It’s all too familiar. Fault lines written by tongues, bitten by silence. Thoughts formed. We weren’t searching for violence in our questions, our suggestions. It’s all too familiar.
What was she wearing? Was she walking alone? She shouldn’t have drank so much. She should have been more careful. She shouldn’t have– she should have– she. Like it was her fault. Like gender violence isn’t a man’s issue. Like men can’t help themselves. Like the responsibility for one’s own actions doesn’t fall on one’s own shoulders. Like men don’t have the power to change how men act.
I remember as a young teen learning the facts. One in three. One in three. Made me sick. How could men like me do this? “They couldn’t,” I thought. “They couldn’t. They must be monsters. They must be monsters, monsters in the masks of men.” Monsters in the masks of men. Rearranged their faces until I could no longer see myself in them. Monsters.
And I remember going to a party in East Vancouver and seeing a patch on my friend’s jacket that said, “Stop rape,” the message so clear, so inarguably simple and yet it left a bad taste. Because it jarred me from my place of comfort. Because it reminded me of the reality we all face.
And that initial reaction–my initial reaction–was me choosing silence, therefore allowing for violence, and that was a clear case of the culture of rape.
And I remember in the dress room, cheering along as a teammate proclaimed that in victory we had raped the other team. Or in the lunchroom, when my boss made a sexist joke and I said nothing. Or yesterday, when I pulled on an article of clothing and referred to it as a “wife-beater.”
This culture of violence touches us all. And by dismissing perpetrators as monsters, it allows us not to analyze our own actions.
Men, take your masks off.
Men, take responsibility.
Men, open your mouths wider. Show more than your teeth. There is a softness in your throats waiting to be freed.
Men, we are responsible for the vast majority of violence.
Men, it’s an epidemic.
Men, don’t think that it has to be this way.
Men, if you could make the world safer for the women you love, for all women, children, and men, wouldn’t you?
Men, you can.
Men, we need you to be courageous, to speak up, and to be more than bystanders.
Men, put your masks down.
Men, let’s look each other in the eyes.
Men, let’s talk.
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Jeremy Loveday is the two-time defending Victoria Poetry Slam Champion and a pillar of the Victoria arts community. He has performed at festivals, coffee shops, and on street corners across Canada and beyond. Jeremy spearheaded the project to create a youth poet laureate position in Victoria and has been the Director of Youth Outreach for the Victoria Poetry Project for the past four years. Follow him on Twitter, or on his website.