Here’s an idea. In honor of Mother’s Day this year, let’s start treating women like actual human beings.
I could say that I am upset in response to the leaked group chat messages from current NHL, minor league and collegiate players because I am a hockey fan, or a University of Manitoba alumnae, or a mother of boys, but let’s be frank. I am a human and I am so sick of all the complicity that allows this gong show to continue, generation after generation.
And before you come in here with your D-line of “not all men” comments, listen for one second.
Yes, all men. Yes, all women. If you are a human on earth, you are complicit.
Every single one of us has heard comments like the ones leaked in this chat and stayed silent, or laughed, or nodded in agreement. Me, you, your mom, your dad, your kids. Every single one of us.
We are not born with this desire to subjugate, to insult, to dismiss, to degrade. We are taught and we teach each other every day that it’s okay. In subtle and overt ways, we strengthen it each time we let it slide.
I believe that every time one of those men on that group chat typed a disgusting comment and hit send, a small part of him knew it was wrong and pathetic and violent, but then he waited to see what the others would say. And the others responded with “yeah man, oh definitely, lol.” And then the idea was strengthened, in order to have status, to be of value in this world, we need to devalue others.
This idea that there is only so much value to go around, only so many rights, that affording rights to others will then mean that you have to give up some of yours is old and flawed and exactly the trick the powerful use to keep themselves in power. It keeps people afraid of progress. It is an excuse to breed hate and prejudice.
Almost always degradation of one demographic of humans is coupled with degradation of another. In this case, the racism in the leaked messages is outnumbered by the instances of misogyny, but they almost always go together. And are accompanied by homophobia and xenophobia. As soon as you decide that one type of human should not be afforded basic human rights, because of their genitalia, or skin color, or geography of birth, or political beliefs, you have set your toboggan on the slippery slope of dehumanization. Now you will be able to justify and fail to defend the dehumanization of any other group.
Usually, the dehumanization is more subtle than overt. And we play along because we are scared that we will make others upset or uncomfortable by speaking up. So, over and over, we fail to protect the emotional and physical wellbeing of the vulnerable in order to maintain the level of comfort of the powerful.
We put others in danger because we don’t want to have an awkward conversation.
We even do it when we are the ones who will be harmed by the degradation. Women have always been the foot soldiers of oppression, working for the Nazis, the KKK, working against equal rights, and for what? To preserve the idea taught by every major religion that women are on Earth to make life easier for men and to be a vessel for their phallus and then their children? Why would we do that? Because we, especially white women, continue to enjoy our proximity to power so greatly that we are mostly unwilling to disrupt the status quo. We go along to get along.
And with enough humans choosing the comfort of those in positions of status over the safety of those most at risk for violence it is no mystery how Larry Nassar was able to violate child after child, unchecked. It’s no surprise that the Catholic Church continues to protect priests instead of their most vulnerable parishioners. It makes complete sense that it took over six weeks for Ahmaud Arbery’s murderers to be arrested.
For those on the other side of this debate, saying, “well, all guys,” meaning if you checked the group chat of almost any guy you would see the same thing, this is exactly the point. This goes on everywhere. Everyday.
So you could say, cool, cool, not so bad, let’s continue poisoning the air with this same crap forever, or how about this? Instead of a lame card and a plant, you give your mother a better gift this year, the gift of self-reflection and awareness, the humility to actually look at your beliefs and your actions, the willingness to stop perpetuating this dangerous misogynistic rhetoric. The radical idea that you could start to treat all people like they are actually fully human.
Please feel free to share.