OPINION: There’s a phrase that’s been bandied around a lot in the wake of the tragic, senseless death of Grace Millane.
“Not all men.”
It’s usually used, often online, as a retort to calls for men to stop attacking/abusing/harassing women.
“Not all men are rapists,” they protest.
“Not all men will assault you.”
Now, to be clear, there’s nobody to blame for Grace’s death other than the person who allegedly caused it.
And yet people have suggested Grace shouldn’t have been travelling alone. Or that she shouldn’t have been using a dating app.
Why is it that we’re so quick to tell a young woman that she shouldn’t do these perfectly normal things, but the minute we ask men to consider their privilege, there’s an outcry?
Blokes, we get it. You’re not all responsible for the actions of your peers. And we aren’t suggesting you are. But you are responsible for shouldering your share of the burden when it comes to creating societal change, and teaching the next generation about consent and respect.
There are also those who have suggested Grace’s death shouldn’t be “used” to further the #MeToo “agenda”.
That the death of a young woman, allegedly at the hands of a man, shouldn’t be mentioned in discussions about a movement that aims to shed light on the abuse of women seems nonsensical.
According to anti-family violence organisation Are You Okay?, one in three Kiwi women experience physical and/or sexual violence from a partner in their lifetime.
A third of our women.
Anybody who thinks that statistic reflects a few bad apples, rather than a deep-rooted problem, is kidding themselves.
That point’s been tragically highlighted even further this week, with the violent death of a South Auckland woman, allegedly at the hands of a man who was known to her, while her young son was nearby.
A big part of creating change is listening, rather than immediately becoming defensive.
If that’s your reaction to a woman sharing her story of assault or abuse, you both diminish her trauma and create an environment where others are afraid to speak out.
It’s also about speaking out yourselves. If you see a mate getting a bit “handsy”, or continuing to hit on a woman who’s already indicated she’s not interested, he’s not just being one of the lads.
Because the woman on the other end of that interaction is likely scared, upset, and preparing to walk to her car with her keys between her fingers.
If you see behaviour that you wouldn’t want to happen to your daughter, your sister, your mother, your partner, or frankly any other human being for that matter, then step in.
It’s not up to women to save ourselves from you. It’s not up to women to protect the fragile egos of those who can’t, or won’t, recognise society is weighted in their favour.
And it wasn’t up to Grace to stop a young man from allegedly taking her life.
See www.scene.co.nz for the full story of Queenstown’s Grace Millane vigil.