Ruhee Dewji

I need you to be better

Originally posted on Facebook, October 16th, 2017

Congratulations, everyone: we’ve once again placed the entire burden of patriarchal culture on the people who routinely experience the worst of it. With this “me too” campaign, this “speak up if you’ve experienced sexual harassment or assault” tidal wave, as if none of us have ever spoken up before, we force victims to relive these awful moments again and again while men go “Omg wow I had NO IDEA!” Listen—if you had no idea, you’re very wilfully ignorant. We are telling you. We’ve been telling you every day and you have not listened. If you need all of Facebook to tell you this is happening before you consider believing us, you are not an ally. And no, I don’t think your nicely worded statuses about how you believe us and are sorry are particularly helpful unless you follow that declaration with real action.

Listen to me. Every man reading this: You have shitty friends. You have probably been shitty. I don’t want to hear about how you’re a nice guy. Nice guys do shitty things too. I am in constant proximity to men who have been predatory or derogatory towards others or to myself. I am friends with them, I am in bands with them, I see them every day, I watch them proclaim themselves feminist. Some of them are reading this status thinking that they sure are glad THEY’RE not one of those men.

YOU, men of my Facebook friends list, men surrounding me in my everyday life: you have laughed when someone said something demeaning to me. You have stood idly by as I got catcalled. You have looked at me skeptically when I describe what it’s like to walk on the streets alone at night. You have made awful comments about other women and told me I couldn’t take a joke when I finally spoke up. You have rolled your eyes and commented about “excessive political correctness” when I angrily say that your joke was shitty. I have been in a room full of men discussing why Jian Ghomeshi might be an okay guy; I have been in a room full of men discussing why putting on shows involving women is good because people want someone to look at. None of you spoke up about it. None of you even said “Hey, maybe don’t say that.” Forgive me if I don’t think that your nice sentence or two is helping, because I’ve seen so many of you have the chance to act on those nice sentiments, and none of you did. Instead I watched you laugh and clink glasses while I stayed silent, debating whether speaking up this time would make me “the bitch who can’t take a joke,” or whether the men I didn’t know very well would become violent if I said anything.

I’m tired of this. Yes, me too. Yes, we’ve all been harassed or assaulted. Yes. You should know that. I don’t need your heart reaction. I need you to tell your shitty friends to stop being so fucking shitty. I need you to stop making jokes about how our friend who got harassed at a show was probably asking for it because she’s so friendly, and I need you to stop freely touching all your non-male friends when you’re hanging out with them like you’re entitled to their bodies, and I need you to be better. I need you to make other men better. I need you to require less labour from your friends who are not men and I need you to go out there and do the hard job of speaking up against your bros. Watch your friends when you’re hanging out. Watch. When your dude friend makes a stupid comment and your non-dude friend kind of clams up, or frowns and then tries to rearrange their face into a normal expression, or exhales a little and says nothing? Yeah, there’s your chance. Fucking do something this time. We’re exhausted. Just believe us for once.

(My language is probably woefully insufficient here and please tell me if I have fucked it up. Also, people of all genders are impacted negatively by the patriarchy, men too. I just can’t speak on a personal level about many of those things, and would never want to pretend to speak for everyone else. What I’m ranting about applies to many people: cis women, trans folks, non-binary folks, and many more.)

Posting this is terrifying, especially on an unfiltered friends list. Imagining how angry people (men) might get is terrifying. Knowing I might lose a friend because they are defensive is shitty. But here you are reading it and here I am, always afraid, because that’s how so many of us have to live.