In the run up to last year's US election everyone was shocked by Trump's 'grab her by the...' remark. It felt as if it had been a revelation well timed to secure his doom. Everyone was up in arms and while it didn't defeat him, the comment is still ringing in our ears. But the fact of the matter is the sexual harassment of women, the general sexualisation of women and the reduction of women to their sexual value as objects is everywhere, perpetrated by so many in so many ways. So inured are we in this society to seeing women in this way - as sexual objects - we must to a certain extent not be surprised that women are also treated in this way. I suspect it was not so much the act that he described that shocked us, but the fact that he said it out loud. But then again, I am not a man, I don't hang out with lots of men and who knows may be they do brag about sexually harassing women all the time. Nonetheless publicly America and the world was shocked. But nonetheless not shocked enough not to vote him in.
Again this year we learn that another rich, powerful man has used his power to allegedly sexually harass women over many years. Again the world is shocked. Or are they? Because as it turns out it is not just aspiring actresses in a highly competitive industry who are subject to sexual harassment by abusive and opportunistic men, it is by the looks of my FB feed, almost every woman I know as well as a handful of men.
In recent years there have been lots of fantastic initiatives that have emerged to tackle the endemic sexism that our society suffers. There have been lots of great projects teaching young women about sex, consent and pleasure. There have been projects that build girls' confidence in public speaking and mentors to show them that they too can succeed as super powerful business women and or brilliant entrepreneurs, there have been films and tv series showing women that their sexual promiscuity is the norm rather than something shameful, there has been a slightly less helpful initiative that shows girls that they can play sport and be sexy at the same time. These projects abound, projects that help women and girls learn the skills to navigate the world. And simple projects that just seek to give women a platform to tell the world the sexism they have suffered.
So we learn that a huge number of women (and some men) have been victims of sexual harassment. Like the Everyday Sexism Project the Me Too hashtag has quickly revealed to the world (i.e men) just how wide spread sexual harassment is.
But let us not forget that on the whole sexual harassment is a male problem, a male problem that women are subject to and suffer. If this problem is to go away, it will be men that have to banish it. This stuff doesn't just happen someone does it. Someone does it to another person, usually a woman or a girl, but not always. It is all very well to awaken to sexism "as a father of two daughters", but really by that point it is too late. Why weren't they watching their mothers, or listening to their sisters, their friends, their colleagues? Is it possible that they just didn't realise this was happening - were we just not human enough for them? While it is all very well arming our daughters with the skills to tackle harassment in the work place, at home, in the street or in her playground, wouldn't it be better if these things didn't happen and shouldn't we (by we I mean you, and by you I mean men) be doing something about this?
What I want to know is where are the men setting up the initiatives to educate boys in sexual relationships. Where are the men going in to schools to talk about consent and respect? Where are the men talking about the misogyny prevalent in so much pornography? Why aren't there any men talking about masculinity and why its attendant concepts might be damaging to boys? Why aren't any men up in arms at the glorification of violence and sexual violence in films and video games and the harmful effects this has on their sons' psyches? What I want to know is where are all the men saying: "As father of a son, I worry".
But in the mean time here are 5 easy ways men can be less sexist:
1. Be less sexist
2. Don't be a sexist
3. Don't sexually harass people
4. Don't behave in a sexist manner
5. Be less sexist