Respecting women: if not now, when?

Throughout the last month, the parasitic mistreatment of women has been thrown into the spotlight of our nation once again. Be it in the halls of parliament, or those of our schools, it’s clear we’ve got a problem.

Initially, I decided to avoid writing anything on this topic because I didn’t think it was my moment. I’m not a woman, nor can I claim to have a true understanding of the adversities they face within our society.

But I was wrong. It is my moment. It’s your moment. It’s everyone’s moment. Our moment, as human beings, to take a stand, to confront the fact that the behaviour we are hearing about isn’t okay — it’s appalling, and in most cases criminal, too.

The issue isn’t that all men are bad; they’re not. The issue is that women are all too often subjected to inappropriate physical, verbal, and sexual behaviours from men. Enough men that we see the following statistics in Australia:

1 in 6 women over the age of 15 are victims of sexual assault.[1]https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/0375553f-0395-46cc-9574-d54c74fa601a/aihw-fdv-5.pdf.aspx?inline=true

1 in 6 women have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former partner.[2]https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/behaviours-risk-factors/domestic-violence/overview

One woman a week is killed by a current or former partner.[3]https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/mar/14/theres-an-outpouring-of-rage-about-gendered-violence-women-have-had-enough

85% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment at some point in their lives.[4]https://humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/infographics_ahrc_workplace_sh_2018.pdf

These statistics are not right, they’re not fair, and are just a handful of the many which depict the frightening reality for women in our society.

Janine Hendry, the organiser of last Monday’s March 4 Justice in Canberra, further articulated the prevalence of gendered violence in an article published in The Guardian.

The reality is this: within society, there will always be bad apples. People who’ve lost their way, and subject others to things that no person ought ever to be.

But right now, far too many men aren’t just bad apples. They’re conscious participants in (and beneficiaries of) a system that protects them from inappropriate behaviour, and supports its generational perpetuation.

So, to my fellow men, I say this: it comes down to us to confront and end the actions, big and small, which have and continue to lead to the damaging attitudes held by far too many among us.

It’s about making the choice to not laugh at that questionable joke with your mates. It’s about having the courage to take a stand, even when it feels awkward. Put a stop to these attitudes while they’re in front of you, because while it might not be the ‘cool’ option, it’s always the right one.

Changing inappropriate behaviours and attitudes is not a big ask. It’s a simple request to treat others with basic human decency. The issues that presently exist could be solved overnight if every man were to instantaneously develop a fundamental sense of respect for others.

In reality, though, these issues cannot be solved overnight. However, with time, effort, empathy, and education, the only place we’ll hear about the widespread mistreatment of women, and the men who engaged in it, will be in history classrooms.

Let’s make it happen.