We are nothing without each other and yet, we treat each other like we’re nothing. We have got to do so much better.
Last night, my partner and I watched Promising Young Woman. To say that it was impactful would be a gross understatement. I slept fitfully and awoke deeply unsettled as I wrestled with the unapologetic and painful realness of it. The layers, the characters, the dialogue left me fighting for oxygen.
The unflinching treatment of human complicity, rationalization and downright perpetration of crimes against each other was breathtaking. Yes, the film is absolutely highlighting the destruction wrought by the power of male domination and certainly of white male solidarity. And also, the writer of the film left nobody out. Women are complicit. Families are complicit. Systems perpetuate harm. Systems made of people. Systems that reflect and are upheld by our deeply insecure and self-interested insides.
I felt an avalanche of human terribleness crash over me as the credits rolled.
So. Much. Truth-telling.
Every line spoken could have been pulled directly from millions of court transcripts of lacrosse players and “frat boys” and debate team captains and CEO’s and the women who weren’t believed. The lines landed like a quotes from newspaper stories and Facebook videos and from the actors’ own experiences as humans.
Let this in and let it make you angry.
We watch and we hate the “bad guys,” but we’re married to them. We work with them. We are friends with them in real life.
We hate to see ourselves and the people we love in the blame-deflecting, normalizing, self-interested dialogue that glosses over and denies deep and irreversible harm. We laugh uncomfortably and try to pretend these people are cinematic caricatures, designed to make a point, but they are well known to us and their horribleness is not exaggerated. It’s how they and we survive and stay on top.
When we harm and when we allow harm, it never, ever happens in a vacuum. And it very rarely happens without passing multiple human weigh stations that could have prevented it. When you dig, even gently, even superficially, into these stories of harm, almost without fail, there is a cadre of bystanders. People who decide that it’s none of their business or they must not know what’s really happening or worse, and perhaps more commonly, that it’s not worth risking their own comfort, position, privilege or status to keep another human from harm.
Every single day millions of women, people of color, people with disabilities, people who are decided to be “less than” by centuries of white men who have dictated our culture are harassed, raped, murdered and dangerously discounted.
White men. This is yours to fix. We can all play a part, but it’s time to lift with your legs and get real because the ground is breaking under your bullshit patriarchy. You can be part of the solution or you can be the rubble under our feet as we dismantle this machine of destruction.
It’s well past time to start calling each other out, my white male friends. In public. On the regular. Stop moving each other around to different precincts, different parishes, different districts. Stop covering up for each other. The clubs that do those things suck. And you know it.
Grow up and stop blaming other people for your violence, your behavior, your urges, your needs.
The rest of us? The most of us? We will be speaking up. We will be showing up. We will resist. Together.
We fucking belong to each other, people. When the hell are we gonna get this?! My life is wrapped up with your life and yours is wrapped up with mine. My fate is your fate. And your fate is mine.
Our lives. Our safety. Our ability to do more than simply survive. This is all of our business. There’s not a person on this planet who has time to be polite or to “stay out of it.”
We’re in it. Right now. That’s what you’re feeling. So feel it and then do better.
Until our fear of abandoning each other becomes greater than our fear of personal loss and discomfort, we don’t stand a chance.