Now is the time for all good men to get out of the way if they can’t lend a hand

I have been broken open this week, a thousand times, a thousand different ways. The news has been bad, and so soon after other bad news that also broke me open.

I have had a lot of thoughts as I’ve watched this most recent, more personal-feeling bad news. I thought of the women involved, the roads each has travelled to the point where each was able to tell her story to someone. I thought of the importance of critical thinking and media literacy. It seems the more we stew in information and opinion, the less adept we are at sorting through what we receive in a meaningful way. I thought of the culture of silence and shame in which violence and sexual violence are perpetuated. I thought of the good work of many fine people over decades trying to make change.

I have watched in awe as people change their perspective in real time. As they hear the voices of women saying This happened to me, this is how it felt, this is why I never spoke up. I have watched people develop understanding and empathy for those who have been subject to sexual violence. It has been confusing, actually, to see that happen. We have become so polarized, so dedicated to our own opinions, and our own opinions only. So it is refreshing to see people admitting in the public sphere that they’ve changed their thinking.

But there is a long way to go. And holy god I am tired.

I am so tired. I have known since I was a tiny child that I needed to be concerned about my personal safety because I was a girl. It was clear to me in dozens of ways. I remember the names and faces of little girls who disappeared, Christine Jessop. Sharin’ Morningstar Keenan. Allison Perrott. And of course Kristen French and Lesley Mahaffy.

I remember grappling with why I felt angry, when I was a teenager, to hear politicians dismiss calls for equality as the work of “special interest groups.” Women’s equality. Fifty one percent of the population. Special interests.

The Montreal Massacre happened when I was nineteen years old. I tried to understand why people in my classes at Ryerson and in the media were saying it wasn’t misogyny. Hadn’t Marc Lepine separated out the women so he could shoot them? Hadn’t he railed against feminists? You didn’t have to read between the lines there. He laid it out for you, didn’t he? Why weren’t we all agreed that misogyny was at play there? Because he also shot some men?

And there are more examples to lay here, but as I say, I am so fucking tired. And here’s what wearies me the most.

I am so fucking tired of educated, privileged men (yes, of course, god help me #notallmen) trying to shoulder women out of the way, even in this discussion. When Rehtaeh Parsons killed herself — after she was “disappointed to death” by a legal system that offered her no justice — I saw men who really ought to know better, because they have had every opportunity to pay attention, I saw them express their outrage online and on the radio and in the newspaper. Why isn’t the government doing more to help victims of sexual assault? Why aren’t the police helping? Why isn’t anyone doing anything about this? This is AN OUTRAGE. AREN’T YOU OUTRAGED.

And I thought, yeah, buddy, of course I’m fucking outraged. I have been since 1976. You’re a little late to the party. Why isn’t the government doing more? When did you tell the government this was a priority for you? Just this morning? That’s why. As far as the government knows, your main priority has been paying lower taxes. Support for victims of sexual violence, an actual JUSTICE system, these are not things you have asked for with your vote and with your voice. Get out in the streets if you want change. How else will they know it’s a priority?

And in this latest bout of terrible, terrible news, I am seeing so many men blaming women for not coming forward earlier, for not putting their names to allegations, for not making formal complaints to the police. Blaming women who have warned each other away from predators for not coming forward, for not DOING SOMETHING to stop this. Just because you haven’t noticed us trying to change it doesn’t mean we haven’t been doing it. Stop and think about that for a minute. Think about what you have had the good goddamn fortune to have been blissfully unaware of. Stop. Think. Are you sure you want to go on castigating women for not stopping the evil that (some) men do?

And here’s something else: I am seeing men complain that they’re not being allowed to speak! That women are shutting them down! It’s such an injustice! I have a right to talk about this! I have opinions to offer! You’re not giving me any space to do that! That’s reverse sexism!

To you, I say a hearty fuck you. Honestly. My better nature tells me to explain to you why your complaints are unfair, but my better nature is so goddamn tired, see above. I’ll add this: Now you know, a little, what it’s like to be a woman in the public sphere. Consider that.

Much as I’ve been heartened by the ability of people to change their point of view through discussion and careful consideration, I have been disheartened by the number of times this week I have been lectured to, by men who ought to know better, who’ve had every opportunity to educate themselves and think critically. I’ve been lectured on equality, and the need for it. I’ve been lectured on the suffocating culture of silence around sexual violence. I’ve been lectured on the necessity of letting the courts do their work. I’ve been lectured six ways from Sunday on issues I’ve been breathing like air and drinking like water since I was six fucking years old.

Men: it is time for you to shut up if you can’t be helpful. It is time for you to stop assuming you know more about this than we do. Just stop it. Listen to us. Don’t jump in to give us solutions as if we haven’t thought of them, tried them, watched them fail, started again just in case we hadn’t tried hard enough the first time. If the pace of social change on the issue of women’s equality is too slow for you, well, we have that in common. Why don’t you ask yourself why that pace is so slow, instead of blaming women for not getting it done faster?

We have been rolling this boulder up the hill for decades. It is time for you to help.

And if you can’t do that, then get out of the goddamn way. Sit down and shut up. The women are talking.

EDITED TO ADD: HOW TO HELP ROLL THE BOULDER

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