Panny Antoniou makes the case for men to join women in fighting the patriarchy and its harmful effects.
I don’t think about whether I should listen to music when I’m walking at night, I just do. I don’t have my keys in my hand ready to use as a weapon in case someone jumps out at me. I don’t worry about getting home safe and I don’t send my friends a text to let them know I made it back. These everyday things don’t scare me but for millions of women in the UK and across the world, these basic things are all a privilege they do not have. People who experience misogyny live under an almost constant threat of male violence.
This difference in privilege and attitude is best encapsulated in the recent and horrific murder of Sarah Everard. Whilst my timeline was filled with people who experience misogyny hoping she would turn up safe, there was – with a few notable exceptions – a wall of silence from men. At the same time, as was the case at the height of the #MeToo movement, and indeed whenever an issue of misogyny is in the news, the hashtag #NotAllMen began to trend. It is of course important to note that the hashtag in its most basic form is correct, not all men are abusers, or rapists, or murderers, or even misogynists. However, in a country where 97% of women aged 18-24 report having been a victim of sexual harassment, that #NotAllMen assertion pales into insignificance.
It may not be all men but it is enough men to be a threat. Enough men for women to be unable to tell the difference between “one of the good ones” and a potential sexual harasser. Enough men for every woman to have felt unsafe in a public space because of a man’s behaviour or potential behaviour. So it’s no longer enough for men to say that it’s #NotAllMen and they are “one of the good ones”. We have to show it with actions. We must change our behaviour and ensure that spaces are safe for women. That means having difficult conversations, every man knows someone who is a bit of a creep when he’s drunk and every man knows someone who has made a woman feel uncomfortable, whether unknowingly or not. Until we sit down and speak to those men and help them understand and change their behaviour, we are complicit. We are complicit until we do and until we examine our own behaviours and modify them if need be. Men aren’t inherently bad, but until we stop sitting on the fence and start speaking up for our friends who experience misogyny, we will remain complicit.
Women shouldn’t feel fear when leaving their house, they shouldn’t have to take a different route because that alley which cuts 15 minutes off their journey is just too dangerous because of men, and they shouldn’t have to look back in fear to see if that man who got off at the same station is behind them. A world where women are not liberated and safe is a world where none of us are safe; and if you insist you’re a feminist because you have a wife, or a mother or a daughter, ask yourself why you needed a female in your life to be personally affected in order for you to make that change. The patriarchy which we all live in affects everyone, including men, and we must fight it together. That’s why I’m having those difficult conversations and trying to help the men around me have healthier and more positive relationships with women.
We are doing a disservice not just to women and girls but to all people by not having these difficult discussions. We live in a patriarchal society but despite this, 75% of suicides are men because they don’t feel like they can talk about their feelings and are told to “man up” when they do. Dismantling the patriarchy and the harmful effects it has on all genders has never been more vital and the tragic murder of Sarah Everard must be a catalyst for change; no more can die at the hands of male violence. So, this is a call to arms, a call to arms for every man reading this, pick up the phone, speak to your mate about what needs to change, and let’s smash the patriarchy together.
Panny Antoniou is the co-chair and founder of Open Labour’s Climate Change Working Group as well as the co-founder of grassroots activist organisation Labour Doorstep which advocates and campaigns for a Labour Government. Panny is also co-chair of the Young Fabians International Network. He tweets at @panny_antoniou