06 Oct

Men – we must do better

Perhaps this should’ve been written and posted on Friday, when Wayne Couzens was actually sentenced – when this was all ‘of now’.
But, in truth, it’s still ‘of now’: on Monday Cressida Dick announced an independent review of police culture and standards. And Boris has reiterated that we should trust the police.

So, I’ll start as I would’ve done on Friday.

Sarah Everard.
Sabina Nessa.
The papers make for grim reading if you’re a man.
They make for even more grim reading if you’re a woman.

This isn’t new though.
Go back a little bit and you’ll remember Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry. Go back further and you’ll recall Rachel Nickell, Milly Dowler, Amelie Delagrange, ‘Black Cab Rapist’ John Worboys, and Ipswich serial killer Stephen Wright, who brutally murdered five women.

There’s a problem here.
Not all men, of course, but enough to represent a big problem in society – the way we view and treat women… or even the way women have to view themselves.

We have to do more.
We have to reduce the chances of there being another Sarah Everard or Sabina Nessa.
We have to teach our boys better (I realise I have the luxury of not being a parent as I type this).
We have to teach that ‘no, means no’ – hands off.
We have to teach that if chatting up a woman up fails, you admit defeat and move on – you don’t become resentful, have your nose put out of joint, or vow to ‘teach her a lesson’ (which is, apparently, how killer Levi Bellfield chose his victims).

It’s simple things, like women have boobs – as a man, having seen them before, it’s my job not to stare at them.
In fact, I was in the pub last week and caught myself looking at the barmaid, who was very pretty… but one look was enough to clock that – anything more would just be leering. Again, it’s my job to look away.

It’s things to consider, such as women having to think about what they wear in a completely different context to men.
No man has ever gone to put a shirt on and thought; ‘is this too revealing?’ ‘Does this show too much skin?’ ‘Is this too slutty?’ ‘Is this too prudish?’ ‘Does this make me look frigid?’

It’s some religions seeing women as a temptation and asking them to cover up or wear wigs.
I’m sorry if this offends, but that’s wrong. The problem is with the man – if we can’t control our urges upon seeing a bit of skin, then the issue lies with us, not the woman.

It’s women having to look over their shoulders all the way home (or to wherever they happen to be going). This can’t be right. Imagine having to do this all the time. No man has ever had to look over their shoulder by dint of their sex.

I posted a comment on social media about this, which revealed even more…

It’s catcalls in the street (there’s actually an Insta account for this), it’s wolf whistling, it’s crude jokes, it’s stating ‘what I’d do to her’ as a woman walks past, it’s intimidating women on public transport, it’s sharing stuff like personal photos stolen from a female celeb’s smartphone (I’ve done this in the past, so I’m no innocent), it even stretches to things like excluding women from after-work drinks.

And before anyone lambasts me for being so ‘right on’, I have two sisters who I think of and consider how they’d have felt if they’d ever been subjected to the same behaviour. I’ve also worked in the charity sector, which is more female-dominated than male-dominated, and I’ve heard what women have had to put up with.
And, although I’m not a parent, I think about how I’d feel if I had a daughter – how would I feel about her growing up in this world?

Some men do get it right though.
Many years ago, I was out for drinks with an ex.
She’d had a skinful and, on the way home, needed to be sick.
We came to a patch of grass, she leant over, and did what she needed to do.
To try to be helpful, I held her hair back… except she was wearing a wig (she’d been ill and had lost her hair as a result). The wig simply came off in my hands.
Some guy, walking down the same path of us, saw this and yelled out ‘Oi! What you doing, mate?’, thinking I was harassing my girlfriend.
I answered back, explaining what I was doing, and, thankfully, my girlfriend confirmed who I was… but this guy was right to challenge me. He’s a rarity though.

There is one problem with all of this pontificating though: how do you legislate for someone like Wayne Couzens? How do you stop someone so hell bent on doing what he did – on abusing their position of power? It feels like he would’ve found a victim whatever happened.

Also, if we’re to teach our boys to do/be better, I’m not sure at what age we start teaching this. It’s quite a difficult issue to navigate in front of a young audience. Perhaps there’s an argument for bringing it in when sex education comes in – teach about consent and boundaries at the same time. Then again, it just feels like another thing heaped at the feet of teachers and I don’t think it’s just down to them.

I’m not sure what the answer is, but as men – as roughly 50% of society – we have to do better.

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