‘We don't want performative allyship, we want action’: Women’s safety is a men’s issue – Hannah Brown

Men, we need you to understand that sexual abuse and harassment towards women is something you need to fix.

Saturday, 13th March 2021, 7:00 am
Why women's safety should be something men need to fix.

The Reality for Women

I, like many women, am exhausted after the explosion of misogyny we saw across the news this week.

A “Not All Men” hashtag trending as yet another woman is found dead.

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A woman talking about racial slurs she faced causing her to be suicidal and then being disbelieved by a male presenter on national television.

And as background music to all of this, the perpetual sexism women face across social media.

A man on Twitter asked me to send nudes when I asked for permission to use a video in an article this week.

My male bosses were shocked, I was not.

Walking home alone at night is often something women fear (Photo: Pixabay).

I’m just tired and angry of living this daily reality women face. This week started with International Women’s Day - I tried to find humour in that.

Women-centric action

Scrolling through social media, I've seen many women sharing content on how to tackle issues of women’s safety following Sarah Everard’s death.

From content like ‘How women can protect themselves’ and ‘What a man can do to make women feel safe’ to heartbreaking personal experiences.

The streets of Glasgow (Photo: PA).

All of this is informative and appears to come from a place of genuine concern and a need to help.

Yet I cannot help but notice that the majority of this content is coming from women.

Yes, there are some men who are standing up and sharing similar content but they are few and far between in my experience.

An image which has been trending recently amongst mainly women-centric social media users has been a picture of the words ‘Protect your daughters’ scored out and ‘Educate your sons' written underneath it.

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A mother and friend of mine pointed out: “Whilst I totally agree with the sentiment behind it, I’ve seen mostly mothers of wee boys sharing it asking for advice on how to teach their sons which again puts the onus on women who are often the primary caregivers.”

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The onus should not fall on women

Those who have to face the abuse in the first place are yet again tasked with picking up the pieces and finding a solution.

I do not want to explain all the sexual harassment I’ve had from men and I should not need to.

It is not up to women to talk about issues such as this and push for change, especially in a patriarchal society which is set against us.

The harassment and abuse itself is already traumatic - do not expect us to relive it.

A lack of understanding

My mum phoned me last night to ask if I had downloaded an “Emergency SOS” app on my phone and I started to cry.

It’s not my mum’s fault. She was being protective and caring for my well-being.

It was the fact that I had to take this measure as a young woman living on my own to ensure some form of safety that did it for me.

Most men do not understand that.

Maybe that’s why male voices often go uncharacteristically quiet when ‘women’s issues’ come up - they cannot relate or they feel scared to speak out of turn.

But it is a sad and depressing world if we can only stand up to injustices when we have a personal experience in the matter.

A friend recently said to me: “Wouldn’t it be good if men took an interest in women’s issues like they do with sports?”

It upsets me that many men engage more with sport than they do when countless women’s life are at stake.

Denial

This week it was reported that 97% of women aged between 18 and 24 say they have faced sexual assault.

According to the Femicide Census, a woman is killed by a man every three days in the UK.

Yet, most men say they don’t know someone who has sexually harassed or assaulted a woman.

I find this very hard to believe and I cannot help but think some form of male denial runs deep in our society.

If it’s not you or your male friends, then who is it?

Action needed

Men need to make talking to, calling out and reporting male friends for this behaviour the norm.

Most women do not want a knight in shining armour to whisk them off into the sunset.

I have always found it difficult that I sometimes feel the need to thank men for doing the bare minimum.

Men should not be rewarded or praised for not harassing women - that is base human decency and to be expected.

What we want is for men to take ego out of the equation and reflect on what can be done from a male perspective.

That's where the majority of perpetrators lie, and that's where I think we will begin to find solutions.

Men need to speak up and not just in a performative way to seem like one of ‘the good guys’. They need to do it privately with one another.

To many women, there is no way to distinguish between the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’ and that is why we always have to have our guard up, just to survive.

Women are angry and tired - we have done all we can to protect ourselves.

Change needs to come from men.

If you are sick of the narrative about women being at risk from all men, don't be passive. Get involved and change it.

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