How can I stand up against sexual harassment?

Anonymous contribution

This is a serious topic. It is also controversial, uncomfortable, and one that I’ve considered voicing before. Even today, I write this with a lot of hesitation.

If I documented all the instances of sexual harassment I’ve encountered, I could probably write chapter or two of a book by now. If someone else told me they had encountered similar situations, I would unequivocally urge them to take action immediately.

SHslider4bYet it is something I have never done. Why? Because my image and my career are way more important to me. Because I brush it off like I’ve learnt to brush off everything else unpleasant that comes my way (Because that’s life, right?). Because it is not worth the hassle to me. Because apparently not everyone has the same moral compass. Because ours is a society of victim-blaming. Or that is how I have justified it to myself time and again. I know it’s not right. But I also don’t know if this is a cause I want to get up in arms about. Because I’m comfortable in my own coping mechanisms. I am also acutely aware that it is my silence (and the silence of many others) that empowers the perpetrators.

But today, for me, a nerve was struck. I wonder what gives some men the gall to think they can say or do whatever they want, and it is fine? I imagined myself saying some of the things that have been said to me and I don’t know in what world I would think it okay to say that to another person whom I clearly interact with only in a professional manner, and have never given a reason to think otherwise.

And in each instance and interaction of this kind, it has been crystal clear to me that any respect or regard for my intellect or character is only secondary (if at all existent) to the objectification of my body. It bothers me a lot that in this day and age, capable women, who are in every way equal to their male counterparts, still need to be subjected to this objectification. It bothers me that we as a society have not yet found a solution to these fundamental issues arising out of a lack of respect (and in some cases, even consent).

I don’t know what the answer is, I honestly don’t. And, I am somewhat ashamed to say, I still stand by my very poor coping mechanism of silence. But I do know that as a society we can all do better. A lot, lot better.


Men’s leadership for gender equality

This post was originally published as a Change Maker newsletter in October 2015. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter for regular updates and tips, take the Change Maker pledge here!

I’m a guy, and I care about sexism. What can I do?

We’ve heard it before, many times, in different ways: men are an important part of the movement for gender equality. But how exactly can boys and men make a real difference?
Here are some ideas from us!

1. INTERRUPT: Sexism and “guy talk”

bigstock-hand-making-a-stop-signal-sign-162901311Catch-ups with your National Service buddies, soccer hang-outs, or just drinks with guys you like to hang out with – these traditionally “boys-only” spaces provide a lot of potential for allies to interrupt sexism should it arise.
What can you do if your best friend makes a rape joke? Or if someone makes an offhand comment about a girl’s body or dressing? There are many ways you can interrupt these instances of sexism, show that you don’t approve and get people to reflect. Humour, questions, sarcasm, or a sincere show of discomfort – any of these could work! How would you interrupt sexism in the boys’ club?
2. ENGAGE: With men, women and good ideas
other_conversation_review_comment_bubble_talk-512People aren’t always going to pat us on the back for speaking up. In order to spark real change, men need to be okay with starting conversations that nobody wants to have, and dealing with discomfort. You need to listen keenly to women’s experiences and take them seriously. Read about and follow broader discussions on gender issues that are happening now. Learning requires humility and willingness to unlearn male privilege. Speaking up is taking a risk. Are you ready for it?
3. ADVOCATE: For change, equal spaces and diversity
AdvocateNetwork-Tab1dThink about the communities you are already a part of and how you can make a difference there. In specific, think of the spaces where you have leadership and a strong voice. This might be at home, on an online space, in an interest group or a work team. For example, if an organising team you are in wants to invite a group of experts for a panel discussion, what are the factors you would consider? Is there equal representation of men and women on the panel? Are there people dominating the conversations and decision-making processes? How much of a role do women play in organising and participating?  How major are these roles and how much are women acknowledged or credited for them?
There are many strategies we can adopt if we want to shake up a system that benefits one group of people over others – so observe how these systems work in your own context, and work to dismantle them!
Get involved!
– Join Yes, All Men and SGRainbow in talking about consent in social and sexual settings. Register for the dialogue session HERE!
– Volunteer for the We Can! Arts Fest – email us at [email protected] if you want to RALLY with us on 6 December!