A Dalhousie Dental School ‘DDS Gentleman’ has stepped out of the shadows and into the national media spotlight by coming forward as the whistleblower who blew the lid off the Facebook group’s deeply troubling, homophobic and sexually violent posts.
Ryan Millet, who was originally included in the Facebook group of 13, spoke to media over the weekend ahead of a disciplinary hearing slated for today. Millet’s lawyer, Bruce MacIntosh, told The Globe and Mail that his client left the Facebook group and approached a female colleague to inform her she was the target of offensive and sexist comments, allowing her access to his account so that she could gather evidence for a complaint.
In an edited, on-camera interview with The Chronicle Herald, Millet argued that most of the posts were puerile, but inane. “Obviously there were some foolish, boyish posts but the extreme inappropriateness and disturbing nature of the specific hate post that eventually came out – there was nothing of that insane level that caught my eye until it happened.”
But when – on the 25th anniversary of the massacre at the École Polytechnique in Montreal (plus ça change…) – one of his fellow Gentlemen posted a poll asking which of two female classmates they would prefer to hate-f*ck, Millet and some of the other members of the group had reportedly reached their tipping point.
“It was a targeted, hateful, sexualized, violent attack. That was what upset a lot of us.”
And new details are emerging from Millet’s interview, for example, that when many of the DDS Gentlemen first saw the infamous December 6th “hate-f*ck” post, one of the women listed in the poll was in the room, where “she observed their reaction and was curious about what was going on.”
She was actually in the room when the post was seen by her fellow classmates. Chilling. Deeply f*cked.
And it speaks to a climate of hostility, which Millet further hinted at in his interview with The Chronicle Herald, “Long before the Facebook posts were made, Millet says he spoke up when he saw disturbing behaviour at the dentistry school. In his third year, he expressed concern to a female instructor that other students were being disrespectful toward her. In his second year, he met with the assistant dean out of concern for a female classmate who felt she was being harassed by her peers. Millet says he suggested that someone talk to the class about the importance of having professional relationships and about being respectful.”
But just ‘boys being boys,’ amiright? Rape culture, a platitude that allows witchhunts on university campuses. Hysterics. Right? RIGHT?
Some have argued, like Margaret Wente that “such coarse talk is not atypical of young male group behaviour.” And even Halifax police are now saying that they “did not observe anything to suggest a crime had occurred.” Never mind that the comments made are all too reflective of thinly veiled threats many of us have, at one point in our lives, received by men (read this piece by Lindsay Tedds arguing that threats on social media aren’t victimless crimes). But the issue is larger than letter-of-the-law-criminality: as Kara Weiler argued for Elle Beaver last spring, “whether it’s an ‘inside joke,’ ‘locker room talk’ or ‘boys being boys’ (and sometimes ‘girls being girls’, too), people are loath to call it what it really is: verbal/written gender violence by another name.”
Millet seems to have understood the weight of his words. In his letter of apology to his fellow classmates (read the full text below), Millet reflected on the evening of the infamous December 6th “hate-f*ck” post:
Later that night as I held my 1-month old daughter in my arms, I shed quite a few tears thinking about how I would feel if her name was among those in the post. My 2 year old son also came to mind, as I imagined the hurt I would experience to have him voting on such an event.
To be sure, Part 1 of Millet’s above argument – as eloquent as it is, and as humbling of a parenting moment it might have been for him – affirms the idea that a woman’s right to safety, and indeed her worth, solely depends on her relationship to a specific man (kind of like the Don’t-Hit-On-Me-I-Have-A-Boyfriend school of thought). And while Part 2 of the argument reads much the same way, it also introduces the idea that we must do right by our sons. We can and must raise our sons to be more than “frat-bros.”
No father can stand idly by with this happening and consider himself a man. I knew it was time to step forward. My children deserve to know their father did the right thing. (…) I am eternally sorry for the damage caused by what has occurred. You deserve far more respect as daughters of God, and for the hard work you have devoted to getting to this point in your career.
And while we can only go on Millet’s word, we can learn much from this blown whistle: it matters greatly that the whistleblower at Dalhousie University is a man. It is not to say that a female whistleblower’s actions weigh less or that we ladies need to be rescued, but rather that it calls into question the ‘boys will be boys’ rhetoric on which many pundits and apologists have so comfortably fallen back to minimize the behaviour of these young men. It reminds us that some men are unwilling to simply be ‘bystanders.’ It matters, because it reminds us that we have both a terribly low opinion of young men and a terribly high threshold for their bad behaviour.
It matters, because men are capable of more than ‘being boys.’