Better than this

This piece appeared as a guest post, as part of the week long focus on Domestic Violence in the New Zealand Herald.  Click here for the original article…

There’s a sad fact about violence in this country: how safe you are is determined the second you are conceived. Your gender is the single biggest predictor of your lifelong risk of physical assault, childhood sexual assault, adult rape and intimate partner violence.

Privilege is invisible to me most of the time, as a Pakeha middle aged professional man who lives in a nice part of town. I’ve never been yelled at in the street, or abused because of how I look. I feel safe walking the streets at night, and I’ve never had to wonder if my partners over the years were going to assault me when they got angry.

These are things I take for granted, but they are an accident of birth. They are largely because of my gender.

Women are not afforded the same luxury of security. Given the shocking and terrifying statistics reported elsewhere this week, the most rational choice is for women to treat all men as dangerous.

To treat all men as a threat, and all men as abusers.

Confronting? Yes, but also true. In 2014 a social media campaign #yessallwomen started in response to the #notallmen campaign. In the latter, men attempted to distance themselves from conversations about violence, sexism and patriarchy by using the logic: “Yes, but not all men are like that.”

“#Yesallwomen” set about helping women report and discuss examples of everyday sexism, and frankly it makes for terrifying reading. Everyday sexism is the sharp end of the wedge. As a man, it highlights all the small ways it’s important to challenge this behaviour when we see it.

It’s the times when men use “woman/ girl/ bitch” (or female body parts) as an insult; talk disrespectfully about their wives or partners to their mates; stand by while someone we know yells at their partner in public; watch as someone gets gropey with a woman at a club who clearly isn’t into it; make degrading or sexual comments to a woman as she walks by.
As men, when we behave like this — or stand by while our friends, workmates, teammates behave like that — we are the problem. Everyday sexism is the expression of the beliefs and attitudes that allow and perpetuate the levels of domestic violence we see in our communities.

Domestic violence is a male problem, and women are the victims.

By far the most frustrating #notallmen responses that get thrown back at people pointing all this out is “yes but women assault men too.” It’s as if, in a magical leap of logic, all arguments about male responsibility for violence dissolve into a puddle of male tears. It’s like arguing that we shouldn’t focus on drink driving because sober drivers have accidents too.

For every man that is assaulted, three women are. And those are just the reported cases. It’s estimated that around 76{1b812f7ed7a77644fff58caf46676f6948311bf403a3d395b7a7f87010507f87} of domestic violence incidents are not reported to police.And that’s not including sexual violence, which is recorded separately. No one denies men are also the victims of violence, it’s just that a massively higher number of women are seriously assaulted, and some killed, by men.

These statistics are so important, and so hard to take in. This is because denial, whether at the individual or cultural level, is the enemy. The opposite – accountability and taking responsibility – is the answer.

So however uncomfortable: #yesallmen. It is up to us to change the way we think about the way society minimises and ignores domestic violence and sexual violence. How we, as men, allow for uncomfortable conversations about sex, power, consent, relationships. To understand how frightening men can be.

We have to choose to listen to women, be prepared to be wrong, not defend our own egos and keep listening.

And we have to accept that this is the work of all men.


Take a stand – NZ is #BetterThanThis

New Zealand has the worst rate of family violence in the developed world. One in three women will be subjected to physical or sexual violence from a partner at some point in their lives.

Take a stand. Change your social media profile picture to demand that we are better than this. Right-click on this image below (or press and hold on your mobile device) to save, then upload to your social profiles. Or you can download the image here.
– NZ Herald

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