After a week that began with International Women’s Day, progressed with the death and vigil of Sarah Everard, and ended with Mother’s Day it’s been a frustrating time to be a woman. If there’s a time to speak out in support of victims and against those who commit sexual harassment, it is now. So why is there still an epidemic of male violence against women? Surely the impact of movements like #MeToo has been huge enough to push these attitudes another way? Yes, but recent events have shown just how much further society has to go.
If there’s a time to speak out in support of victims and against those who commit sexual harassment, it is now
But why do these men commit such acts of violence against women? In my opinion, it’s about control and the effects of toxic masculinity. For years the definition of what a ‘man’ is has involved aggression and power, whilst women have been characterised by subordination and objectifcation. This behaviour is learned, and the causes include the culture surrounding what it is to 'be a man' - namely sport, media, and porn. Obviously, these aren’t all the contributing factors, but I believe they are the most significant. As men consume these cultures, they are told that they are not part of a community that they need to help lift up, rather they begin to degrade and dehumanise women. Most of the time, this prejudice against women starts out ‘small’ (by that I mean it begins with rape jokes) and then develops until it reaches physical violence. You may think that I’m being dramatic here - I’m not. This is the lived experience of 97% of young women.
Through sport, media, and porn - men are taught that they are free to dehumanise women, not defend them
I truly believe that the solution to this lies in education, specifically with inclusive sex and relationship education programmes. By teaching boys respect early, we can hope to create a more equal future, one which values women, and their opinions. Stop saying “boys will be boys”, and call out those friends who make derogatory comments towards women - even if it means you lose them in your social circle. Listen. Don’t deflect. Stop victim-blaming. Accept that women feeling a lack of safety is a social problem, not just a personal one. Yes, this is going to involve many uncomfortable conversations, and yes, this will involve a lot of self-scrutiny. It is only after confronting this unconscious bias that we can hope to stop harassment from being part of every women's lived experience.