30 women in Australia have been killed by men this year. At this rate, it’s more than one a week, on average. And many of us are furious about it on more than one level.
Yet another young woman, Eurydice Dixon, was robbed of her life as she cut through a park, just a few minutes’ walk from home. The usual response, from police and media, has been reminding women, yet again, to take responsibility for our safety.
Don’t walk alone, don’t go to parks, don’t do this, don’t wear that, don’t drink this, don’t say that, don’t fucking so much as exist in public without one of the “good” men for your own damn protection from the “bad” men. And let’s ignore the fact that, statistically, you’re in even more danger at home. Intimate partner violence contributes to more death, disability and illness in women aged 15 to 44 than any other preventable risk factor, according to a Victorian study.
But don’t dare voice that thought, you misandrist, feminazi bitch.
The minute you do, some man will be there to deflect, derail, minimise and deny. They don’t care that we are rightfully angry and frustrated. We DO take care. We ALL do! This is drummed into us from childhood!
We walk with our keys wolverined in our fists, we text each other when we are home, we call each other when we are in a taxi and feeling unsafe, we walk in groups, we take well-lit routes, we lock the car doors. Sometimes our personal risk assessment allows us to walk home alone at night, sometimes it’s just unavoidable. The punishment for this apparent transgression should never be rape and murder and yet here we are. It’s as if our very presence in public is a risk we must constantly mitigate, by not being alone, by not being in the dark, by holding a potential weapon and by being constantly on guard.
And if you’re a woman of colour, a disabled woman or a transwoman, you’re at even greater risk, statistically.
Why don’t they tell men to stop?
Why, we ask, is nothing said to men to remind them to keep their fucking hands to themselves? How come the burden is on us, always on us?
When I was 16, I was walking in broad daylight on a main road with plenty of people around. That didn’t stop a much bigger, stronger teenage boy from groping me. Slapping out at him got me punched in the face. No one intervened. That story? Not unique. Tell me, what should I have done?
In every conversation about this, there are the men taking great pains to remind us all that they, personally, aren’t part of the problem. They don’t harass women. They don’t abuse or rape or kill women. A good guy, like them, is just as upset as we are by these crimes- but seemingly more upset at the idea of holding men responsible. Go figure. The #NotAllMen crowd are not new, of course. They’ve been derailing these conversations for quite a while now, with a misguided sense of personal offence.
Some will rush to point out that men are often at greater risk of violence, especially at random in public. True! But again, who is perpetrating those violent attacks? Men. Did several horrendous one-punch attacks see men advised to stay home or only go out in groups? Were they reminded to take personal responsibility? Or did laws change to try to keep them safe? Can you even begin to understand why women are so frustrated?
When young men are tragically killed in one punch attacks an entire city has it’s nightlife shut down indefinitely. When a young woman is brutally raped and murdered women are told to ‘take responsibility for their own safety’.
— Elly Baxter (@ellybaxterpr) June 14, 2018
Step 1- Stop Saying “But I’m a Good Guy!”
If you don’t harass, abuse, assault, rape or kill women, good. But that doesn’t automatically make you a good guy by default. Not being a perpetrator isn’t enough. Lift your game. Basic human decency like NOT taking advantage of someone who is drunk or not sending women pictures of your junk doesn’t, and shouldn’t, earn you good guy points. The stories of all the times you exercised common decency and humanity are not relevant to this conversation.
If you want to be an actual good guy, start reading. There are so many women writing about these issues. Read their work, listen to their talks, amplify their voices, share links, tag friends in things you think they could benefit from reading. Don’t demand that women educate you. Instead, just listen to them, engage with them and read what they share. Swap your knee-jerk defensiveness for empathy. Consider all you know and are learning in the context of all your relationships; with women, with children, with friends and family.
Step 2- Stamp Out Casual Sexism
Casual sexism and gender stereotyping is where it all starts. If you have kids or any influence in the life of a child, you can help stop that before it starts. Let kids explore all forms of toys and play without gender-based restrictions. Teach your children to respect women and girls just as much as they respect men and boys. If your mate says this sort of thing, to his kids or to yours, speak up.
When we tell little boys that they can’t dress as Queen Elsa or paint their nails or play with dolls because that’s for girls, we are telling them that women are lesser. We are planting the seeds to the belief that women are inferior. That supposed “feminine” things are shameful for boys and men. When we say this in front of little girls, we are telling them this, too. We start this divide in our children’s minds often without even thinking about it, it’s that pervasive in our culture.
Women are lesser, women are inferior, weaker, less worthy of respect.
