“I could talk a long time about this,” Manning said. “All swear words show disrespect for some of the most sacred things in our culture. Make sure your language is respectful.”
Manning believes there is a need for women to be leaders and model self-respect. Women should avoid criticizing themselves, the therapist said.
“Think of the mother who is regularly talking about how overweight she is and how she looks. That’s problematic and gives a negative message to children,” Manning said. “I would love to call out and invite women to be leaders and be mindful of how they carry themselves. Consider the messages they give to loved ones and out in the world about how they expect to be treated, how do they treat themselves and other women. I don’t think it's good enough for us to be saying that only men need to be better at this."
Manning, who specializes in research and clinical work related to pornography, sees pornography as a symptom of a larger cultural problem regarding respect for women. Many of her clients struggle to understand how participation in pornography is fundamentally disrespectful and causes harm.
“I’ve had pornography users and sex addicts say they view it because they really appreciate and love the beauty of women, to which my response is, 'If you really appreciate and love women, you would understand that pornography is the antithesis of that, the complete opposite,'” Manning said.
Manning co-authored an article last year referencing a 2007 study stating that males and females are more likely to view women as sex objects when exposed to sexually explicit material. She said that if a young person is guided and taught well at home, many of the toxic and worldly messages about men, women and bodies are less likely to distort their thinking and attitudes.
"If we arm them with truths and accurate information, and teach in a layered, step-wise fashion over time, they will be more resilient to sexist ideas and more likely to adopt respectful, appreciative and loving views," Manning said.
A sudden change in behavior is another myth Manning sees in her work.
“Some think it’s OK to engage in certain behaviors, date a certain way or participate in certain shows or media when single, but when married, they will show so much love and respect to their wife,” Manning said. “It doesn’t work that way. That does spill over into how you will eventually treat a spouse and how you will teach your children.”
Sometimes men and women make it hard for others to respect them because of the clothes they wear, the language they use or how they act in public. There isn’t a clear answer for that, Manning said, but perhaps it’s a good opportunity for a family discussion.
“We can recognize that not all people are like that,” she said. “But stand on guard so when we see it, we don’t let that influence how we see all men and women.”
Another way to teach young children to respect women is to learn about and discuss women’s issues around the world. A young teenage girl in Pakistan sparked the idea for Manning. Taliban gunmen shot Malala Yousufzai in the head and neck in an assassination attempt last October for promoting girls’ education. The teen champion of girls’ rights survived and has been nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. The Manning family has been following her story with great interest.
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