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Some days you realise just how much harder you really have to work. Just how much you’re letting yourself get away with. And just how far you’ve got to go. Yet, at the same time, it’s these days which show you exactly how simple it all is to do.

My personal campaign to make the case that comments fields need killing or saving rests on my belief that a great many people mistake freedom of speech for freedom to be a complete shit. And the fact that people are too often allowed to get away with being a complete shit, because it’s terrifically challenging to make them see what a complete shit they are being.

So I spend as often as I can trying to figure out what can be done, trying to talk about it in an open-minded and interested way, and trying to set an example and trying to encourage people to at least join in the debate.

And then I go home and am a complete shit to my wife.

We argue a fair amount, but I always know that we argue about the important stuff. Except that sometimes we argue and it’s because I am a complete shit to my wife. Because as hard as I’m working to explore online, offline and instilled misogyny, I’m not working hard enough to explore my wife, her needs, and the things she cares about.

What’s so deeply upsetting is that it’s so easy to do. I am being a complete shit when I make a fuss about cleaning the floors, when I make it her problem about ensuring the house is the best it can be as often as it can be, and especially when anyone comes to the house. I am being a complete shit because I am lazy.

Think of your houseshare experiences. There’s always one housemate who has higher standards than the others – whether that’s for cleanliness, behaviour, or whatever. In my experience, this person suffers. They suffer because they become caught in a conflict between high standards and undefined or lower standards. And it’s so much easier to have lower standards.

But what I realised last night is that the argument I’ve always held to – that people with high standards need to lower them, and people with lower standards need to raise them to crossover with the decreased high-standard people – is utter, motherfucking, shameless bullshit. Because for one simple reason: reason.

My wife didn’t want to clean the house because she couldn’t be bothered not to, or because she was fretting about the judgement of someone else, or because she feels she needs something to be proud of. She wants anyone to visit a beautifully clean house because she cares. She wants to present them with the best our house can be because she respects other people. These are all good reasons.

And why did I make a fuss? Because I am a complete lazy shit. Because I couldn’t be bothered. Because I wanted to switch off. Because I didn’t want to have to think about other people or care about other people or actually care about anything. I just wanted to let go and concentrate on myself. I wanted to be selfish. Everything else was too much trouble.

These are not reasons. They aren’t even excuses. They’re pathetic, they’re childish mewling. They don’t deserve space in the same relationship that my wife’s high standards occupy. So should my wife lower her reasonable, honourable and considerate high standards in order to crossover with my shitforbrains laziness? Of course she shouldn’t. She expects better of me. I ought to expect more of myself.

You can’t do ‘slightly’ less lazy. You can’t ‘slightly’ raise low standards. You can’t do ‘just a little less’ racism, or sexism, or decide to indulge in a ‘reduction’ of casual domestic violence. All of these things are despicable, are shameful, are things we should want to eradicate. Even laziness. Especially laziness. Because laziness is behind every single whining, pathetic voice on the internet telling women to just put up with it, to just make do.

We should all be fucking ashamed of ourselves. Where is our self-respect? Why are our expectations so low? How can we see anything but the utter unacceptability of this sort of behaviour? How can we let the complete shits get away with it? Is it just because we’re too lazy to see the places in life that we’re being complete shits as well?

We have a lot of fucking work to do. We’ve got a hell of a lot of ground to cover. And we’re all going to have to work much fucking harder, put in a shit-ton of effort, and in every single bastard aspect of our lives. Because people are worth giving a shit about. And if someone is upset, and they have a reason, we ought to at least damn well listen.

I realise, as I’ve said before, that I am evangelical on this. I am a born again thinker. And a lot of this is, admittedly, me working out my shame at being a complete shit. But that matters too, because until we can admit what we’ve done wrong we have no chance at all to put it right, or to avoid doing it again in the future.

But, listen. No one gets away with shit anymore. There are no excuses. If you have a reason for being casually offensive, it better be a whole lot better than the fact you don’t care about other people getting offended, or that you don’t see why you should have to think about other people. You’re going to have to explain yourself, now. So you best be prepared to do so.

And everyone else, we can make a difference together. We can stop letting ourselves get away with shit by chuckling that we didn’t mean it, or that it’s okay when you’re with friends, or that you’re just joking. I’m rambling now, angry and shamed and just wanting something to happen. But we have to start taking everything more seriously. Especially ourselves. Especially other people.

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About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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