Understanding vs Respect

Many moons ago I worked with some lovely people in a residential care situation. I appreciated their playful, joyful, humorous and relaxed attitude to life. I loved the people we were caring for. What I didn’t appreciate was one person’s relentless desire to tell me who and what I should be.

When I say, ‘person,’ I mean ‘man’. While I appreciated other aspects of his personality, I couldn’t cope with his incessant mansplaining and personal comments. Which explains why I didn’t stay long in that job, as much as I loved the work and was appreciated by others. Other men, asked to step in and mediate, considered it a personality clash. They couldn’t see his gendered expectations of my appearance, behaviour and attitudes. They couldn’t see this man’s sexism, let alone the basic inappropriateness of most things he said.

G*d help me if I ever become someone like him.

He commented on my abundant leg hair. “No hairier than yours,” I said, astonished by the personal comment. He insinuated that I needed more sex in my life, to relax me. I didn’t bother responding. When I produced tools to mend household objects, he expressed surprise and disapproval.

We all had lodgings at different parts of the building. We all disappeared for short periods – to use the bathroom, make a quick phone call, etc. But one day he walked right into my place, when he needed something that only I could help with. It wasn’t urgent, but in his mind only he had the right to privacy. I don’t think he’d ever encountered boundaries before. Or heard of them.

One day our clash was particularly heated and he exclaimed that he didn’t understand me at all. “That’s ok,” I said. “You don’t HAVE to understand me, just RESPECT me.”

I think of this occasionally when people say that trans people are just too hard to understand. You don’t have to understand, sweetie, just show some basic respect. It’s not rocket science.

7 thoughts on “Understanding vs Respect”

  1. Just a co-incidence. I opened your posting “Misunderstanding vs Respect” having just closed my Dad Yomi (daily page [of Talmud]) which dealt with the issue. The context was in reciting the daily prayers; Could one break to acknowledge another and the answer was yes, if the intent was to assuage fear of the other, in which case you could interrupt in the middle of a paragraph, or, were showing respect for the other, in which case you should wait until the end of the paragraph. It made me wonder if the offending man in your workplace was interrupting and mansplaining, out of respect for what he imagined was your ignorance (or whatever, perhaps his own projected onto you), or if he was in fact, assuaging some fear of you? I suppose it doesn’t make much difference, I get that it was painful for you, no matter his motivation, and that he could not honor your request to have your own space (and authority) was in fact, disrespectful . It seems to me that most, if not all, people (strangers to me) have not seen me for who I am and have projected their own fears onto me. To be sure, I am a privileged white male (I was ‘wasp’ for most of my life, I am a late Jewish convert) and my situation is totally different than yours, it was my profession that prompted peoples’ fear of me. Still I understand your feelings in the matter and thank you for sharing them. Dr. Bob


    1. Interesting perspective – thanks for that. He was a self-styled guru type, so simply enjoyed pontificating. He thought himself progressive, while sounding like a dinosaur. And I had years of experience in that workplace role, in comparison with zero for him. But he was at least ten years older. I think you may be correct about a certain fear of me or at least discomfort. I guess some people like to control or belittle those they feel insecure around. We had a lot of fun when he wasn’t being a tool.


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