Many of you will, by now, have seen the events that unfolded on Clapham Common last night. I am certainly not here to judge the rights or wrongs of that, especially in an era where reasonable debate seems to be something of the past. Too often, social media deals only in black and white; that the police response was unreasonably excessive, I have no doubt. That we had been asked not to gather in large numbers is also true. However, what I want to talk about is the role of #AllMen in the much needed societal change and response to this tragedy.
I feel strongly that ALL MEN need to be part of changing society. Yes, #AllMen.
It should never have taken the tragic and senseless murder of Sarah Everard for us to realise that society has historically, and continues to, let down women horribly. It is not acceptable to respond with the hashtag #NotAllMen because we are all part of the problem. We may not all be perpetrators of crime and some of us may even call ourselves allies, but we are all culpable. #AllMen and all humans should want to proactively play a part in creating a better society.
Some of you may be asking how? Let me spell it out from my own individual perspective.
- I think I’m a decent guy
- I respect women
- I’m a huge advocate of equity and advancing women in the workplace
- I’ve always walked female friends home or to their train / bus, asking them to let me know they are home safely
- I try to tone down my language in front of women
These are just small examples but I think I’m there when it comes to respecting women and advancing their rights. Or at least I thought I was…
But I’m not. I’m nowhere close. Chivalry is a token gesture adding to the problem, simply accepting the problem and trying to find a stop-gap solution for those closest to you and within your sphere of influence. Being a ‘gentleman’ does nothing to address the woeful inadequacies and sexism which have been holding back women throughout history. Here are just some of the questions that the above doesn’t ask.
- When did I last ask my wife about the fears she feels if she ever finds herself alone outside after dark? Or when did I ask her about the impact of gender on her career?
- When did I last ask my mum how frightening it is to walk from her garage to the front door because of the isolation and lack of lighting around her?
- When did I last ask one of my colleagues how it feels to be a woman in the world as it is today?
- When did I last ask any of the women from running club if they would feel safe to run after dark without the larger group around them?
- When did I last ask the women working in our local pub what it feels like walking out of the door after 12.30pm into darkness and silence after a long shift?
- When, before lockdown, did I pay my share of the taxis that women friends and colleagues took home after a social event when I was able to walk or be on other public transport without fear and anxiety?
- When did I last ask my female friends what I can do better?
- When did I last ask a question that really matters and makes a difference to the women around me and not just for the sake of my conscience?
And therein, gentlemen, lies the problem. We may think we are gentlemen, that we are chivalrous and that we have the interests of women at heart. But we don’t. We only see what’s directly in front of us and not the crippling fear in which women in wider society live across the world.
I must do better. We must do better. And that means #ALLmen. I hate that Sarah Everard had to lose her life for me to realise this.