In his book the “Macho Paradox – Why some men hurt women and how all men can help”, friend and colleague Jackson Katz paints a disturbing picture that challenges the reader to try and engage in a discourse that can change lives of not just girls and women but boys and men also.
This week I have been following a number of well written articles by journalist Neil Mackay talking about his daughter’s experiences as a victim of a sexual offence –
This was a very personal piece by a father who is seeing the issues that the likes of his daughter and other women are facing on a daily basis. I’m a dad. I have two adult daughters. I know through their experiences that this is very real.
It’s clear from the responses to Neil’s story that a lot of men are defaulting to the usual stance of “I don’t abuse, I don’t rape, so surely that’s me doing my part?”. With a backdrop of increased sexual rapes and other sexual offences this isn’t enough. Over the last ten years there has been a 99% increase in reports of rape and attempted rapes in Scotland (Scottish Crime Reports 2018). Something has to change, and as I say above to simply convince yourself that “I don’t’rape”, is in my opinion a cop out.
As men as we need to step up and play our part in addressing these issues. Sexual offending doesn’t just happen. It takes place in a culture of acceptance, a culture where language and behaviour are often supported or not challenged. It’s here that men can make a difference.
Over past decades women have been at the forefront in showing the required leadership to address this culture. It’s time for men to show a similar leadership on these issues.
So, what else can men do? Here’s my top ten.
1. Own the problem – Yes, I know that women can harass/assault men and that’s wrong. However, when we look at the cases coming to light the overwhelming majority involve men exerting their power over females. That’s fact. I also know that it’s not all men.
As men, we need to move from the “but men can be victims” to “ok I get this what can I do”. Owning a problem is the first step to solving it.
2. Do the knowledge – I heard this phrase from a Professor of Philosophy in the US, Derrick Darby. It means learn about the subject. There are countless websites and indeed media pieces which highlight the issues that we are discussing. This knowledge will help you talk about it to others.
3. Speak to women in your life – Engage with other females in your life. This could be family, friends even work colleagues. Listen to their experiences of harassment. The #metoo campaign highlights the extent of this issue. You will someone who has been affected.
4. Share your knowledge – How often do we assume that people around us know how we feel on a subject. Don’t assume, talk about it, shout about it. Make sure people know exactly how you feel on this subject.
By doing so you will empower other men. The good news is that most other men will actually agree with you.
5. Have courage to look inward – Self-inspection as they say is good for the soul. All men at some time in their lives will have said things, been party to comments, even made sexual comments about other women. It’s in the air we men breath.
Don’t be ashamed. With this new lens, be angry and do something to change the air for the next generations.
6. Be that guidepost – Men are likely to be fathers at some time in their lives. Your sons are watching how you behave. Be that role model in their lives. Be gentlemen, be kind. Your sons will learn to do as you do.
7. Support others – where you suspect a relative, friend or work colleague is a victim of abuse support them. Don’t be a bystander, be a friend. Your job isn’t to fix the issue but acknowledge a victim’s experiences and make sure they know it’s not their fault.
8. Be an ally to women – With your new-found knowledge you need to put it to good use. Support women who are taking a stand against harassment. They don’t need your help, but an extra pair of hands will always make it that bit easier.
9. Challenge others – when you hear peers or others acting in a way that is abusive to others say something. This can be hard, it will take courage but it’s the needed ingredient to help solve these issues. Make it clear that what they are saying is wrong and that you don’t agree.
Here’s a thing, the reality is that other men will respect you for taking this stance. Your leadership will help others. Leaders create leaders.
10. Sweat the small stuff – We’re often told not to sweat the small stuff however when it comes to abuse please do the exact opposite. Looking at violence and abuse through a lens which includes words, harassment and coercion will go a long way to the prevention of physical and sexual abuse.
Words and language are never small however society often sees them as small. It’s here where we can really tackle a culture. The battle will be lost if we don’t.
I could go on, but I won’t. These ten will do for starters.
It’s clear that Neil Mackay is angry. I’m angry and I know other men are angry. How we channel that anger will determine our success in addressing issues that are impacting on people we love and care about.
It’s time for action guys.
Are you up for it?