As they grow, boys have their behaviour excused (Boys will be boys!) and girls are conditioned to accept it (If he pulls your hair, it means he likes you!). By the time boys are teenagers, many have already dehumanised us in their minds. We are objects to them. And when someone isn’t a person in your eyes, it’s easier to abuse them. To send their nude photos to other boys, to slut-shame them, to grope them, to get them drunk and rape them. It’s easy to abuse a person if you don’t think of them as your equal.
She’s just a girl. You can pressure her, force her, touch her, shame her and treat her pain as a punchline.
That needs to end.
— Shannon “Badass Cross Stitch” Downey (@ShannonDowney) May 9, 2017
Step 3- Talk to your mates
Whether you are 16 of 56, you can step up and be part of the solution here. When women say that we don’t need to be told how to be safe, and that men need to be told not to hurt anyone, so many men get angry. They say they don’t need to be told not to rape or hurt anyone. 30 women dead this year alone and countless others assaulted, abused, harassed and intimidated say otherwise. If you personally don’t need to be told, good. Stop arguing with us about it and start the conversation with other men who maybe DO need telling.
Maybe you have a mate that only talks about women in the context of how to get them to have sex with him. Maybe you have one that talks to his partner like shit. Or you know one that catcalls and thinks it’s hilarious. Ever been out with a mate and notice he hits on really drunk women when the opportunity presents? Or you know that otherwise great guy that makes sexist jokes, or the one that you’ve heard rumours about. Or maybe you know one of those ordinary guys that spend their time trolling women online. Now is the time, my guys, to grab those mates and fucking TALK.
I know the stereotype is that guys don’t do real talk. You don’t wanna talk about feelings and respecting women and all that soft shit. You’re only interested in talking about sports, cars and beer, amirite? What a fucked up stereotype that is. Turn that one on it’s head while you are at it. It’s doing you no favours.
Some Useful Strategies
Use whatever tools you can to help your mates to open their eyes and to stop them from being a threat to the safety of women in any way, even if it seems small. Sexist comments and jokes are a good place to start. Call them out. It’s these little things that come together to form the idea that women are lesser, inferior, not deserving of basic respect. It’s much easier to hurt or abuse someone if you they are essentially an object in your eyes.
Look at how Trump can treat asylum seekers, now that he’s labelled them “vermin”. Look at how colonisers treated Aboriginal people, having classified them as animals. Even now, look at how the Australian government treats refugees, especially those relabeled as “illegal maritime arrivals” instead of people fleeing war. There’s a million examples, all amounting to the same thing. If you remove a group’s humanity, it’s much easier to mistreat them and not even feel bad about it. To a degree, many men do this to women. They don’t refer to us as people. They use terms that denigrate us or reduce us to body parts. You can call that out.
I am normally against the whole “what if it was your girlfriend/daughter/sister/mum” idea. I think the fact that women are people, like everyone else, should be enough. But you know what? It clearly isn’t. Women are still being sexually harassed, abused, assaulted and killed. If your mate can’t quite see us as deserving of the basic respect he has for men, use this tactic until he gets the idea.
Tell him to picture his sister when he talks about women like pieces of meat. Tell him to think of his daughter before he makes a sexist joke. Remind him of his own mum when he talks to or about his own partner like rubbish. Say whatever you can to remind your mate that they are talking about a human being.
Start with one mate that you know to be a good guy and work together within your friendship circles. When a guy says a shitty, sexist or objectifying thing, say “Jeez. Am I the only one that finds that really off?” and have your other friend back you up. Maybe it will open a conversation or maybe it will be enough of a conversation on its own. As your friends to explain sexist jokes as if you don’t understand them. Then, don’t laugh. Say “Shit, that’s pretty offensive when you think about it” or just shake your head and walk away.
Respond! FFS, If you see something, say something!
It always amazes me to see how many men make regular appearances online to troll the women speaking out about these issues. If your mate is the guy who constantly feels the need to tell Clementine Ford that she deserves to be raped or Yassmin Abdel-Mageid that she should kill herself, why aren’t you saying anything? If my friend started abusing people like that online, I’d feel compelled to call them on it. It’s disgusting and happens to so many prominent women, from writers to politicians and more. Sometimes, I click on the profiles of these men and see that they have hundreds of friends, pictures of them with all their mates, families and so on and I wonder how it’s even possible that not one person says a word in response to them.
Stop accepting it
Whether it’s casual sexism, rape “jokes”, questionable behaviour or harassment and assault taking place right in front of you, the standard you walk past is the standard you accept. If you say nothing, are you a good guy, really? I’m saying not. Your silence, whether online or in person, is your endorsement. If you want to be a good guy, stop being a complicit one.