Before I begin I must thank all the women who started this movement and for the resurgence we are seeing today and thank all the women who have come before me to speak about their own sexual assault, sexual harassment or sexism in general. If it wasn't for these women I wouldn't be able to come forward and speak about the issues at hand so freely. So I thank you.
As a man I believe it is up to me, up to all of us men to start a movement of change within our gender and our sex. A change that sees sexism, sexual harassment and sexual assault, subtle or overt, direct or indirect, called out for what it is. It is up to men like me, innocent or not, to be a voice of change, a voice to go alongside the millions of brave women already doing just that. We need to help call out unwanted off the cuff sexist remarks, sexual behaviour and sexual innuendo for what they are, crude, rude and disrespectful. It starts within the home, the workplace, the sporting clubs and in our social circles. We need to turn the ‘boys club’ on its head, and begin creating a new normal and new way of speaking, acting and treating women. A normal that is centred on respect, and being proud of the women in our lives, that we should love, respect and cherish. If you respect your sister, or your mother or your grandmother there should be no way you can bring harm upon another woman.
Unfortunately, it is the subtle sexist comments or mistreatment of women that sets the foundations for the behaviour of men we are seeing today. I am guilty of it, the subtle sexual comments and the mistreatment of women, there is no doubt, it’s seen as humours or just a part of what us men do. ‘Boys will be boys’. Deep down we all know, for the most part, that it’s wrong, but for many of us, we do it anyway. We do it because it gets a laugh, it gets a reaction and it breaks down our ‘manly’ exteriors. Yet for the most part we do it because it’s nameless and faceless. Only once we are confronted with the reality of what this behaviour does, do we then realise what we have done.
But unfortunately, for our sisters, our wives and girlfriends, our aunties and cousins and our own mothers, it’s too late. Some man took the ‘joke’ too far, some man took advantage of a situation and some man took away the given rights of yet another woman to make her own choices. Something, if called out for what it is, if taught in schools for what it is and if publicised for being the result of the disgusting culture of men our society has established, it could have been avoided and so desperately needs to be.
The culture of men, the ‘boys club’, has created an environment where this type of behaviour is brushed under the rug and never spoken of again. We have created an environment where we don’t repeat or speak, and we don’t dare ever dob or tell someone outside the ‘circle’ what happened and certainly not, by whom. We shout, ‘Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’. Or the current one I hear daily, ‘don’t dog the boys’.
Enough is enough. The buck stops with me. No more #metoo. But where to from here?
I believe we are all born equal, we are all born with innate behaviours and ways of being that are good and respectful. I believe it depends on how we are raised within the home, the classroom and the schoolyard. It depends on how we begin to see the world that affects the way we act and become as adolescents and then as adults. It is the way we raise our boys and girls that begins to set us up for failure. We teach boys to be strong and masculine and girls to be fragile and feminine. We give boys trucks and guns and girls dolls and tea sets. We guide them down certain paths, we allow boys to get away with physical outbursts because ‘he’s just being a boy’, we tell girls is ok to cry but then teach them to do it behind closed doors in the same breath. We tell boys to ‘man up’, not to show emotion, and not to show weakness, ‘real men are tough’ we preach.
The stereotypes we bestow upon our children are endless, but they are not harmless, they create the very society we see today. Where men are taught they are number one, where women play second fiddle to a man’s needs. And thus, we create a culture where sexual abuse is ok or not even seen for what it is. Time and time again women have come forward to bravely speak of their sexual assaults only to be told ‘it wasn’t like that’, ‘you were drinking though’, ‘but he was drunk’, or ‘you asked for it by what you were wearing’. Or put simply ‘It didn’t happen’. All of these remarks reinforce this society of acceptable abuse, where women are the objects of men, where a woman’s needs and feelings are second to that of a man’s. So much so these women leave the experience thinking somehow they did the wrong thing, somehow it was their fault and somehow they are the ones trying to work out what to do differently next time a man wants to have sex with them. They are left thinking, “It was my fault that I went out with friends and got drunk. It was my fault I liked the cut of that top or the length of that dress. It was my fault for leaving the ‘safety’ of my own home”, if they even managed to make it out the front door.
Until we start to listen to women’s voices and take what they say as gospel, we will not stop the abuse. We will not stop the harassment, the bullying and the inappropriate sexual innuendo. We will not stop the culture of ‘acceptable’ abuse and the institutionalised sexism. We will not stop the rape. We will not stop the tears of women, the post-traumatic stress, the depression, the suicides, nor will we stop the anxiety of living a life normal and in full again. Until we teach boys and raise them with the understanding that women are equal to men, we will not see an end. Until we teach young men that women are not on this earth to fulfil their desires and needs, we will not see an end. Until we begin to teach boys the same as we teach girls and girls the same way we teach boys, we will not see an end.
Once we begin to call out the sexual innuendo, the subtle sexual harassment and the disrespectful jokes, that seem to be the cornerstone of a young man’s upbringing, then and only then we will start to see a change. Once we begin to build a society based on the respect of women, all women, no matter who they are, mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, teachers, doctors, cleaners, waitresses, no matter what colour or creed. Once we do this, we will begin to see a society no longer entrenched in disrespect and sexual assault.
To do this we must start by listening to the women in our lives, respect their opinions, their stories; believe them. Start by asking them about their experiences, you’ll be surprised by the amount that have experienced sexual assault in some form or another. Start a conversation on what sexual assault is, begin to build a relationship with other men in your life, speak about your own issues, and by god speak about women’s issues. If we begin to breakdown these ‘boys clubs’, this manly wall, we will see an end. Most importantly, just be a salmon and swim against the flow, be different and go against the cultural norms, breakdown the stereotypes, the misogyny and the culture of acceptance. It starts with you, it starts with all of us.
To those women who have gone through or are going through any form of sexual assault, harassment or experiencing sexism, on behalf of the men in this world, I am sorry, and enough is enough. I can never truly understand your experience but I am here to listen, I am here to learn and I am here to help. I am here.