A while ago, my sister’s boyfriend asked her this: “What are three things you would want your future son or daughter to know?” She passed the question to me today, and my instinctive answer has compelled me to write this essay.
I preface by saying that I am a mere student who knows nothing about motherhood. Regardless, I said that the foremost lessons I’d pass on are these: study hard, deviating from the status quo is often good, and, most importantly, respect others.
Kindness, manners, human decency: these concepts encompass my last and most zealous request; its importance is something I cannot fully depict with solely words. The Golden Rule is an age-old adage that has been beaten to a pulp, but I bring it to the table for a reason.
In other words, treating others with civility instead of deliberate crudeness is a choice I haven’t witnessed being made in a long time.
I often fear for my life.
I can’t speak for the world, but I’ll say this for myself.
I have lost count of how many times I’ve been catcalled or whistled at while walking home and approached inappropriately on social media. The sheer amount of times I’ve felt terrified in public is also ridiculous. For example, a week ago, I saw an older man watching me in a coffee shop: his eyes followed me wherever I moved. After observing this pattern for about 10 minutes, I left the building as quickly as I could. Thankfully, I was not followed back to the place I was working. Chillingly, however, there was a team of security guards in front of the shop’s door the next day.
And, just today, a man significantly older than myself (perhaps quadruple my age) tried to hit on me when I was in line to get lunch. If it was not blatantly obvious at this point, I’ve just about had enough with humanity.
I’m from Irvine, Calif., a city that boasts the title of being the safest one in America. It disgusts me that even here, I cannot proceed with my life without, before every minute decision or movement, considering what I would do in various life-threatening situations. I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like for those in unsafer cities.
However, it must be noted that my conclusions are based on what I witness firsthand. Naturally, I thus believe that women are in danger of disrespectful or unsafe male-initiated advances when in public spaces. On the other hand, groups that I am not apart of such as the male and non-binary population suffer from being put in uncomfortable situations from other people. I’ve heard equally perturbing stories from the many of them that surround me. Therefore, the cornucopia of disrespect I’ve both experienced and observed gives me all the more reason to speak out.
I’m not one for moral absolutes, but I’ll say this for everyone: it is downright wrong to make a stranger feel unsafe or uncomfortable for little to no reason instead of abiding by basic societal expectations of respect and decency (or simply ignoring him or her altogether).
I am tired of my repeated traumatic experiences, of knowing that others of all identities fall victim to similar encounters simply because we cannot treat each other like human beings.
There’s a possible fix.
In a decade or so, Generation Z will be at the cusp of starting a new generation. Thus, I write this to the children we don’t yet have: Women are not toys to be played with nor exotic species to yell at on the street. Men are not to be hyper-sexualized nor expected to be permanently masculine emotionless bricks. And, anyone in between is no less human than me or you; in fact, they’re probably much braver than us.
I say this because it seems that society has forgotten these core truths, these foundations to the most basic form of respect. The only way to make us remember is to raise our children the way we wish that many of those around us were.
The fact that a vast sum of people in this world believe that disrespectful (or, taken to the next level, violent) behavior can be acted upon on complete strangers is depressing. In general, though, any widespread issue in humanity is one because it is believed to be entrenched in humankind’s culture. Indeed, I can type until my hands fall off, but the problem will still remain far from eliminated.
Knowing this, here’s an idea: together, let’s create a subculture in the coming decades. Raise your children how you prefer, but I do not think there is a problem with instilling in them a kind, morally adequate, and hard-working mindset. The fate of the world is in our hands as our population cycles through its infinite loops. We can create a new mindset — a new subculture — to the catastrophic culture that poisons us. Our millennials and Generation Z have the power to chip away at the damage created by those before us, and I’m confident that many are already aware of the responsibility resting in our hands.
For those who are not, though, here is your reminder.