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How to Respect Women: 18 Must-Know Rules All Men Should Learn & Follow

If you want to know how to respect women – good for you! You’re already taking the first step towards being a respectful man.

how to respect women - respecting girls

Learning how to respect women is not all that complicated. When you speak to anybody, you should follow the golden rule: treat others how’d like to be treated. When it comes to women, you shouldn’t behave any differently.  

However, our patriarchal society has conditioned most men – and even some women – to disrespect women for their bodies, minds, sexualities, and more. So, there may be times when you think you are being perfectly respectful but, in fact, aren’t.

But how do you overcome society’s sexism? How do you become a better man and learn to respect the women around you? This feature will show you how to respect women’s bodies, emotions, and opinions like a true gentlemen.

[Read: Feminism – what it is, the different types, and how to be a feminist]

Women deserve respect

Women have always deserved respect, but from a young age, women in our society learn to accept a lower level of respect than men.

They learn to nod along and be polite, even when men are being outright disrespectful. This is sometimes because they’re afraid of causing a scene.

While some women may call guys out, others will bite their tongues when you say something insensitive; they don’t want to be labeled as “crazy” or, worse, “a bitch”.

Women don’t just learn to tolerate disrespect out of politeness. They are also often afraid to speak up due to male violence.

If a guy insults another guy, the worst he can do is knock him out. However, if a girl insults a guy, she runs the risk of violence from somebody twice her strength.

Before learning how to respect women, you have to truly believe that women deserve your respect. Just like with civil rights and gay rights, you cannot just respect those that are different from you because you think you should. You have to respect them because you genuinely believe they’re equal to you. [Read: Inspiring male feminist ideas from men around the world]

Put yourself in her shoes

Many men claim they know how to respect women because they have a sister or a mother. But that doesn’t mean anything! Having a female relative should not impact your respectfulness, for better or worse. Besides, even serial killers had a mom!

Instead of thinking about whether you have any women in your life, think about how you would feel if you were treated like girls are. Put yourself in a woman’s shoes. 

How would you feel if men around you blamed your period every time you got emotional? Imagine strangers yelling at you on the street when you’re walking to work.

How would you feel if you dressed up nice because it made you feel good and then were groped or assaulted – only to be blamed for your own abuse because of how you looked?

What if you were the only person in the office who was expected to get coffee for everyone else? How would you feel if you made less money at work than your coworkers for the same job? Could you stand constant questions about all of your life choices? What if you got hate for working instead of having a family?

Think about all of these scenarios next time you are in the presence of any woman, related to you or not. [Read: The rules to follow to always be nice to the people around you]

How to respect women

No one is perfect. And yes, men shouldn’t have to watch everything they say about women or to women. And, of course, not ALL men are disrespectful or harassing or have ill intent. But it’s those bad men who have made it a responsibility for good men to do even better! 

Women are multifaceted people with lots of different sides to their personalities. They have complex emotional, physical, and mental selves that need to be respected in different ways.

If you want to learn how to respect women, you can start by following these steps. If you always act with these rules in mind, you’ll be well on your way to being a powerful feminist ally!

[Read: Dating a feminist – 23 myths, benefits and must-knows]

Respecting Girls’ Bodies

1. Ask for permission before touching her

The first part of respecting a woman’s body is understanding her personal space. Her body is hers, so she has to give consent for you to touch it.

Consent is easy to get, too – just ask! A simple “is it OK if I hug you?” before you go in for an embrace is more than enough to establish enthusiastic consent.

In fact, you should always ask for consent before touching ANYBODY you don’t know well. It’s especially important for women, as they have no way of knowing if you are a danger to them. It can be very dangerous for women to be around a man who doesn’t understand the concept of consent.

So, if you want to know how to respect women, always make sure they’re happy with being touched by you.

[Read: How to set personal boundaries and respect others]

2. Accept no as an answer

Whether asking a woman on a date, asking a woman in the office to help you with something, or asking a friend of yours to do you a favor, accept her response.

If you ask a male coworker for help and he says he’s busy, you would simply move on. But if a woman says the same thing, don’t call her unhelpful or a bitch, and don’t assume she’s on her period. Just accept her response and move on. If you ask a woman out, and she says no – she is not interested!

Also, do not complain about being friend-zoned. Her friendship is not a consolation prize, and her rejection does not make you less of a man.

[Read: Friendzoned? Don’t turn your crush into a villain]

Your reaction is what defines you, not your ownership or control over women. Respect what a woman says to you at face value, just as you would a man. 

3. Understand male violence

Perhaps not ALL men are dangerous or violent. But realize that there are enough men out there that are dangerous and violent enough to cause women to fear walking the streets, putting on their favorite dress, or rejecting a date.

Have you ever feared for your life because someone left a bar at the same time as you? Have you crossed the street because there was a man walking behind you? Do you ever feel nervous walking to your car after work? Women have to live with this 24/7.

Not all men deserve to be feared, but there are enough dangerous men that women cannot live without fear. So next time you say “not all men,” remember this.

