Each year, November the 25th marks the start of a world-wide campaign to end violence against girls and women. More specifically the 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It is the start of 16 days of action with a primary focus to put violence against women and girls into the spotlight.
The 25th is also known as White Ribbon Day which has an aim of asking men to do their bit to end the abuse. Some still ask why men? Let me put the active agent before the issue and you will hopefully see why men should be part of the response – This is primarily about Men’s violence against women and girls.
Whilst it is clear that most men don’t commit this form of abuse, it is clear that far too many remain silent when faced with behaviours and attitudes that we know contribute to abuse.
This year, like all past years, abuse against girls and women has been in our news feeds on a daily basis. In part this has been down to the leadership of women who work daily to keep this topic front and centre. However, it remains in our society because of the men who abuse.
A recent report highlighted how nearly 50% of woman joggers don’t feel safe when out running. Why? Because of the harassment they suffer from men
In 2016, over a period of just nine days, three young women in the US were murdered while out running. Unsurprisingly, these unconnected murders did not make the headlines here, but for the UK’s runners they are shocking, because nothing about the victims’ final miles was different to the miles that women run here every day. Just like many runners here in the UK these women set out on their own on a regular and well-trodden route. The routine and ordinary circumstances for me, make this story unsettling
In recent weeks I’ve read stories from female runners here in the UK posting stories about their own experiences whilst out running. Many choosing not to wear headphones so they can remain vigilant.
I’m a runner. I go out on my own. I love listening to music to help take the pain in my bones away. Alongside imagining myself on stage whilst playing my electric drum kit, running is my escape. It keeps me focused. I don’t think about my safety or have a need to be vigilant. Why? Because I don’t fear the abuse that women face simply when out running or walking in the street.
Broadcaster Natasha Devon tweeted yesterday
As a father of two young women, I ‘m horrified that in 2020 this is still happening. It’s clear something needs to be done to hold people accountable. If that requires news laws, I’m in but I feel it’s a sad indictment on men that we need laws like this.
Over the years I’ve been vocal in naming the problem that is men’s violence against women. To be clear when I use the term violence, I’m including a whole continuum of abuse starting with words, language, control, physical and sexual abuse. To only define violence as the crime misses the point.
When you bring in the perpetrator you also start to identify solutions that men can provide. When we speak up about these issues, we make it ok for other men to do the same. When we challenge the behaviour of other men, we set the tone for our gender. Any culture will be defined by the worst behaviour it is willing to accept. For me that includes male culture.
What we need from men during these upcoming 16 days of action is firstly more stamina around these issues. I can guarantee that many men will push-back and say what about male victims of women’s violence. Whilst that’s wrong these 16 days has a focus and one that should be acknowledged. I seldom if at all, hear women say “what about female suicide” when we are talking about male suicide.
Alongside stamina, men can start to find ways to engage on these issues. A lot of men will simply say “I don’t abuse, so surely that’s me doing my part?”. Whilst that is clearly a good start, it is just that, a start.
So, what else can men do? Here’s my top ten.
- Own the problem – Yes, I know that women can harass 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.
- Do the knowledge – I heard this phrase from a Professor of Philosophy in the US, Derrick Darby. In essence, 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.
- Speak to women in your life – Engage with other females in your life. This could be your family; friends even work colleagues. Listen to their experiences of harassment. The #metoo campaign highlights the extent of this issue. You will know someone who has been affected.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Raise gentlemen.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
I could go on, but I won’t. These ten will do for starters.
Men can make a difference. I know most men are sickened with what they are hearing both on-line and in the media. I also know that most men want to be doing more.
It’s time for action guys. Are you up for it?