*Content Warning: Sexual harassment, racism*
I don’t know if I should be writing this
As a cis, white, middle-class male, I know my voice isn’t important or educated in the myriad of absolutely abhorrent shit that women are subjected to every single day, but I still feel compelled to write this because as a cis, white, middle-class male I know that I am the problem and I need to both be aware of this and do something about it.
I am writing this in the week where Sarah Everard has been murdered by a man, simply because she walked home alone. This came on the back of Meghan Markle’s latest bout of racist, misogynistic press coverage. These two incidents have highlighted the daily struggles women face but this isn’t a new thing, this isn’t a revelation.
By now none of us should be shocked when we see reports that 97% of women have experienced sexual harassment but all of us, (and by us I mean men), should be absolutely disgusted that it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. We all need to take all of the blame and we all need to face some hard truths and just get fucking better. Quickly. Right this second now.
I, like most I suspect, believe myself to be an inherently good person. I try to find the fairest way to treat people and am constantly striving to understand, when I have said or done things that have needlessly hurt or offended others, what it is I have done and how I can make sure I don’t repeat it. Over the years one of my major breakthroughs was shutting up and listening instead of forming strong opinions. But this piece isn’t being written so that I can pat myself on the back and convince myself that I am part of the solution and not part of the problem because I have been a bystander to the constant abuse and harassment suffered by all women and that needs to stop now.
Excuses get us nowhere
It would be absolutely ridiculous of me to be one of the many men who is claiming “Well, I have never made a woman feel uncomfortable” because I know I will have, and just because I didn’t see it or didn’t understand it at the time isn’t an excuse. Excuses get us nowhere and we must stop making them if we stand a chance of changing the world that has been created. I am on this journey of changing my behaviours as I am made aware of the ways in which women feel fearful of men….of me… To do this successfully I need to acknowledge it, I need to absorb it and then I can make a lasting change. I DO NOT need to ignore it, dismiss it, and decide that it is society’s fault and that I am powerless to change.
I see part of my personal failing being my silence. In the past I have been the person who has silently disagreed with a joke told in a crowded pub, I have been the person who decides someone is a prick because of the way they treat women and have just stopped hanging out with them instead of actually saying something. Yes, I have checked if women are ok when I have been out and seen them hassled, but have I taken the time to notice what “being hassled” may look like?
Why have I remained silent?
Weeks like this one get me asking the question “Why?”…why have I remained silent? And that is a question that I am nowhere near to getting to the bottom of but some of the reasons definitely include cowardice, not wanting to rock the boat, wanting to be part of a group, ignorance, normalisation of behaviours and that is the very tip of the iceberg. But all of these excuses need to stop now, right this fucking second now, they should have stopped way before now and it is absolutely criminal that they continue to exist in this day and age.
So my promise going forward is this, I will actively stand with women in the ongoing fight for equality. I will actively challenge unacceptable behaviour towards women. I will actively pursue a greater knowledge about areas of inequality towards women and when I learn of my role in them I will unequivocally change my behaviour going forward. I will actively call out men who abuse, harass, and degrade women, give them the opportunity to change and if they don’t, cut them out.
Not any men ever
I started this article stating that I am not sure if I should be writing about this, but during the writing of it, the stories I have heard and read over the past few days and discussions with my partner, I have come to the conclusion that it is important that I write this, it is important that all men take this as a match to ignite change and to start engaging with this narrative.
So it is you that I am writing this article for, the men out there who believe they are inherently good. Instead of taking this time to pat yourselves on the back and jump on the “Not all men” bandwagon, join me and let’s use this time to focus on “NOT ANY MEN EVER” because until we break down the learned behaviours that have made this planet a daily battleground for women. Until we can truly prove that there is equality for all women in our society, then the obvious, disgusting, painful honest truth is…it is all men.