By Faris Gohir
Ever since the Sarah Everard murder there has been an ongoing discussion on the role of men when it comes to women’s safety. Women seem to know other women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted but do men know other men who are the perpetrators? As a male I thought I would take it upon myself to interview other men within my network to get their opinions on women’s safety.
I asked three questions and received the following responses:
Do you know of other men that have physically or verbally harassed women?
“I don’t know any boys personally. However, I do think that something like that could happen at my school and I definitely think there are some boys capable of it as I get those vibes from them.” (Rashid, 16)
“Although I personally, do not know any men that have harassed women, going to nightclubs you hear of stories when this does occur. I feel like a lot of women do not say anything as they see that there are no consequences for the men who abuse them.” (Ahmed, 21)
“I don’t know any men personally that have done this but one of my female friends used to be in a toxic abusive relationship and was also a victim of rape, which impacted her mentally.” (Shams, 24)
What would you do and what do you think other men could do to make women feel safer?
“Men could make women feel safer by maintaining a reasonable distance when walking behind them day or night. I’ve done this before where I hung back for a few seconds because I didn’t want her to think I was dangerous. Men also need to change their behaviour even if there are no women around such as changing the way they view and talk about women when they are with their friends e.g., they need to stop objectifying women.” (Shams, 24)
“There is a lot that men can do. It all starts with their own behaviour and treating women with respect. They should also look out for their female friends and family and look for signs of trouble. Men should also be more aware of their surroundings, and of potentially predatory men. Men can also get involved with awareness campaigns and can teach young boys from a young age to be more respectful. Men should also realise they can unintentionally make women feel unsafe, so should be more aware of their actions. Men need to become a part of the conversation.” (Ash, 47)
“I think men should have the courtesy and decency to acknowledge if they’re unintentionally scaring a woman such as walking close behind them. Even if he doesn’t mean harm, she doesn’t know that.” (Masood, 56)
Do you feel like you would be able to intervene if you saw a woman being harassed?
“I would definitely intervene if a woman was being harassed. If you are watching a woman being harassed, you are part of the problem. Often men may not intervene because the harasser may be one of their friends.” (Ahmed, 21)
“I would intervene even if it risked me getting beaten up.” (Rashid, 16)
“I honestly do think it depends on the situation, if there were more people around I would feel more confident to do so as there are witnesses. However, if I was alone or there were multiple harassers, I would weigh up if it is worth intervening as I could get seriously hurt. Rather than just walking away I would at least call the police.” (Shams, 24)
It is clear that not all men harass women, but it is enough men. Being the quiet good guy just isn’t sufficient. Men need to proactive and use their voice to challenge negative attitudes and behaviours towards women even if it is means challenging their own friends, colleagues and family members. Learning about respecting women and girls including about their safety should be a part of the school curriculum for boys. That is exactly what Wellacre Academy (an all-boys school) has incorporated. The school has included public harassment lessons as part of the RSHE (relationships, sex and health education) class. For example, boys are being taught what amounts to public sexual harassment which included wolf whistling and cat calling. I believe these in particular need to be addressed as most men probably would not associate these actions with sexual harassment being oblivious to the fact that they could be making women terrified whilst thinking they are being “smooth.” However, such actions could start being reported as a hate crime soon. Following a debate in the House of Lords on the Domestic Abuse Bill earlier this month, British police forces will have to start recording misogyny as a hate crime later this year, which will include harassment where the victim perceives it to have been motivated by a hostility based on their sex. I think beeping car horns at women and girls when they drive past should also be on the list as this can make them feel unsafe too.
Raise your voice and get connected