Maybe what we all need is a little more courtesy.
“Courtesy is as much a mark of a gentleman as courage.” This quote from President Theodore Roosevelt has specific relevance today as the question of how women are treated by men in the media has recently taken center stage. As women, we can justifiably complain about the names some male media personalities have called women. But an underappreciated way to encourage better treatment is by praising those men who already demonstrate respect through their words and actions.
One organization for women, the Network of enlightened Women (NeW), is doing just that through the NeW Gentlemen’s Showcase, which is a search for America’s top gentleman on campus. Run on Facebook, people nominate college men for gentlemanly acts by uploading a video, photo or note to the NeW Facebook page, and people vote by “liking” a nomination. This event recognizes and honors gentlemen on campus. Jack Loonam, a member of the University of Georgia football team and ROTC, was announced this month as the contest winner. The nominees were an impressive group of young men.
How do the nominees define a gentleman?
Niraj Antani from Ohio State University responded, “I define a gentleman as a man who treats everyone with respect, goes above and beyond for others, and is chivalrous.”
“Someone who thinks of others as above himself, and acts accordingly,” said Ben Wenger from Florida State University.
Chris di Re from the University of Washington defines a gentleman as “someone who treats everyone, especially women, with the utmost amount of respect without pushing someone into doing something they do not want to do.”
Finally, Corbin Pillow from James Madison University said, “I would define a gentleman as someone who respects and helps others. Respect is the key component when defining a gentleman. They must show that they genuinely care about the well being of others. This means putting others before themselves and being willing to help at anytime. Things as simple as holding a door open for someone or giving them a ride to class can turn someone’s day from bad to great.”
Based on the nominations and responses to questions about being nominated as a gentleman, I expect a lifelong dedication to treating women with respect and an avoidance of calling women four letter words from these men.
The Gentlemen’s Showcase is a fun event. It is a positive way to influence relations between the sexes. But it is also an important event in light of the discussion about how women are treated in the media. As Peggy Noonan wrote: “the real war is against women in American public life…. In this war, leaders who are women are publicly demeaned and diminished based on the fact that they are women. They are the object of sexual slurs, and insulted in sexual terms. The words used are vulgar, and are meant to tear down and embarrass.”
Many noted that women on the right have been targeted for years without much public outrage. When a liberal feminist woman became the target, many formerly silent liberals protested, and have even called for government regulation to discourage the dissemination of such speech.
Yet more government regulation isn’t the answer. Rather than just silencing negative voices, women can make a difference by encouraging and celebrating positive ones. Events like the Gentlemen’s Showcase are a step in that direction, helping us develop a cultural consciousness and real standards for interactions between the sexes. Courtesy may go a lot further than government regulation. We shouldn’t forget that one way to improve the treatment of women is by publicly praising true gentlemen.