Written by Melanie Rosato
“What can I do?”
A lot of men seem to be asking women this at the moment, following the murder of Sarah Everard and the rape allegations surrounding Australian politics. So I've been thinking about this question and the various ways to answer it.
As women, we need men to help stop this shit before it happens. And if I’ve been meticulously watching my safety since I was a pre-teen, the men reading this can take some time to think some hard thoughts.
When I was in high school, I wanted you to stop defining your worth as a boy/man by how many chicks you fucked. I wanted you to stop sexual bullying. I wanted you to not ask for or share nudes, and I wanted you to think ‘boys will be boys’ was not an excuse to treat us like shit. I wanted you to actually have a conversation with us, not just try and get in our pants. I wanted you to just treat us teenage girls like humans.
And as I’ve gotten older, more and more I’ve wanted you all to take some responsibility for yourself, your relationships with other men and your own beliefs and culture. Stop saying “throw like a girl” or “don’t be a girl” and instead think about how it might feel if, for your whole life, your gender is used as the butt of the joke.
I want you to redefine what it means to be a “man” because to rest of us, it isn’t about having the biggest dick, changing a tire, earning loads of money to be the breadwinner for your family but never being around, or starting fights with random dudes to show how much of a man you are.
I want you to ask your friends if they’re really okay, listen to the answer, and provide actual support, not just beers and a night out and leave it at that. I want you to take responsibility for your own mental health and personal issues by seeking help before it becomes a major problem. This is what the rest of us have to do, too.
I want you to stop staring at women, and good god stop cat calling us - if you thought for a second about how it might feel to be on the receiving end of it, you’d understand why. Stop touching our arses when we’re out at night, stop ogling us if we dance even a fraction more provocatively than the next girl. We’re not meat in a display cabinet. We don’t dress for you, dance for you, or leave the house for you. So stop acting like we do. And when you see your friends doing this shit, tell them to stop.
I understand most of this is due to socialisation. And I know that I can’t understand what masculinity really means, and nor can I redefine that for you. But I do know what toxic masculinity is.
And so do you, because it’s what hurts you every day. It makes you constantly question whether or not you’re good enough, whether you’re worthy of love from a partner or respect from your peers. And I want more than that for you, so stop buying into it.
Because it doesn’t just hurt you, it hurts us too.
Mel has a lot to say about this, so we’ll be sharing #2 soon! In the meantime, follow her: