If you are struggling with appreciating this point of view, you are not alone.
It is tempting and ‘well intended’ for men to react to what is being discussed by Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame, with genuine sympathy. Sympathy that may come from our experience of having daughters, sisters, partners, friends, mothers, grandmothers, or granddaughters.
However, the urge to want to protect the women in our lives may actually be contributing to the problem much more than we think.
Firstly by presuming that the women in our lives require protection and placing ourselves as protectors, we unconsciously place women in an inferior role to ourselves and reinforce the patriarchal system in which men hold authority and power (over women).
This is benevolent sexism.
Benevolent sexism is seen in ‘chivalrous’ or ‘fatherly’ behaviours.
Yes, help your fellow humans. But if you are only opening doors for women and not others, or if you instruct your daughters to behave a certain way which you don’t also expect from your sons, then there may be some benevolent sexism that you are not yet aware of.
Benevolent sexism also makes us more susceptible to hostile sexism. And we probably are more familiar with those examples.
But hostile sexism often arises from benevolent sexism.
When a woman acts out of place, refuses to conform, or doesn’t respect our patriarchal authority, hostile sexism rears its ugly head.
It’s how a lot of domestic and sexual violence is initiated.
See the problem?
It should not be about ensuring the women in our lives have built a house of bricks to protect themselves against the big bad wolves that are out there.
By doing so, essentially what we are saying to the wolves is “harass someone else”, “abuse someone else”, “rape someone else”. ‘Go visit the house of sticks or straw’.
Instead, we need to turn our attention to our sons, brothers, partners, friends, fathers, grandfathers and grandsons.
We need to ensure that the ‘wolves’ are not allowed to freely roam the corridors of our schools, our workplaces, our streets, our parliament.
We need to educate each other, be uncomfortable with each other, and confront each other.
When a wolf emerges, women will feel safe only when they know that an army of fellow humans will be there to help them, and not side with the wolf.
The wolves are there in plain sight. Some dressed as sheep.
Start with confronting the wolf in the mirror. Because he is there.
When you find him, send me a message and I can help with what to do next.