Late to the Party

Late to the Party

I have a friend who is notorious for arriving late to gatherings.

Frequently 2-3 hours late. And if there’s acknowledgement and an apology, it’s usually quite superficial.

This frustrates me greatly, but I know calling him out about it only sours the gathering.

Noone enjoys themselves.

Instead, I choose to be thankful that he’s there.

There are obviously reasons why he arrives when he does, and so I choose not to judge and hope that one day he will sort out these reasons. Maybe even one day understand how it feels for the host who has put in the effort.

Men are arriving late to the gender equality conversation.

Some of us are showing up with a ‘champion’ status, expecting the people who are already there to be so appreciative that they have popped by, amongst other important things in our schedule.

Some of us have awkwardly arrived, and don’t know what to say, how to interact, not really clear on whether we should be here.

Some of us feel like we have arrived in a courtroom, awaiting trial. We are deciding how we are going to plead, and preparing our defence.

Some of us are still circling the neighbourhood, checking if we have the correct address.

Some of us have declined the invitation – perhaps opting to stay home as a mark of respect to those who are attending. “It’s not about me.”

For the people who have been in the conversation for a while, these newcomers are met with mixed emotions.

For some ‘hosts’, they have been regularly extending the invitation to the men, but perhaps weren’t prepared for when and, more crucially HOW, men would show up.

For some, the arrival of others has changed the vibe of the conversation, and where so much work has been put into ensuring this has been a safe space, now it doesn’t feel as safe.

For some, there is resentment there. And some are looking for the male attendees to make a mistake so that they can unleash the frustration that has been building.

It’s an awkward place to be for everyone. Everyone is feeling uncomfortable.

The truth is that we all need to feel uncomfortable in order to learn and to develop ourselves.

We are all going to say awkward things, feel a full spectrum of emotions, and behave in ways that we may regret afterwards.

But it’s a good thing that we are here.

It’s a good thing that we are arriving, however, and whenever that is.

The more time men spend in the conversation, the more opportunities we have to listen and understand, and the better we will get at participating.

For the other genders, this may require some more patience. Some of you have been in this conversation for a long time, and so your tolerance is wearing thin. I get it.

Let’s choose to see it as a positive that we are here.

Meanwhile, I’m sorry I’ve arrived late.

Are you showing up? How did you arrive? Or how are you planning to arrive?

Why doesn’t Brittany want our sympathy as fathers?

Why doesn’t Brittany want our sympathy as fathers?

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.

I wouldn’t have behaved that way

I wouldn’t have behaved that way

There is a difference between “I wouldn’t have behaved that way” and telling someone else “they shouldn’t have behaved that way”.

I think we should remember this. At all times. Telling other people how they should behave, positions us as the expert in behaviour standards. 

Looking at the exchange between Scott Morrison and Grace Tame – I wouldn’t have behaved that way. 

But I wouldn’t have behaved that way because I’m a privileged white male and conforming to patriarchal standards comes relatively easy to me. And when I choose not to conform, people don’t care as much and are more forgiving. 

❌ I haven’t been abused – sexually, emotionally or physically. 

❌ I haven’t struggled to find my voice or speak honestly, or struggled to find the confidence or courage to say and do what I wanted. 

❌ I haven’t experienced grooming and being told what to say and do by someone who uses their entitlement over me. 

❌ I haven’t been recognised for my advocacy and activism with Australian of the Year. 

“I wouldn’t behave that way” should prompt us to consider and challenge WHY we wouldn’t. 

Then we should compare this to WHY someone else may have acted differently, appreciating that we actually know so little about that person. 

Finally, in light of that reflection, we should ask whether we STILL have a problem with the behaviour that warrants us to take action to call out, criticise, give feedback or coach them. 

But I don’t have the right to tell someone else how they should behave.

And so I’m simply sharing my perspective – I wouldn’t have behaved that way. 

If a guest had arrived at my residence, looking noticeably upset, I wouldn’t have ignored it, smiled, and pushed them into a photo op. 

I would have enquired “Are you ok?” Or “You look upset. What’s the matter?” 

I would like to think that my emotional intelligence would have kicked in, and I would have expressed concern and empathy, listened to how they were feeling, and asked what support they needed. 

Mind you, I would also like to think that I would have been more attuned to someone else’s state of mind that I would have had this conversation earlier, away from the public eye. 

But I wasn’t there. And I don’t have the right to tell someone else how they should behave.