Solomon Jones-3

Kim Kardashian and the way men think

ON FATHER’S DAY, I was walking along South Street in Philadelphia with my 9-year-old son, Solomon, and my 12-year-old daughter, Eve.

A woman passed by in shorts that were so small they showed much of her buttocks.

“Eeeeww,” Eve said.

I was glad my daughter responded that way, because it means she has internalized the values my wife and I have worked so hard to instill.

We believe people should present themselves in a way that commands respect. That means one’s private parts should remain just that—private. Moreover, your self-respect should radiate from every fiber of your being, because you are responsible for the way you present yourself to the world.

[blocktext align=”right”]“That woman was sending a message,” I told my daughter. “She was saying, ‘This is what I have to offer.’ When you walk around with your butt hanging out men are going to respond to that, and you might not like the way they respond, because you are telling them that you want them to see that. You’re saying you want them to pay attention to that.”[/blocktext]

I was happy to know my daughter has at least been listening. But as a father, I owe my daughter even more than that. I need her to know the very real consequences of ignoring the values we’ve taught her. I need her to understand what men will see, think, and feel, if she chooses to walk around with her extremities exposed to the world.

“That woman was sending a message,” I told my daughter. “She was saying, ‘This is what I have to offer.’ When you walk around with your butt hanging out men are going to respond to that, and you might not like the way they respond, because you are telling them that you want them to see that. You’re saying you want them to pay attention to that.”

There are those who will tell me that’s a sexist statement. I respectfully disagree.

The truth is not sexist

I don’t need to give my children a politically correct, sanitized version of reality. I need them to know the unvarnished truth. That’s why I tell my daughter, from my own mouth, how men think. I don’t want her trying to decipher male behavior with the help of some book, or some TV show, or God forbid, with the help of other 12-year-olds. I want her to hear the truth from me.

Therefore, I will say it again. When you present yourself in a way that does not demand respect—whether it’s because of your attire, or your mannerisms, or your speech—people are going to respond negatively. That’s not sexist. That’s the truth.

That truth doesn’t just apply to women. It applies to everyone. I see it all the time as a 40-something man. When I wear jeans and a Polo shirt, people respond differently than they do when I wear a suit. If I were to choose to walk around with my pants hanging below my underwear, people would respond differently than they do when I wear Dockers and an open collar. That’s not sexist. It’s not offensive. It’s just the truth.

Here is another truth: Men like women. We like their beauty, we like their softness, and we like the fact that they’re different from us. You know what? That’s all right. Our differences are what allow us to balance each other, to build families, and to survive.  I worry about our future, though, because I think we’ve gotten to the point where men and women can’t communicate honestly with each other for fear of being called sexist.

The truth ain’t always pretty

I know there are women out there who are hurting because of the things men have done to them. I learned that lesson firsthand when I visited a juvenile prison for girls and saw a Tshirt display in which many of the girls shared how they felt about being sexually violated by the very men who were supposed to protect them.

[blocktext align=”left”]I would lovingly suggest to any woman who keeps running into guys who feel they’re entitled,  perhaps it’s time to start dealing with a different type of guy. Better yet, maybe it’s time to present a different type of you.[/blocktext]

But just because one person acted horribly doesn’t mean the next one will do the same. Just because one person hurt you doesn’t mean the next person has evil intentions, or feels entitled to anything from you.

I think most well-adjusted men believe they must earn whatever they get from women. Most of the women I know carry themselves in a way that conveys that message.

I love women, and I think they should decide how they want to present themselves. But I would lovingly suggest to any woman who keeps running into guys who feel they’re entitled, perhaps it’s time to start dealing with a different type of guy. Better yet, maybe it’s time to present a different type of you.

The truth about Kim Kardashian

That brings me to the Kim Kardashian question. My friend and colleague Denise Clay wrote and impassioned column that said, in part, that Kim Kardashian’s problems are due to male entitlement. I respect Denise’s opinion, but I see things differently.

Men are a lot of things, but we are not the cause of Kim Kardashian’s problems. Kim Kardashian is the cause of her own problems, whatever those problems might be.

Kardashian came into the public consciousness because she had sex on camera and leaked that tape to the public. Kardashian’s mother, a master marketer, was savvy enough, and shameless enough, to use her daughter’s sex tape to propel the entire family to fame and greater fortune. For those who don’t believe this was a planned strategy, please note that Kardashian had a blueprint for her actions, since she had watched her friend Paris Hilton do much the same thing years earlier.

