At first I simply thought this email was a cruel April Fool’s trick. I opened an email from a guy called “Duck Pyro” (that was clearly my first mistake), and proceeded to go from amused to horrified to sad to angry to empowered within the matter of a few sentences. They were writing a response to my catcalling column from last issue and demanded to know if the person who catcalled me outside the grocery store was perhaps Ronald McDonald or the Burger King. They then went on to suggest that the only man who would call me attractive was clearly being sarcastic. At the end of the letter, the writer closed with the valediction “Praise Trump,” as if that were supposed to be the final knockout punch.

If “Duck Pyro” had actually bothered to read my article they would know that for one, I did not ask for their opinion, and even more importantly, I do not care. No, I am not traditionally beautiful. Yes, I am fat. Fat and beautiful or hot are not mutually exclusive.

The culture of disrespect that surrounds professional women is insane, and it has only been fueled by the lack of respect our current president has shown women. In a culture where women are fighting harder than ever for their basic right to health care, equal pay and protection from violence, the kind of disrespect shown to professional women is harrowing.

Respect does not simply have to do with harassing emails or catcalling. April 4, 2017 was deemed Equal Pay Day. Essentially, American white women have made the same amount of money in 2016 and until April 4th of 2017 combined as men did in 2016 alone. This means that basically, women in the U.S. have been working for all of 2017 for free, and that’s just white women. Women of color are still working to make up the pay disparity.

Ultimately, such a significant wage gap comes down to a culture of disrespect. Women in the workplace are making less, often for doing more, not to mention the sexual harassment that professional women endure regularly. It seems that no matter what women do in the workplace, the respect is never there.

In my life, I command respect based on the way I interact with others and portray myself as a professional. I believe it’s important for me as a woman entering the workforce to hold my head high and be my own version of respectable, therefore trying to earn the respect of those around me. The problem lies when other coworkers, specifically men, get respect simply because of their gender and not because they are doing anything to earn or command it.

I understand respect is earned. I work hard every day, and so do millions of other women, to earn respect in our fields. When I see someone like “Duck Pyro” taking time out of their apparently empty schedule to show such a lack of respect, I realize that this is a problem both at a personal level, here at Valpo, and at a national level. So, while I was not pleased to receive this email, it definitely says more about the person who sent it and the culture they buy into than it does about me as a person. As for me, I will continue to command respect.

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