"You should never be surprised when someone treats you with respect, you should expect it."I've been thinking about this concept for a while now. If you've ever been in a dysfunctional relationship (whether personal or professional, or even just interacting with too many jerks online), you know how easily it can be to become acclimated to being treated poorly. In order to survive, you focus on finding ways to cope, especially when you're not in a position to make changes to the situation, and eventually you may even forget what "normal" feels like. When people treat you with basic dignity it is almost a shock. You're thankful.
Sarah Dressen, Keeping the Moon
But then something shifts in your thinking. Someone or something reminds you that you are worthy of respect. And eventually, you believe it yourself. You not only expect respect, you demand it. And not only for yourself, but for everyone.
And then, in an ideal situation (sadly, rarely achieved), you can stop demanding respect, because it has become a given -- something that is as common as their air we breathe.
I see the effects of the first type of behavior quite often online, and especially where people are talking about a social issue, usually related to inequality. When watching these conversations, it's very easy to spot people who are still stuck in this way of thinking. Even when it comes to how they treat other people. They are proud of their ability to give respect to others. They are practically showing off to everyone else, like being decent and respectful is some kind of novelty behavior worthy of reward or praise.
The examples of the second are often harder to find, but they are there. They are usually the folks demanding that mainstream social movements made a space for the marginalized voices, reminding us that true equality cannot be achieved without addressing the many ways that gender, class, race, sexuality, and so many other factors intersect and impact each other. They are the ones reminding us that it is our goal to have everyone living in a world where respect is expected, and given.
Examples of the third phase are even rarer, and I have only ever experienced them in close relationships and small, tightly-knit groups. I am hopeful that as more people experience the freedom that comes from no longer having to be vigilant against hurtful behavior, the more they will be able to create spaces where others can feel safe as well.