Men: We are not chapters in your redemptive arc. Stop victimizing us as a way to work out your trauma.

As a woman who dedicates much of her time and energy towards working for gender equality, I am constantly exhausted and often angered by the stories “reformed” men tell about how they realized their behavior was toxic. Men I admire, like Junot Diaz, who survive trauma and then turn their traumas into abuse towards women. They tell their stories in the context of having learned from their mistakes, but that isn’t what their stories are about. In the stories they tell about how they have grown and evolved, the women they hurt are the necessary lessons they learn from.

We see these stories play out in real life all the time, like in the case of Brock Turner. According to his lawyers and father, he was a boy who made a mistake, “twenty minutes of action,” and now KNOWS not to rape people. Or Brett Kavanaugh, who just liked to drink beer and has learned not to drink to the point of blacking out, without any sense of responsibility towards what he did while he was drinking.

The women in these stories are collateral damage, and the purpose of their existence within these narratives is the opportunity they provide for men to grow and learn. The fact of those women’s suffering is at best a footnote.

This is what the anger directed at Liam Neeson is about. Yes, he came to his senses and didn’t end up murdering anybody, and he’s glad. He’s grown now, matured, he understands that murdering black men is bad.

All well and good for Liam Neeson. Good for him. He’s achieved the bare minimum for human decency. But how many people have died for other “good” white men to learn that lesson?

How many of the men who killed Emmit Till learned that murder is bad? Has Jason Van Dyke learned that shooting teenagers is bad?

I don’t want to hear Gregory Bush say he’s learned that killing is wrong. I want to hear that Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones are still alive.

If Liam Neeson wants the anger directed towards him to stop, he needs to do more, much much much more, than tell a story that ends with his learning not to beat a black man to death with a bat. If the bar is that low, there’s no sense in having one at all.