Yesterday I ran into my friend’s boyfriend and upon my asking where she was, he replied that he made her stay home. He added that she does what he tells her to – that this is what you call “WINNING”. He laughed that he had a chokehold on her and if he wants his girl to stay home she will listen.
As his friends around him chuckled and/or ignored the conversation, I defended my friend and called him out on his ridiculous, misogynist comments.
That exchange stirred up anger in me. First, I am fiercely loyal and protective over my friends. Hearing the man who supposedly loves my girlfriend say such disrespectful and demeaning comments was infuriating to say the least. Second, the incident is not one in isolation – it is perspective rooted in misogyny and sexism that is all too common in society. Third, as a mutual friend told me to calm down and not engage, I was frustrated by the fact that people choose to become passive bystanders because it’s too uncomfortable to take a stand when someone is clearly being, for a lack of a better word, a douchebag.
I think the reason why it stirred up such a strong reaction in me is because I empathize with my girlfriend. She is a gorgeous girl who has been validated by her physical beauty her whole life. Her potential for true empowerment has sat on the wayside as her low self-esteem has constantly been dressed up in looking perfect. When you are spiritually unhealthy, you attract other unhealthy counterparts who only reinforce your low self worth. We’ve all been there, and it’s a damaging cycle of destruction.
I understand that my role is not to be an enforcer of justice, and it is quite likely that my dialogue yesterday evening likely did not even make a dent in that person’s psyche. But that doesn’t matter. You can never control how someone will react. You can only do what you think is right according to your values and morals and how people respond or don’t respond is not your problem.
You decide how you want to show up. You choose who you want to be in that moment. What values do you stand for, and when you witness a breach of those values do you take a stand or do you sit back?
We need to stop being passive bystanders. We have a responsibility to the greater good of society to interrupt when witnessing someone contaminating the world with hatred. We need to recognize that when we step back in silence when a friend is making racist, demeaning or misogynist commentary, we are just as much a part of that diatribe of hatred.
The key to change in this world starts with the mindset of individuals. We may be only one person, but our perspectives, actions and behaviours contribute to the norm of our peer group and ultimately the society we live in. We hold enormous power to influence if these norms will heal or harm, through the words we choose, the conversations we have, the respect we show for other human beings, and by choosing to take a stand versus being passive bystanders.