That is the unvarnished truth. If anyone is to be blamed for the way both men and women respond to Kim Kardashian, it is Kim Kardashian, and to a lesser extent, Kris Jenner, the woman who saw the opportunity to pimp her own daughter, and did so without hesitation.

But this is not about the Kardashian clan. This is about the rest of us. It’s about the fact that men and women need each other in order to move forward. It’s about the fact that our relationships are the foundations upon which we build families. It’s about the fact that we can no longer afford to blame each other for our problems.

We are all responsible for the way we present ourselves to the world, and in my view, the only thing we are remotely entitled to in our relationships is the truth. sj favicon 3

Click here to read Denise Clay’s column, “Kardashian, Mayweather, and male entitlement”

solomon thumbnailSolomon Jones is an Essence bestselling author and award-winning columnist. He is the creator and editor of Click here to learn more about Solomon

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Denise Clay

This is a good column, Solomon, and you make some good points.
But male entitlement is real…and women in business suits see that every day. Heck, if I’m in jeans and a sweater covering a press conference, I see it.
It needs to be addressed…and men are the ones that need to address it…

Solomon Jones

I hear you Denise. I think your column was a good one, too. This is a deep issue.

Aphrodite Brown

I can agree that how we present ourselves to the world creates how the world reacts to us. I can also agree that presentation is not gender specific or sexist in the abstract.

While one is not required to present a sanitized version of the world to their offspring, let’s look at what is being presented in the given scenario above:

You have a daughter who has learned the lessons you and your wife have worked for 12 years to teach her. You also have a son who is learning those same values.

While I am not questioning your values, or stating they are erroneous, I am asking you to stop and think for a moment the lesson that is also being learned.

As you speak to how you hope to teach your daughter, you are also conditioning your son to continue the tradition that requires your daughter to walk a line that is based on not who she is as a person but how society sees her dress, her behavior, and her female identity.

While explaining to Eve that a woman who chooses to walk down South St. in booty shorts is being judged by men and women because of that outfit you are also teaching Solomon that it is acceptable to judge that woman based on her outfit.

It is the difficulty that we as parents face, it is compounded by the society that exists, and it does little to alter the future for the children who we hope will live in a better or different world than our own.

As much as we want our daughters to live in a world where they are respected and protected, we inhibit that by furthering the idea that it is okay to judge a woman by her clothing, and that women who opt to dress a certain way invite behavior that is inexcusable.

Solomon Jones

I hear you, and I think you make an interesting point. The deep thing about the way we judge each other is that we don’t make a conscious decision to make judgments about a person’s appearance. We make that judgment instantly, and no one has to teach us how to do it. I believe that’s one of the instinctive survival skills we all have.

Princeton did a study on it a few years ago. They found that when people see a new face, our brains decide whether a person is attractive and trustworthy within a tenth of a second. Within a blink of an eye, before we can tell ourselves that we should not judge a person, we have already done so. It doesn’t matter what I tell my son about not judging people by their appearance. He, like all of us, is already hardwired to do so.

Aphrodite Brown

We might be hardwired to judge, but we can also rewire ourselves. We can also as parents rewire our children.

We can teach our daughters that their clothing does not define them. We can teach our sons that how they interact women should not be based on what a woman wears.

That is if we are willing to change our own thinking and our own judgments.

I again don’t judge your desire to teach your children the values that you feel are important, I simply ask that you stop and think about how certain behaviors contribute to the society that your daughter will have to navigate one day. I also ask that you understand not all will walk through life with the same support system you’ve been able to provide to your children.

We have to change the narrative, we have to change ourselves.

Thank you for the conversation, but we can do better than just conversation.

Solomon Jones

As a parent, I have to teach what I believe is right, not what others believe is right, and thus far, it’s resulted in my children being the most respectful kids I know. They are doing extremely well in school, they have great friends, and they treat others how they want to be treated because that’s what we teach them to do.

As I said, any adult can wear whatever they want, and get whatever reaction they get. That’s on them. But my children are going to follow my instruction. They are going to behave in a manner that I deem appropriate, and when they are adults, they can make their own decisions. Until then, I am going to teach them what I believe to be right. That’s my duty as a parent.

Thank you for the conversation, as well. Your viewpoint is interesting.