Pom in Oz opinion: Men need to step up and help drive cultural change

Derek GoforthMidwest Times
Scott Morrison has been under fire recently over the culture of disrespect towards women.
Camera IconScott Morrison has been under fire recently over the culture of disrespect towards women. Credit: Don Lindsay/The West Australian

The awful political scandal enveloping Scott Morrison’s Government in Canberra seems to go from bad to worse.

Other than the State election, it’s the political story dominating the headlines these past few weeks.

On the surface, it looks like no one within the Liberal Party is willing to acknowledge there’s even an issue to deal with.

From allegations of sexual assault to sex acts performed in the office, the Liberal Party appears to be in disarray.

What it has done is bring the topic of violence and disrespect towards women centre stage.

The same question keeps coming up in the social media debate — whose responsibility is it to address this issue?

For me and many others, the answer is simple. It’s everybody’s responsibility. It’s up to all of us to ensure our words and actions don’t make anyone feel unsafe or fearful at work, at home or while going about their daily business.

But let’s face facts: men need to step up and start making changes.

And while we’re at it, let’s get real and yes, of course men can be victims too and yes, of course women can be guilty of making false allegations. But if you take the time to talk with female colleagues, family members and friends, you will clearly see the problem is very much rooted in violence perpetuated by men against women.

Lara Dalton and Sandra Carr are among a new crop of female MPs voted into the WA Parliament.
Camera IconLara Dalton and Sandra Carr are among a new crop of female MPs voted into the WA Parliament. Credit: Geoff Vivian/The Geraldton Guardian

Don’t get me wrong, I believe the issue transcends gender, it’s about abuse of power, pure and simple. But it’s also a fact that most of the power in the world is held very firmly by men. I have seen it in my workplaces, I have seen it in the gym, I have seen it on the beach and in the park.

People, (predominately men) using their physical, social or financial power to exert their authority over others (again mostly women).

Personally speaking, I hope I am not guilty, but I can only imagine that I am. I am a strong guy, physically and emotionally. I am well educated and financially doing OK. I am sure that at points in my life I have used this to exert power and authority over others. For this I am truly sorry and I will do everything within my conscious state to ensure this does not happen. But ensuring (to the best of our ability) that we do not fall into this power play trap is not good enough. As a man, I need to do so much more. I need to be overt in my actions. I need to show, in no uncertain terms, that abusive and domineering behaviour towards women is utterly abhorrent and unacceptable. I need to speak out when I see the casual forms of this behaviour being demonstrated by friends, colleagues and, yes, even strangers.

What we are capable of seeing we are capable of stopping. We can make a change, but that change must start within ourselves.

I believe it’s the “subtle” behaviours that are potentially the most damaging. The slow, deliberate, minor acts that can end up changing a society for better or worse.

Cat calling, “funny”/rude emails, judging on looks not on actions, to name a few. It’s these “minor” behaviours that can wear a person down, can take them to the point where they believe they are worth less than they actually are. This is bullying in its basest form. I am pleased to say at least these issues are finally getting the press they deserve. But I am also sickened by some men’s reactions to issues, in particular domestic abuse and violence.

Change needs to happen on a political level and we as voters can help with that. Voting more than 50 per cent of female MPs in the WA election was a good start. Not only because it addresses the gender imbalance but, more importantly, because strong female voices like those of Sandra Carr and Lara Dalton will be heard loud and clear.

I hope this does not come across as “judgey”. I also hope it doesn’t seem like I think I have it all sorted.

But what I am doing, what I’m committing to is re-education. Of myself and the people in my life.

My boys, my work friends, my gym buddies and the man on the street. Re-education of what we have the power to do and not do. What we are capable of seeing we are capable of stopping. We can make a change, but that change must start within ourselves.

Derek Goforth is a teacher at Geraldton Christian College and a ‘Pom’ living in Oz.

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