LIFESTYLE

6 Ways Men Can Be An Ally To Women In The Battle Against Sexual Harassment

Don't tell us 'not all men'.

19/10/2017 16:45 BST

Following the extensive accusations against Harvey-Weinstein, and the rapid growth of the #MeToo movement, it feels like society could finally be about to turn a corner in the fight against sexual harassment. 

But, rather predictably, #notallmen continues to bubble away in the background, as some choose to focus on their own innocence rather than acknowledging the part that they have to play in bringing about reform.

Because, make no mistake, until everyone is an ally, harassment will continue.

martin-dm via Getty Images

So what can men be doing if they want to help? HuffPost UK spoke to Katie Russell from the Rape Crisis charity about the best things men can do (and not just for their wives and daughters...). 

This advice falls into two stages - managing your reaction and what you can do in the future to prevent more incidents of sexual harassment. 

Managing Your Reaction

Don’t make yourself the victim.

Ok, we get it, you might be feeling victimised at the moment because your whole gender is being tarred with the same brush, despite you never having acted in this way.

But now is not the time to feel sorry for yourself, instead play an active role in making sure men help to correct the problem too. 

Russell explains: “Women pointing out that male violence against women and girls is a widespread problem that we as a society need to acknowledge and challenge is not the same as telling you you’re violent or abusive simply because you’re a man.

“If that’s the first, or main, way you receive it, you should take time to reflect and explore why you feel like that.”

Acknowledge the scale of this problem.

It is true that being a victim of sexual assault or harassment isn’t exclusively the preserve of women. Men can suffer in this way too. But by refusing to see beyond this (or using it as a defence), you are failing to acknowledge the societal scale of sexual harassment against women. 

Russell says: “Perhaps it’s because you’re a victim or survivor of sexual violence or harassment yourself, or know another man or boy who has been, and you feel it’s unfair or simplistic to suggest only women and girls are victimised in this way.

“If that’s the case and you want to disclose your own experiences, that’s valid and important and, yes, you deserve to be heard and supported too.

“But that doesn’t detract from the fact that these things happen almost routinely and on a mass scale to women and girls throughout their lives and that they’re perpetrated overwhelmingly by men.

“That’s an undeniable gender inequality issue that you have the chance to be part of addressing.”

Recognise your own position of privilege.

A large part of #notallmen relies on the argument that not all men have committed sexual assault, harass or intimidate women, which of course is true. But that position neglects to understand that just because you as an individual haven’t acted in this way, that doesn’t mean other people haven’t on a regular basis. 

“Perhaps you feel defensive because you’ve never perpetrated sexual violence and harassment, but you’ve seen it or heard other men talk about it and never intervened or challenged your peers, and you feel conflicted about that,” says Russell.  

piola666 via Getty Images

Act Against Harassment 

Listen to women’s stories when they offer them.

You might feel like you never stop hearing about women being victims (believe us when we say it feels exhausting for us too) but how often do you really listen to what you’re being told and consider the impact of these stories that are being shared?

“The best way that non-abusing and non-violent men can engage with this campaign is by really listening to what women and girls are saying, not dismissing, minimising or refusing to believe the scale of the problem or its impact, but also not reacting purely defensively,” says Russell.

Just be truly listening and acknowledging someone’s experience you can help.

Call out your friends’ bad behaviour.   

Yes, it might be awkward and they might not thank you for it in the short term, but you can’t fight the good fight without rocking the boat.

So when your friends make ‘jokes’ or banter about harassment and misogyny, don’t be so complacent.

“Let your peers know this is not acceptable,” Russell advises. “Until abusers and harassers are ostracised and realise others don’t find their actions funny or ‘natural’ they won’t be forced to change them.”

Intervene when you see women being harassed. 

Intervening doesn’t just stop with your own friends. It might feel uncomfortable to get involved when you see harassment in the street, but if you feel uncomfortable just watching - think how bad it is making the victim feel.

“When it’s safe to do so, try intervening the next time you see other men intimidating a woman or making her feel obviously uncomfortable with sexualised or degrading comments about her body, or touching her uninvited, for example,” says Russell.

The Stop Street Harassment campaign recommends creating a distraction or interruption or initiating other non-confrontational action that can help keep everyone safe. If you have serious concerns about the victims safety, do involve the police. 

  • Rape Crisis services for women and girls who have been raped or have experienced sexual violence - 0808 802 9999
  • Survivors UK offers support for men and boys - 0203 598 3898