‘Not All Men’ but ALL WOMEN: How can men take responsibility to support women and help them feel safe
The tragic loss of Sarah Everard has sparked an important conversation around the ongoing, daily struggles experienced by women across the globe. More importantly, it brought to light the issue at the heart of this – men’s behaviour. While it’s not all men involved, it is the responsibility of all men to be mindful of their actions and truly understand women’s experiences. Men need to take action to help women feel safer, rather than the onus being on women to take preventative measures to protect their safety.
A group of us here at Splendid – both female and male – have explored the ways in which men can make steps in achieving positive change.
Women’s wariness isn’t personal – Meredith
While women know it’s ‘not all men’, we just don’t know which men. There have been many analogies shared on social media – one of which perfectly encapsulates what this means: ‘if you were given a box of chocolates but were told you were allergic to one of them, you would be nervous about all of them.” And that is exactly it, while we want to believe every man is not to be afraid of, we always have to be prepared for the worst.
It’s important for men to adopt the perspective of women. Feeling offended, caught up in a generalisation or typecast does not help as it silences women’s voices by deflecting the narrative away from them, back to men. Ellie, our PR Assistant, added: “Women are intimidated into staying silent about their experiences when men immediately jump on the defensive without really understanding what they’re saying.”
The ‘NotAllMen’ slogan paints men as the victims in this debate”, comments Project Manager Becca, “it turns the conversation away from the main issue– violence against women.” It is important for everyone, particularly men, to research the issue before engaging with the hashtag and truly understand that we are challenging society, not individuals.
Until this mindset changes, this conversation – and women feeling unsafe on the streets – will continue.
Impact always outweighs intent – Sophie B
One of the most important and valuable things that can be learned by anyone and particularly men when it comes to situations involving women, is that impact outweighs intent. While you may not mean to offend, or you consider something “a bit of a laugh”, if it risks any kind of negative impact, don’t do it. Asking us to ‘smile’ may seem like a harmless request, but for many of us it’s incredibly frustrating. MD Niki commented: “It’s neither cute, funny or clever to tell us to ‘smile, things could be worse’. You have no idea how we’re feeling and it’s certainly not our duty to smile for men”.
It’s important for those who are confronted on their behaviour to take a step back, apologise and realise that ‘harmless’ intent (which we have no way of knowing) does not provide a free pass for behaviour or language that causes discomfort or offense.
Keep your distance – Frances
If there is one good thing that we can take away from the pandemic, it would be that personal space between strangers is good. As such, men can try to be more mindful about the physical distance between themselves and women who they do not know.
Our CEO Alec Samways suggested: “It should be second nature if walking behind a woman at night to give her a wide berth and overtake. I mean, I get spooked when I hear footsteps close behind, so I’d hate to inflict that on someone else!”
Be mindful when interacting with women – Sophie B
“A starting point is talking to your female friends and listen to their experiences” said Account Director, Liv K. What’s more, acknowledge the effect that your presence or actions may have in certain situations. MD Niki added: “Men might think they’re trying to be nice, but sometimes we just don’t want to accept that drink and talk to you. Don’t make us have to keep repeating ‘no thank you’ to get you to back off.”
Right now, you can’t simply define yourself as a ‘good guy’; “It’s not enough to say you’re not one of the bad ones, show what you’ve actively done to help” commented Senior Account Manager Dagmara.
Call out and educate each other – George
Finally, men need to stand up when they see unacceptable behaviour towards women. Men can use their understanding to enlighten others.
Florence Given famously wrote a book called ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’ discussing the ongoing issues within society surrounding sexual assault, sexism, and harassment. One fan who read the book after his girlfriend couldn’t put it down, passed it around his construction-worker friends who all read it. This resulted in them all changing their mindset around acts of misogyny and inequality, while putting into practice exactly what men need to be doing more of, listening and learning.
So, men, this is our chance to take a stance and simply do better, now is the time to make a change for good, realise that it’s our behaviour that’s the problem, not women’s, and engrain this into society.