I am a lot of things. I am Rehtaeh Parsons’ father. I am an advocate for victims of sexual assault and cyberbullying. But most of all, I am sick of saying, “if a boy or man had done the right thing, a girl or woman would still be alive.”
For readers unfamilar with the Rehtaeh Parsons’ saga, Parsons was a Canadian teenager who, at the tender age of 15, got drunk and let four boys run a train on her.
It got out that she’s the type of chick who plays with trains. Males of a certain age thought, “if her standards are that low, maybe I have a shot” and texted her looking to get a piece of her kit-kat bar. The girls, being the cruel little beasts that they are, texted her that she was a slut (there’s nothing wrong with being a slut if done for honorable reasons).
About a week later, Parsons told her family that she had been raped. After a year-long investigation, the Mounties determined that there was insufficient evidence to lay charges. About a year later, Parsons decided to self-terminate via hanging.
I am sick of urging men and boys to prevent violence against women and then seeing familiar news headlines over and over. Reading about what happened to Kassidi Coyle earlier this year shook me to my core. I saw parallels between what happened to her and what happened to my daughter: A sexual assault that eventually led a young girl to take her own life.
Unless your name is Socrates, or you are a samurai, suicide is a personal decision.
And so I ask myself, again, why does this keep happening? I’ve been noticing a deadly disconnect between what Canadians say we want in theory versus what we actually do in practice … A disconnect that is literally killing women and girls.
If women decide to self-terminate, that’s their own decision.
Her body, her choice, right?
Take the latest Canadian Women’s Foundation survey, for example. This is the first time the foundation asked Canadians about the role of men and boys in ending violence against women. So what do Canadians say they want?
As Nietzsche once aptly described as the “mania for counting noses” (democracy) is embodied in the Western fetish for surveys and polls.
Please, Mr. Canning, tell me, what does the voice of God, as filtered through the people and the pollsters, say?
Ninety-three per cent of Canadians say they want men to take a more active role in ending violence against women. But how many people are working with men and boys to end violence in their own lives and communities? And how many people are talking to the boys in their lives about consent and how to safely intervene in a situation that they know is wrong?
There is no such thing as “safely” intervening in a potentially violent situation. Stepping into a conflict puts everyone at risk. Either be prepared to accept the consequences of intervention, call a cop, or mind your own business.
When Intervention Goes Wrong
I’m not interested in intervening to save women, especially not if the woman in question played a role in creating the conflict.
I hate to say it, but I think we as Canadians often take an “Oh, he’s a good kid. I’m sure he’d make the right decision in a situation like that” approach. That’s not good enough anymore. It never was good enough.
His body, his choice, right? Or, do only women get to claim bodily autonomy?
Three quarters of Canadians feel that men don’t challenge other men when they witness inappropriate behaviour toward women in public (75 per cent) and in the workplace (74 per cent). When it comes to holding other men accountable, we can all agree it’s the right thing to do in theory. But it clearly isn’t happening in practice.
Women are strong and independent and don’t need no man. Let them defend themselves.
And it especially isn’t happening behind closed doors — I know that no one held anyone accountable when young men got into a room with my daughter, raped her, and then circulated a photo around her school. And what did one of the boys say when he spoke with a journalist? “‘I felt like if she didn’t want it, it wouldn’t have happened.” We are all failing our next generation if this is the way our 16-year-olds think about consent.
Remember now: Women are perfectly equal to men, except that it is impossible for them to give non-verbal consent or implicit consent.
Speaking of accountability, thankfully 4-in-5 Canadians (79 per cent) feel “boys will be boys” is an outdated attitude. So that means, from a young age, we must hold our boys accountable for their behaviour. Our boys can be shown how to embody empathy and compassion. We must make no excuse for toxic masculinity to get embedded in our next generation.
84% of your provincial and territorial prison population are men. 93% of your federal prison population are men.
Canada is doing just fine holding the “boys” accountable.
Speaking of prisoners, why does the Social Justice crowd think it is appropriate to hammer boys with their moral condescension about “boys will be boys” and “toxic masculinity” but would not dare go after adult men who are actually guilty of the things they claim are problems?
And while 71 per cent of Canadians rightly say “locker room talk” is a big deal, I was disheartened to find out from the Canadian Women’s Foundation survey that almost half (42 per cent) of millennial men think it isn’t a big deal. Language matters. Language normalizes, justifies, and perpetuates a cycle that turns women and girls into objects for men’s consumption, rather than positioning them as equals.
If you demand someone’s protection, you are not their equal. You are either their superior or their inferior. They are either your patron (superior) or your guard dog (inferior).
Equals protect each other.
One last contrast from the foundation’s survey: 72 per cent of millennial men believe there is no reason for a woman to feel less safe in public than a man. Yet almost half (45 per cent) of millennial women report feeling unsafe because of their gender in the past 12 months. If that’s not a disconnect, I don’t know what is.
FUCK YOUR FEELINGS.
I refuse to order my life around your subjective and irrational emotions.
So what is the one action I hope every Canadian reading this will take? Ask a teen boy in your life to imagine him and his male friends in a room with a girl, like the situation Rehtaeh and the boys were in. Ask him what he will do. Who will he stand up for? Prepare him for the sad reality that his friends might make fun of him for doing the right thing. Let him know you will be proud of him for it.
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
No one should care more about your own well-being than you. Not random teenage boys. Not strange men. YOU. If you put yourself in position to get a train run on you, that’s your call. Men are not plastic rain ponchos that women get to grab, put on, and toss away when the storm has passed. We have just as much of an interest in our own safety as women do in theirs. And if these rapine, murderous men are such a threat to women, why wouldn’t they be a threat to a man? Do you imagine there is some special man hand-signal we put up to let each other know we are in the Man club? Here in the U.S., men are more of a lethal threat to other men than they are to women.
If women are strong enough and empowered enough to dig themselves into a bad situation, let them be strong and empowered enough to climb back out without crying for a random man to rescue them.