Hold Your Male Friends Accountable

*Trigger Warning: Violence against women*

On March 3, 2021, Sarah Everard was a 33-year-old woman walking home from a friend's when she mysteriously disappeared. A week later, her remains were found, and a Met police officer was taken into custody on suspicion of kidnapping.

Have you heard the cries of justice? Or have you been living in an ignorant bubble of bliss?

Fearing for our safety is not new for women. We are told to not walk with headphones in, to not cross through big fields or parks, to make sure we have our keys in clenched between our fingers as a weapon, to lock our car the second we get inside, avoid eye contact so we don’t look approachable but also to make eye contact so we know how to identify someone in a police lineup if anything were to happen to us.

How many of these precautions have you had to follow, or felt like you needed to follow?

Photo of young brunette woman wearing a backpack and walking down a street alone shot from behind Photo by Karel Rakovsky from Picjumbo I shared a story which called on men to take action and show their “allyship” by educating themselves and holding their friends accountable in taking action. I asked them to reflect on their own past choices and experiences, and to take women’s safety seriously. Learning about that primary, basic issue is just the beginning.

You post for your girlfriends and mothers and sisters for International Women’s Day. You say you respect women. Do you give this same attitude and respect to fat women? To Black women? To Indigenous, Asian, Middle Eastern, Jewish, women of colour? To sex workers? To disabled women? To trans women? To those who identify as non-binary? 

I want to ask. When you picture a woman, who do you picture? Is she white?

If you claim to be an ally and an advocate for women and issues about women’s safety, please know your allyship does not end at white women. Did you know that Indigenous women and visible minority women are at a higher risk of being victims of violence? Do you know who Rae’Lynn Thomas was? What about Muhlaysia Booker? Did you know that women are more likely to be assaulted by men who they know, rather than strangers? Recall this when you think that none of your friends have assulted a women.

Women sitting together Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels Sometimes I think my Instagram followers solely think of me as the girl who hates men. I would agree that I hate the men who choose to sit blindly on their throne of ignorant privilege, rather than using it to help women and marginalized groups of people, and I stand by that. And yes, if you’re not actively working towards being better, you’re being complicit. You either choose to be an ally and do the real work, or you are lazy and a bigot or performative and have a saint complex you’re trying to fulfill.

I find it can be difficult sometimes to affect change within the men who need the wakeup call the most, because they feel like I am attacking them. However, there is a fine line between holding men accountable, and babying them. If you’re offended by something I post, that is not my problem. It is not my responsibility to pat you on the back and make sure you feel comfortable and safe regarding the things I post, that pose a threat to the safety of myself and other women. I think a general rule of thumb when engaging with my social justice or political posts on Instagram, is if you feel offended by something I posted, chances are it was intended for you. Channel your emotions into rational thoughts to reflect on. (Sound familiar?)

Photo by lucia on Unsplash Social media advocacy can be a touchy subject, but I have come to understand that we hold (straight white) men to completely different standards of advocacy than we do women. Do women post more about social justice issues because they feel they have to in order to match up to other women? Do men feel they don’t have to because they’re inherently born into an advantage over us? Or, does this just mean there are more performative female allies than performative male allies? However, I do believe social media works. After posting my aggressive stories holding men accountable, I got multiple messages from men thanking me, and saw twice the amount of reshares from other men’s profiles. We don’t have time today to talk about the resistant messages I got from men.

We need to put more pressure on men to start advocating and educating themselves on these issues. “Not knowing” and ignorance is not an excuse anymore, it is 2021. Being that the main reposts circulating in the wake of the Sarah Everard tragedy are educational posts for men about legitimate action to take and legitimate points to reflect on, I think that by just sharing these posts will affect even a small amount of men, as they are simple points about doing better. 

men holding up a banner for women's equality Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash I don’t excuse performative allyship. However, I do know that although some of the reshares will be performative action, some will invoke real change depending on the people it reaches. Even if a man’s performative reshare of an educational infographic influences one man to learn and do better, that’s one dollop of hope for women of this and future generations. Hopefully, men hold each other to these standards and it will influence a wave of real change. That being said, why would men born into the most privileged position in society want to affect change if it will hinder their advantage over everyone? Breaking down that privilege is difficult, but necessary.

If you’re a woman, put more pressure on your male friends to do the work. Complicity doesn’t slide anymore. If you’re a man, share those stories, but also regurgitate the information. Work towards bettering yourself and holding your friends accountable. Learn what “Not All Men” means. And, for gods sake, please stop trying to challenge me in my dm’s.