Earlier this year, in response to the Barnard-Columbia antagonism, I published an op-ed in Columbia Spectator urging Barnard women to show that they deserve respect rather than beg for respect. The article can be easily interpreted as “blaming the victim,” and that is not what I meant to imply at all. I would like to expound on my theory of Dis/respect which just came to my mind recently to complement my argument in the op-ed.
I think there are two forms of “Respect:” one is the respect for humanity, or the respect for everyone’s basic rights such as the rights to be alive, to choose freely, and so on. These rights are inviolable and should be respected at all times. The other is respect for the individual–his or her values, work, ideas, and so on. Unlike the former, the latter form of respect is what would lead to appreciation or admiration of individuals. One major difference between these two forms of respect is that you do not need to know a person individually to know that he or she has the right to be alive or freedom to choose what her favorite color is, but you do need to know someone really well in order to appreciate and respect his or her personal values, background, etc. I cannot imagine myself giving the respect for the individual to people I know nothing about. If I do not know the qualities of an individual that are worthy of my respect, even if those characteristics do exist, to what am I supposed to give my respect of values and work? I do not think everyone deserves others’ respect for individuals without either passively or actively showing others their qualities that deserve such respect. I do believe, however, that no one deserves “disrespect” from anyone who does not know him or her for the same reason that if ones does not know someone as an individual, how can he or her come to despise the person? I believe the attitude that just because you are “something” or “somewhere,” you automatically deserve the respect or recognition for your intrinsic values from all other people who do not know you is a very arrogant and dangerous idea. Barnard women have been fighting for the respect of individual with arguments such as “we’re just as bright as you are,” but we have been fighting this battle backwards. What we should be fighting against is disrespect, which no one deserves from people who only know us as a collective–let it be Barnard women or just women.