[Read: What it means to check your privilege]

4. Know when to leave a girl alone

After a girl says no, you need to back off. If you were interested in a romantic relationship and don’t want to just be friends, accept that you need to leave her alone. Don’t ghost her, however; clearly explain your feelings, and go your separate ways.

Also, if a girl asks you to leave her alone, respect her wishes. How can you respect women but fail to respect their decisions?

Women’s right to do what they want with their bodies is called their ‘bodily autonomy.’ Respect their bodily autonomy, and leave them alone when they ask.

[Read: Are you a misogynistic man? 48 signs of a sexist woman-hater]

5. Never get physical

Hopefully, we don’t have to tell you this. If you’re interested in reading a feature about respecting women, you’re most likely not a violent man. However, remember what we said earlier; women have no way of knowing you’re one of the good ones. So, it’s still worth letting you know that physical force is NEVER OKAY.

If a girl rejects you, never ever become physical. This means *obviously* no hitting or slapping. But it also includes less overt forms of violence, like grabbing her arm or shaking her. Any forceful touch counts as violence and is the ultimate form of disrespect.

If you hurt a woman, you’re showing her that you actively reject her right to bodily autonomy. It means you think that her body is yours to mistreat, and you don’t care if it hurts. Never, ever, EVER get physical with a girl.

6. Believe her

If she tells you about a sexual assault, harassment, or rape, don’t tell her she took it the wrong way or that she should have worn a longer skirt. That’s victim-blaming, and it’s incredibly harmful.

Also, remember that it’s very rare that women fake assaults for attention. There are plenty of easier ways to get noticed!

It is so disrespectful to question a woman when she shares her truth. If she tells you how her boss treats her differently because of her sex, don’t tell her she’s imagining things. Don’t tell her it’s all in her head. Tell her, “that sucks,” and try to understand.

No one wants to be a victim. Especially in our society, where victims are constantly blamed for their experiences.

[Read: These signs of disrespect in a relationship should never be overlooked]

7. Be mindful of comments that affect her body image

Women are constantly told to feel bad about their bodies. Whether it’s people’s careless comments, airbrushed bodies in magazines, or subtly edited social-media snaps, women are always being given the impression that their bodies aren’t good enough.

Even if you only make a casual comment, it can seriously damage a woman’s self-esteem. Comments about her weight, height, boob size, waist size, nose shape, or any other physical feature can live in her head for years to come, resurfacing every time she looks in a mirror.

[Read: 20 ways to handle a low self-esteem day when nothing’s going your way]

A good rule of thumb is to never comment on anything about a woman that she was born with. That means it’s okay to comment on her new hairstyle or a cute outfit but not her physical body. And keep it positive, too.

Respecting Girls’ Opinions

8. Speak out against injustice

Women haven’t always had the right to hold an opinion. In some societies, they still face barriers that stop them from speaking their minds. If you want to respect women, always stand up for their rights.

Women have worked hard to win equality. Yet, in patriarchal societies, they often need supportive men to join them in the fight. Remember, many of the feminist movement’s greatest achievements – votes for women, equal pay – were achieved by powerful women and supportive men working together.

As a man, you are privileged. If you see a woman being harassed, used, or treated less than equally, use your privilege as a man who gets respect to help her. Do not simply stay quiet because you don’t want to get involved, or it’s not your responsibility – because it is your responsibility!

If you respect women, it is your duty to stand up for what is right. You have the ability to take action without consequence. Use your power to push others to respect women too.

[Read: Male privilege – what it is and what it looks like in real life]

9. Listen

Yes, this sounds simple. But it is a known fact that men constantly interrupt women and don’t listen to their opinions.

At work, at home, everywhere. So, next time a woman shares her opinion or tells a story, listen. Listen and respond to what she actually said, not what you think she said. [Read: Ways to be a better listener in your relationship]

10. Do NOT mansplain

Mansplaining is one of the most well-known, patronizing ways to disrespect a woman. However, many men sadly don’t even realize they do it! If a woman shares some information or knowledge with you, don’t act as if you know more than her.

No matter what the topic is, respect her input. Twisting what she says to seem like you’re helping or fixing something is not only disrespectful but insulting and, frankly, quite arrogant.

You are not smarter than a woman because you are a man, have a degree, or are older. Take her thoughts at the same level you would if talking to a man.

Would you talk down to a male coworker? Would you try to seem as if you knew more than him? Or would you respect what he was saying? [Read: Mansplaining and 20 other ways to spot a dick when you’re talking to one]

11. Don’t expect a woman to be a certain way

Whether this is a woman you know or a girl you’ve just met, do not expect her to be polite, friendly, or docile. Yes, some women like a gentleman who opens doors and offers his coat when she’s cold. But others don’t. And that’s totally fine too!

Neither of these behaviors makes a woman any more or less of a woman. So, accept her the way she is. Don’t assume she’s shallow because she wears makeup. You wouldn’t like to be judged for your appearance or how you behave, so give her that same consideration.

