2018 has arrived and with it the spotlight fully focussed on women, just as it was 100 years previously with votes for some women being won by the suffragettes resulting in the Representation of the People Act of 1918. However, in 2018, we still have a way to go before we achieve equality, particularly in the workplace with issues such as equal pay and sexual harassment being the hot topics.
During my time working as the founder and creative director of The Butterfly Foundation, a local arts-based domestic abuse charity, we worked with many survivors of domestic abuse, women and men. Through utilising the healing power of the creative arts, we supported women and men to empower themselves, to overcome the trauma of abuse, gain in confidence, self-worth and to have a voice. It is my understanding that the abuse is the same whoever is perpetrating it i.e. male to female, female to male or in same sex relationships and the impact of that abuse is felt the same whoever is the victim of the abuse.
I appreciate that the crimes of sexual harassment, stalking, domestic abuse are NOT equal i.e.
- 53% of women and 20% of men had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace or at their place of study
- 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men will experience stalking in their lifetime
- 84% of all reported domestic abuse crime is men perpetrating abuse against women
and that domestic abuse particularly is recognised as a gender crime and rightly so.
I always found it interesting that because we also supported men within the charity, there were some women that didn’t agree with this (not necessarily women we supported within the charity). I also found it interesting that when discussing the charity there was an assumption it was a woman only group. I came across attitudes from some men (perpetrators) that ridiculed all-women groups, that because it was women, it was acceptable to put it down, de-value it, thereby extending the perpetrator attitude, not just towards a female but directing it towards an assumed all-female group.
I have attended many anti-violence protests in my time, anti-war protests and attended rallies and marches that are all-female, protesting against violence against women and girls. However, I have concluded that women’s groups, campaigns and marches can benefit and be stronger with a few good men adding their support and voices to the cause also, just as a few good men influenced and supported the suffragette movement. In fact, I think its necessary as women-only groups, campaigns, marches can become an easy target for perpetrator men who want to criticise, ridicule and undermine the rights of women.
There are some concerns around this as it is known that perpetrators will infiltrate campaigns, conferences and marches in an attempt to either undermine or hide behind them such as the recent publicity with the actor James Franco and the Time’s Up campaign.
However, with a few good men standing up and adding their voices in support of women, the message that is sent out to society is stronger and can weaken the destructive purpose of the perpetrator. Perpetrators of violence and abuse are basically cowards, they rely on each other colluding with their negative attitudes and behaviour. They will soon beat a hasty retreat once a few good men stand up and point the finger at them, in support of the women who may be their mother, daughter, sister, friend, work colleague.
In today’s social climate with the increasing acceptance and freedom to inhabit sexual identity and gender, it is even more important, I believe, to stand up together against violence and abuse, to join voices and shout out that violence, abuse, harassment and inequality is not to be tolerated, either at home, in the street or in the workplace. The evidence of this is happening all over the world as hundreds of thousands of people have been galvanised into action through attending the women’s marches: London 21 January 2018 Women’s March for Gender Equality.