Cw: sexual harassment and assault.
Tragedy, once we process the pain, can lead to profound realisations about the world around us. Both a personal loss, and that of Sarah Everard, illustrated to me that we only have a finite amount of time in life, so I now endeavour to engage with and appreciate my relatives as much as I can. The last month has also sent me on a journey of reckoning with the state of our society, and what needs to be addressed in order to stamp out the possibility of things like this continuing to happen.
The phrase ‘Not all Men’ has been cropping up frequently online – many felt like they are being tarred with an unfair brush, and don’t see themselves as having directly done anything wrong. I would argue that this issue does concern all men, as there is a level of endemic culpability in the microaggressions levelled at women. In one way or another, we have all been complicit, if not active, in the creation of a culture that perpetuates misogyny.
The terrifying statistic that 97 per cent of women in this country have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lives sadly didn’t seem that shocking once I listened to my female friends’ experiences. It’s not a stretch to say that most women will at some point have been, among other things, approached in a club, harassed over text, or stared at across the street. Unwittingly, somewhere along the way, this behaviour has become discretely normalised.
I’ve recently been coming to terms with my own place within all this: looking back at my behaviour, I can see how I have contributed to this harmful environment, without ever giving it much thought before now. ‘Lad culture’ is something that I think a lot of impressionable men have found themselves dragged into; acting and speaking in reprehensible ways, not because of any strong alignment with what they are saying, but because this behavior is just part of daily interactions. Comments are made in certain contexts with certain people that wouldn’t fly anywhere else. Just because someone isn’t there, doesn’t give you the right to objectify or discriminate against them.
In talking to men one-on-one, it seems apparent that the harmful things being said are not always representative of who they are – we see shy, thoughtful men play up negative aspects of themselves to impress their peers, failing to pay heed to the wider implications of their comments. It is often a case of herd mentality: naturally, we put on a different face around others, but when we become engaged in a culture like this, our actual identity can be subsumed within it. I’m not trying to shift any blame here…I’m saying there is a wider social conditioning going on that needs addressing. All I can urge is that we engage in dialogues about these issues, and carefully think about what flippant comments may imply.
I would urge the men reading this to take time to take stock of who they are. Do the things you say and do truly represent the sort of person you want to be? You have to give yourself permission to be you, away from the restrictions that toxic cycles of the male ego can impose upon you. I speak from experience when I say that recognising and correcting such behaviours has broad benefits for yourself and those around you.
image: An Le via Pixabay