We already know what to do to stop sexual abusers — so let’s do this now!
By Mandy Hager
For the last two days I’ve sat down at my computer and started writing about the “#Me Too” campaign to call out sexual abusers.
I tried to craft a reasoned response, explaining the endemic problems, with constructive suggestions for how we should respond, re-educate and move forwards.
But here’s the thing: we women all know this stuff; the misogynists know this stuff; the abusers know this stuff; the average guy, harassing women in bars on a Saturday night or in their workplaces, knows this stuff.
So why do we keep having to campaign to straighten out something that is the most basic of human rights?
Men empowered to change
It’s in men’s power to change this behaviour, as proved by the millions of men around the world who treat women with the respect we deserve.
So if restraint, respect and right-action are possible, I can only assume that those who continue to disrespect, control and abuse women do so not out of ignorance or some inbuilt feral drive (though I’m sure this accounts for some of the behaviour), but truly through choice — aided by the protections of male-built social structures. It makes me sad — and wild!
This isn’t so much about demanding legislation that imposes equality and more fairly punishes the perpetrators (though it would seem we need that, too, given the lack of will to change).
It’s about ordinary fathers modelling respect for their wives, female work colleagues and daughters, having discussions with their sons, educating them on issues of fairness, healthy relationships, anger management, equality and consent. And ordinary mothers modelling empowerment and positive body images for their daughters, being prepared to call out misogynists and support those brave enough to do the same.
Nothing infuriates me more than women dumping on other women, socialised into perpetrating the cycle of repression and abuse. We can all be better than that.
Act, don’t cringe
Women, how many times have you been party to a conversation or act that makes you cringe, yet you say nothing to challenge it?
Men, how many times have you stood by while a workmate or a friend harasses a woman or bad-mouths them (or worse)? Teenagers, how many times have you stood by and watched as someone you know drinks too much and leaves themselves vulnerable, or takes advantage of the vulnerable?
Like racism, it’s up to each and every one of us to walk the talk, and not allow outmoded notions of politeness or gender roles to silence us.
It’s just not good enough in the 21st century; we all know right from wrong — and if we don’t, then it’s about bloody time we finally learnt.