Don’t judge her if she thinks differently from you. She has a right to be as outspoken and opinionated as she wants, too. It doesn’t make her bossy or a loudmouth!

[Read: The Male Gaze – what it is, and how to re-think it]

12. Don’t say, “you’re not like other girls”

Because if you do, she will immediately think, what do you think is wrong with other girls? You may think this is a compliment, but most women respect other women. If you want to know how to respect women, you cannot pick and choose. You have to respect them all.

By showing the woman you are with that you view all women equally and respect them all, she will see authenticity in your respect.

[Read: Sex-positive feminism – what it is, and how to embrace it]

13. Recognise her opinion as equal to yours

A woman’s opinion should be equally as valuable as a man’s. Just because a girl states her opinion doesn’t mean what she’s saying is less truthful or important.

For centuries, women’s ideas have been considered less worthy than men’s; this is because people didn’t respect women.

If you want to know how to respect women, you need to recognize their opinions are equal to yours. Having conversations with the women in your life could show you perspectives you’ve never thought of, as women will have very different life experiences from you. Maybe you’ll learn something!

14. Present valid arguments

So, now you know how to respect women’s opinions, give them the full power of your strongest arguments! Presenting valid, strong arguments in a debate is the best way to show respect for your opponents. Treat a girl like any other debate partner, and give her your best shot!

On top of this, never use bad faith or offensive arguments to defend sexism. Women aren’t built to be mothers instead of fighters and are perfectly capable of all the same actions as men.

A woman’s period wouldn’t make her too temperamental to be a world leader, either. Make sure you never try and use fake facts to argue against her right to equality.

[Read: The worst gender stereotypes we need to drop for good]

15. It is not ALL women

Women are not perfect. That is no secret. But just because one woman lied to you, cheated, or turned you down does not mean all women are the same. Just as men constantly tell women not all men are sexual assaulters, remember that not all women are bad. 

You can find out how to respect women by treating them as unique, valuable individuals. Once you know not all women are the same, you can start respecting them for who they are.

Respecting Girls’ Emotions

16. Never call a woman demeaning names

Have you ever called a girl a slut, or a whore? Maybe you called her a bitch, or something else you can only call a woman. These demeaning names are a form of sexist abuse and often directly relate to disrespectful stereotypes or cultural double standards.

If a woman likes sex, she’s a slut; somebody society looks down on. But if a guy likes sex, he’s a player – somebody other men look up to for his “success” with women. Using female-focused insults is extremely disrespectful and can actually make women’s lives worse by promoting inequality.

Even if you only say them as a joke, these demeaning names are not appropriate if you want to respect women. [Read: Come on, it’s just a joke! Different types of humor and how they affect your relationships]

Here’s a good measure of whether or not you are being respectful. If uncertain, ask yourself this question: would you feel comfortable saying what you say or do in front of your mother? If the answer is no, stop doing it. Because that means it’s disrespectful.

If you can’t treat women how you want to be treated, then treat women how your mom would expect you to treat them.

17. Acknowledge that her emotions are valid

No, she’s not upset because she’s hormonal. She’s upset because you’re disrespecting her! If you invalidate a woman’s negative emotions by saying they’re all down to “women’s problems,” you’re adding insult to injury. This is very disrespectful and will only make her more upset.

Instead of minimizing her pain, try and understand what’s making her upset. Approach her emotions with empathy and kindness. Think how you would feel in her situation, and try to offer a sensible solution. Even if she only wants a shoulder to cry on, give her a safe space to feel her feelings.

Besides, the old tired jokes about girls “being on their period” when they’re upset are demeaning in themselves. A lot of women really suffer from emotional and physical pain as a result of their cycles, so don’t disregard their suffering as something inconvenient or trivial.

[Read: 21 ways to treat a woman right and respectfully]

18. Attempt to meet her needs

Everybody wants somebody to support and encourage them – and women are no different. Always attempt to meet her needs by being kind and supportive. If she’s going through a difficult time, be there to help.

Similarly, if she’s achieved something great or is having some success, be there to celebrate with her. If you respect somebody, you’ll be there for them through thick and thin. It’s just as important to celebrate women’s achievements.

Plus, women often have to work harder than men to achieve the same result due to society’s sexism. This makes it twice as important to support women when they do well. So, make sure you always congratulate them.

19. Stop using diminutives

It’s a small thing, but it really goes a long way. Many cultures have pet names or diminutives that they use to refer to strangers. In English, these are cutesy terms of endearment like “darling,” “hon,” or “love.” Usually, these are only used when speaking to women.

You might think you’re being nice by calling a woman “honey.” However, diminutives like these should only be used with women you know well, and women that you know enjoy being called them. Whilst some women find nicknames cute, others find them disrespectful, infantilizing, and belittling.

So, if you don’t know how a woman feels about diminutives, avoid them. You don’t want to make her feel small. [Read: 41 rules of etiquette for the modern gentleman]

Women deserve to be treated with equality, respect, and kindness – and a lot of men don’t understand this. So, if you’re trying to learn how to respect women, you’re already doing something right!

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Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...