Good men, I’m guessing you have at least one friend in your life who frequently complains about women—or a specific woman—who won’t return his affections. Perhaps he complains about all the women who ignore him, who are holding out on him, who only seem interested in a certain kind of other guy. Basically, your friend constantly talks about women in a negative way. And it probably makes you a little uncomfortable, yeah?
Good. That’s healthy, and it’s a sign your conscience is in the right place.
If you’re uncomfortable with what your friend is saying about women, think about how the woman—or women—he’s talking about might feel if they could hear your friend talking that way about them.
Let me ask you something else. Does your friend ever talk about wanting to violate women sexually? Does he entertain thoughts of violence towards women? Does he talk or post on social media about women the way a farmer might talk about a pig he plans to kill and eat?
Good men, I am asking you today to live up to the name of “good man” which you have given yourselves. If you hear or see your friend talking this way about women ever again: shut it down.
Because I am not a man, I don’t know how you, good men, will ultimately go about doing this. I recommend saying what you’d say if your mother could hear you.
“Don’t.” or “Shut up, dude.” or “That’s not cool. Stop.”
Don’t let him keep talking about women that way. End it.
It’s okay to vent sometimes—we all do it. Women and men generalize about one another all the time. But you know in your gut that there is a true difference between a friend having a bad day and a friend who dwells within a world of seething hatred and resentment of the opposite sex—and it should make you uncomfortable when you hear or see it. It is toxic, and it can kill.
If you insist on staying friends with such a person, find out if he keeps weapons at home. Find out how serious he is. And if you think he might be dangerous, keep records. Keep notes. Don’t give him the benefit of the doubt, just because he’s your friend.
Be an ally to his potential victims, not to your friend.
Because it might just seem like “locker room talk” to you, good man, but just this past week, a man with a stalking record—so bad that his stalking victim moved away from Maryland to escape him, because she feared for her life—got upset when a newspaper reported on the story, brought a shotgun into a newsroom, and killed five innocent people.
A man with a grudge and a shotgun, who probably had a friend or two just like you.
On behalf of the rest of us, good men, who are just trying to live our lives, on behalf of all women who live in fear of such men:
Check your friends.
They will not change when we ask them to. We, as women, are not people with agency in their minds. They do not hear us. They will not read this. But they need to know how women ought to be treated, and it starts with the men around them.
Check your friends. You are the only one who can.
Laura Pittenger is a NYC-based writer and director. Her work has been seen at FringeNYC, GI60, Spark and Echo Arts, Project Y and Athena Theater. She has been published by Smith & Kraus and YouthPLAYS. www.laurapittenger.com
Image Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/timevanson/16965344016