
Women's lack of power makes them more vulnerable than men. Without power, women are more likely to be sexually harassed and abused. Restricted access to education and the inability to vote continues to disenfranchise women around the world. Women face inequities of power through a lack of respect in their opinions, thoughts, preferences and concerns. These inequities occur at work but also in the home. Women's opinions and needs will be dismissed if they conflict with men's needs. Over time, this disempowers women and contributes to lower their self-esteem. When men disregard women in the workplace, they are viewed as little more than a child, whose opinions will be ignored and whose accomplishments will be overlooked. Here in the U.S., women do not have equal political representation and therefore they do not have the power to change the social and economic reality for themselves in this country.
Without respect, abuse flourishes. When women are victimized through acid attacks, trafficking, physical mutilations and economic exploitation, they are crimes that more often than not, go unpunished. Women in the U.S. are victims of sexual assault at least twice as often as men. Estimates of the prevalence of childhood sexual assault range widely, yet experts agree that this type of abuse is at the cornerstone of women's victimization patterns. Women around the world are being neglected, assaulted and abused at an alarming rate and are viewed and treated as unworthy of basic human rights.
Social Pressure to Conform
Social pressure and strict social codes dictates what options are available for women. Being veiled in public, forcing arranged marriages and widespread gender discrimination disempower women worldwide. When women fight societal expectations, they often find themselves targets for disparaging remarks and in some cases, life-threatening consequences. Women in the U.S. who have gained success find they have become victims of criticism, most notably regarding the way they look. Why is it so difficult for accomplished women to get the respect they obviously deserve? Without respect, even those women who have trail-blazed into new areas find their efforts are undermined and they are viewed as females instead of leaders. Some women find it necessary to conform to social pressure, whether it is choosing to be attractive instead of making the choice to become accomplished, allowing abuse in the home to occur for fear of being homeless or having children at the expense of your health.
Definition of Disrespect:
Irreverence, neglect, contempt, dishonor, insult, indignity, outrage, discourtesy, mockery, jeer, scoff, taunt, sneer, slap in the face, push aside, overlook, turn one's back upon, browbeat, dishonor, desecrate, insult, affront, laugh at, ridicule, abuse, rude, sarcastic, unworshiped, unenvied and disregarded.
Yes, this is what disrespect looks like to women. We need to start seeing all women as worthy of respect so we can end the cycle of abuse first in our country and then liberate the women around the world.
What are you doing to bring an end to the disrespect shown to women?
HuffPost Women sends stories about relationships, politics, sex, work, culture and body image, straight to your inbox three days a week. Learn more