When I was in fifth grade, a boy named Scott would run up to a girl named Stephanie, grab hold of her, and try to kiss her on the mouth. She’d scream, “Get away! You’re so disgusting!” while the rest of us boys stood there laughing. As the father of three daughters, I don’t find this so funny anymore.
In her blog reflecting on relationships through the years, Adventist author Heather Thompson Day wrote: “To the boys in my sixth-grade class: You made a list of the prettiest girls in the classroom almost weekly and posted it on the girls’ bathroom door. I would have given anything if just once I could have seen my name ranked first on that list. I never did. There were days I was terrified to go to school. I was scared to see that dreaded list and where my name would fall. You taught all us girls a lesson I wish I could have forgotten: that boys want girls to be pretty. I spent a great deal of my time focusing my energy in the wrong places because of that stupid list. I didn’t care if I was smart, I didn’t care if I was funny, I didn’t care if I had a talent; I just wanted the boys to think I was pretty. Thank you for encouraging me to waste so much of my youth sizing up all the other girls in the room.”
Does the pain end in childhood? A few weeks ago in the student newspaper of Southern Adventist University, a student named Paige Burnett wrote about dressing up as a Hershey’s kiss for a fall festival. She wore pigtails, painted on freckles and rosy cheeks, and held a big cardboard sign that innocently read “Give a ticket, get a kiss” as she handed out chocolate kisses.
Paige wrote how disappointed she was to receive crude comments from college guys throughout the day. “A group of guys approached me,” she wrote, “and asked if it was a real kiss. I laughed at their question and told them that it was just candy. ‘And I’m engaged,’ I added. ‘So?’ one young man said to me. I was taken aback. ‘So?’ All I could do was just stare at him. . . . I got other comments from several other guys, such as ‘Too bad,’ or ‘You wish it was real.’ I felt like something to be used rather than something to be loved and respected.”
Boys and men, in case you don’t realize it, you possess the power to devastate the girls and women in your life, reducing them to mere objects.
Long ago the fabled Knight’s Code of Chivalry called men to much more than opening doors for women. All knights were to protect those who could not protect themselves, such as widows, children, and elderly. True knights possessed both physical strength and mental discipline, and were expected to use their power to lift up the weak and defenseless. They vowed to be loyal, generous, of noble bearing, to tell the truth at all times, and to always respect the honor of women.
Is there a generation of men out there ready to honor women for the beautiful people they are outside and inside? Which of you guys in grade school, middle school, high school, and college will take a stand for your female classmates? Which of you guys in the workplace, in the sporting arena, in your own home, will model true integrity to other guys who look to you?
Which of you girls and women will give the guys in your life the best gifts you could possibly give—a rejection of superficialities, a refusal to compromise, and a commitment to that timeless biblical mantra: modest is hottest.
It’s time for a bold new generation, not merely of knights and princesses, but of males and females created in the image of God, and acting like it.