I was walking through the neighborhood the other day and I overheard a boy call out to a girl, each all of 6, “hey you, girl.” The girl in question stopped what she was doing and quickly attended to the boys’s query du jour. Oddly enough, it occurred to me that the level of dialogue between the sexes doesn’t improve much with age. Normally I’d ask “Men, how are we talking to women?” though this time my question is “Women, why do you answer?”

We’ve allowed some parts of our culture to drag us all down, especially in a celebration of the deprecation of women. It’s easy to blame hip hop, it’s everyone’s favorite boogie man. It’s a loud, brash, often obnoxious target, and if only all of society’s ills could be vanquished if the worst parts of it were to cease. However, too often, however, it’s every bit the mirror we don’t want to stare into. Maybe it’s time to move beyond hip hop to the elements of our culture that inspire and fuel it.

We’ve become numb to much of the racism, homophobia, and sexism in our language and call it entertainment. Our entertainment may degrade, demean, and debase, but as long as it’s to a good beat, we don’t say much.

We are sold images. Now we’re sold and packaged as images for mass consumption fueled by (low) expectations of us. Our men little more than drug-dealing thugs and our women treated as if they all dance on a pole or are all out to get into men’s wallets.

My point is that women are at least complicit in the objectification. Ladies, all I’m asking is that you consider a few questions: How much should you tolerate? What do you support? What does accepting poor behavior and conversation say about you (or how you see yourselves)?

Maybe it speaks to a lack of respect for ourselves. All of us, damaging ourselves starting with the way we speak to one another. Women, it’s hard to say “respect me for my mind” when you have your minds out on display and flopping all over the place accessed by anyone who shows even the slightest attention. Demand respect, get respect, attract what you put out. Respect starts early and needs to be taught, reinforced, and most importantly, needs to be modeled.

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