“If we were constantly remembering that love is as love does, we would not use the word in a manner that devalues and degrades its meaning. When we are loving, we openly and honestly express care, affection, responsibility, respect, commitment, and trust.” – Bell Hooks
I am not a fan of music. I first heard of Arethra Franklin when she passed away in 2019. My social media feed was full of appraisals for her, so I decided to check YouTube for any of her songs. I found a video of a man preaching to a congregation on Love and marriage. He stressed that for a union to work: A man needs respect and a woman needs love. His audience hailed in agreement. He added that ‘It is why Arethra Franklin could not stay married’ and the hall resonated with laughter. I wonder if some people in the audience pondered on why the love given to a woman must be devoid of respect. Well, I later found one of her songs titled respect and I think it is a masterpiece.
(Re, re, re, re) Start when you come home
(Re, re, re, respect) Or you might walk in
(Just a little bit) And find out I’m gone
(Just a little bit) I gotta have
(Just a little bit) A little respect
(Just a little bit) — Lyrics from ‘Respect’
One of the most widely held myths which promote emotional existential crisis is the saying that women need love and men need respect. It’s common to hear stories of romantic abuse and disrespect with a ‘but he loves me’ as a disclaimer. However, what is love without respect? The belief that respect should be reserved for men while keeping an empty 4 letter word ( it really becomes empty) for women is a sexist myth.
At the very root of this vague and incorrect notion that either Respect or Love should be served based on gender is sexism. Men are conditioned to suppress their human emotions, the need to be cared for, listened to -but to aspire to Hardness, violence, and toxicity. They are told the sole affirming factor of their masculinity is to be ‘respected’ or more correctly, feared, especially by a woman/ women in general. Women are raised and expected to act weak; physically and intellectually, in order to receive paternalistic care (‘love’) from men. The respect and love in this context are nothing but “rewards” for conformity to the deeply patriarchal and harmful societal box.
Like most people, the sexist mainstream culture gave me a hard time defining what Love is. Allusions that when it is true, it never ends did not help either. Then I read a book that completely extinguished the fires of that doubt; Bell Hook’s All about love.
Love is definitive. To cure ourselves of the dilemmas associated with the popular love cliches, we must do a redefinition and own our emotional investment. It helps us to love and be loved correctly. We choose to add positive value to a person’s life; through respect, kindness, care, provision of solace, and tranquillity; not negative values like causing hurt, betrayal, and self-centeredness. When you stop adding positive values, you should not hold claim to love. Women and men deserve love. The cost is not a loss of autonomy for women and hardening up for men.
“Women have been loved, but not respected. And without respect, love is nothing but lust” – Osho
- Aisha Mustapha is a Medical Student who writes about women, culture and life. She loves books and meeting people and she is unapologetic about expressing herself.