A guest blog from Jack McQuibban, Public Affairs Adviser at Cruelty Free International.
From the Dorchester Hotel in London to a courtroom in Michigan. This week we celebrated 100 years since (some!) women were given the vote here in the UK, but recent events have continued to shine a light on the uphill struggle women still face for empowerment, even after winning the right to the vote a century ago.
Whilst we celebrated the courage and defiance of the Suffragette movement, we have continued to have been made aware of a number of high profile acts that showcase what men currently still are doing to not only facilitate our privilege but entrench it further within society.
The uncovering of the Presidents Club meeting in London exposed the intertwined nature of power, money and dominance over women that exists within Britain today. The powerful witness statements from over 200 young women who had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Larry Nasser, the US Gymnast Coach, unveiled the sheer impact that one man can have in a society that provides men with unaccountable rights and power over women.
Overcoming this imbalance will take time and will not come easy. It will not come from the great corridors of power, but rather on the streets and in the home. As men, it can be tricky to know what we can do to help at times. We all have a duty and a right though to recognise the role we play in fighting for equality. Quite often, it will provide a tough and challenging look at the traditional way we view the concept of masculinity itself.
Firstly, when these conversations occur we mustn’t meet them with defence, the #NotAllMen do this approach. It is true that not all men harass or abuse women, but we all benefit from the privilege we receive from living in a patriarchal society, willingly or not. By refusing to accept this, passing it off onto others as a few bad eggs in society, we diminish our responsibility for bringing change.
Secondly, we must actively seek to listen to women and understand their stories. Whilst no one can truly understand the lived experiences of another, men must take greater steps to understand what it is like to live in a society that unfavourably benefits the other gender. We have got to start understanding the impact certain kinds of our behaviour as men have on women, finding suggestions and solutions together to help achieve equality.
Finally, and arguably most important, men must speak out more. We have all been inspired by the bravery of women speaking out against the assault from powerful men as part of the #MeToo movement. Their courage to challenge an archaic system that embeds power in men simply because of their position in society, putting their own painful stories out into the public domain knowing the abuse and vilification they will face, takes an incredible amount of strength and heart to do so. Yet it’s critically important that these stories do not occur in an echo chamber. Men need to do more to support women get their voice heard, creating an environment where stories of abuse and harassment can not only be shared and valued without fear, but also where justice is served to those who currently are protected by the system. We must put pressure on those with power to act, but this will only come from pressure created on the ground. We must work together with women to speak out about the daily behaviours and attitudes which embed misogyny and discrimination within our society.
None of this of course is easy. It will require hard conversations with ourselves to acknowledge the privilege we benefit from daily, challenging the very idea of what we’ve been bought up to believe masculinity is. But in the fight for equality, we must play our part.