All the good men, where are you?
I don’t mean the good men that rush the comments in every article detailing yet another sexual assault, yet another rape, yet another woman murdered. Only to proclaim themselves “good men” because “not all men” blah blah blah.
If talking about toxic masculinity in the context of another raped or murdered woman only makes you desperate to distance yourself from those men, you’re not a “good man”. You’re a derailer. The woman who has been harmed or killed means less to you than your own ego. You’re not interested in getting to the core of the problem or bringing about change. Just in letting everyone know that you don’t assault or kill women. You, personally, aren’t responsible. And there are so many of you out there, pleading to distance yourself from those men, that there are now women who’ve taken up your cause. They, like you, forget about the number of women being sexually harassed, stalked, abused, beaten, raped and killed. The literal body count is ignored while they point out the bleeding obvious.
If we are talking about violent men and you, your son, your best mate, your partner or whoever else you have in mind is not a violent man, good! No one is saying otherwise.
But that doesn’t make a man “good” by default. Not being a violent prick is not enough, my dudes. You NOT assaulting, molesting, harassing or murdering people does not earn you the title of “good man” if it stops there. That is nothing but a baseline for civil decency. You don’t get accolades for NOT committing crimes.
What do good men do?
Good men listen to women. They believe us when we talk about our experiences. They read about #metoo with empathy. Good men know sexism is real thing women deal with, often at home, at work and even in the public spaces in between. Good men understand intersectionality; that disabled people and people of colour are more likely to experience harsher discrimination than white or non-disabled people. That the LGBTIQA community face homophobia and transphobia and this can intersect with sexism or disability or more. Good men don’t have to be experts. All that is needed is an open mind and a willingness to seek information and learn.
Good men exist; I know that. But guys, you good men, what are you all doing right now? I post about these issues on social media and out of the many good men I know, it’s almost radio silence. I see the same thing when my friends or people I follow online post. Women are grief stricken, outraged, talking, moving, working. In the midst of this climate, the only mobilisation of men that I have seen was a march supporting “men’s rights”. Yes, because there are so many misguided mouthpieces crying about what a “dangerous time this is for men”.
Some men think they are under attack because women are speaking up about street harassment, workplace sexual harassment, being assaulted, raped, beaten, controlled, abused, dominated… What kind of man are you if hearing women speak about these topics feels threatening to you?
This is still a time where rapists walk free, where women are never believed, where women must put up with being stalked and threatened without support or help them right up until their eventual murder. In America, sexual assault allegations don’t stop you from becoming a Supreme Court Justice or even a president. And the previously mentioned March for Men? That (however ill-considered and unnecessary) mobilisation of men was organised by a woman. Even the guys feeling threatened by women speaking out in the #metoo era are reluctant to work to bring men together for a cause.
Case in point:
Abusive relationships exists because one partner slowly assumes control by eroding the other person’s self worth and confidence. If the abused person can break free of that, the abuser is outraged and may react disproportionately. It’s well known that one of the most dangerous times for a DV victim is the period immediately after they leave. And that dangerous period can be a long one.
This appeared in my facebook timeline recently. A woman was allegedly stabbed by her ex-partner, while holding her son in arms. Her father was also attacked. And some people think it’s her own fault for ever having a relationship with this man. According to the post, one friend of the offender laughed and said that the victim knew he was unstable, so it’s her own fault.
I don’t know her or the circumstances here. But let’s just take it at face value.
The man in question has a mate that says the victim knew her ex was unstable, therefore it’s her fault.
The power dynamics in an abusive relationship are complex; even if she knew, what could she do about it? He, according to the screen shots in the original post, gave her the options of vanishing from her home and social media, allowing him to kill her or agreeing to be his girlfriend until he found someone he liked better. What power did she have, here? What could she have said or done to prevent what he chose to do to her? The answer is bugger all. He’d already decided she was someone he could threaten and harass and intimidate. I don’t know if he’d physically assaulted her before but those behaviours suggest he was very comfortable with the idea before this attack.
But what about the mate?
But someone else knew he was unstable as well. The laughing mate. A mate likely isn’t in an abusive relationship with his friend. He sees him behaving in a way he’d label unstable. He may have even known about these threatening messages. What did he do to stop it? Nothing, it would seem. He just laughed after the fact and blamed the victim. This woman is not responsible for the actions of the man who attacked her. But his mates? It seems that at least one of them knew what he was like. And doesn’t seem to have acted on it, if the allegation of laughing and victim blaming is accurate. Does he not then bear some responsibility?
Of course, a mate of the offender can’t be blamed for his act of violence. But we can certainly ask why they didn’t at least try to intervene in some way.
What should good men do?
Good men, you’re out there but we need you to do more than listen. Do you go to your work’s annual White Ribbon morning and consider that ticked off the Good Man’s yearly list? It’s not enough. Marching and protesting is a great way for you to show solidarity and support for women, but it’s not the only way. This has to be a daily effort for you, like it is for us.
- Listening to us is important, believing us is paramount, but talking about what we are telling you is crucial. I don’t mean that you should constantly talk to us about it; we are often already painfully aware. Talk to your mates, your colleagues, your sons, your brothers and cousins and fathers. There are brilliant women out there writing about their experiences and sharing their knowledge. You can amplify their voices and share their work to start conversations.
- And don’t just share articles. Start sharing your feelings with them. Ask them about theirs. Make talking about emotions normal in your circle. And if someone seems off, do something. Talk to them, talk to their partners, offer help, offer sanctuary.
- Address the behaviours that you know are part of the problem. Got a mate who is constantly texting an ex? Pull him into line. Tell him to stop harassing her. Help him deal with his feelings without making them her problem.
- Know someone who speaks about and to his partner like she’s a piece of shit? Got a brother who talks down to his wife and belittles her in front of family? Fucking say something. How do you think he acts when you aren’t there?
- Have a son who is pursuing a girl that doesn’t seem keen on him, has already told him she isn’t interested? Sit him down and explain consent.
- If your son isn’t old enough for romantic relationships yet, even better. You can teach him from the get-go about consent, bodily autonomy, gender and equality. Avoid using phrases that equate femininity with weakness or inferiority. You can teach him to respect women and to be the guy that says something when his friend acts in a way that is concerning. Because this change won’t happen today or tomorrow or next week.
It will happen through our children and through their’s. But it is our job to start the ball rolling.