I’m driving to dinner. The song “Glory of Love” by Peter Cetera is playing on the radio. I love 1980’s songs, and I’m quickly singing along in an enthusiastic off-key voice.
But this time, my mind gets stuck on the chorus. It’s like I’m hearing it for the first time, and it is not sitting well.
I am the man who will fight for your honor
I’ll be the hero you’re dreaming of
We’ll live forever
That we did it all for the glory of love
Honor is an interesting word.
For so much of history, honor has been a double standard.
The belief that not only can a woman’s honor be taken away from her, but also needs to be protected by someone other than her. “The hero you’re dreaming of.” And if a woman is “dishonored”, it also brings dishonor to the men around her (father, brothers, husband).
Let’s be clear, having someone fight for your honor is not a romantic notion. This perspective implies not only ownership of women, but also a drastic power imbalance.
The truth is, honor is something that each person has. It cannot be taken away by anyone else. It cannot be given to you by anyone else. The only person who can change your honor is you. Are you showing up ethically? Are you acting in alignment with your values? Are you proud of your actions? Are you treating others fairly?
A woman does not need a knight in shining armor to come save her.
The only reason that was ever the case, was because the men writing laws took all power and agency away from women. The right to work. The right to own land. The right to inherit wealth. The right to vote. The right to choose to marry or not marry. The right to choose to have a child or not have a child.
We need the lasting remnants of woman-as-property to be stripped from our societies.
We need laws across the globe that treat all genders and races equally.
We need people to be accountable for their own honor.
Instead of perpetuating imbalanced systems that allow room for the privileged to ride in as a knight in shining armor for those history has oppressed, we need everyone helping to create new systems that treat each human with fairness, dignity, and respect. New systems that are strong enough to step out of the long shadow of oppression.
Let’s raise the bar on ourselves.
This is how to show up as a leader, as a citizen, and as a fellow human with honor.