Men need to take a long look at their behaviour

PUBLISHED: 12:43 11 November 2017

File photo dated 28/10/15 of Harvey Weinstein. Picture Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

File photo dated 28/10/15 of Harvey Weinstein. Picture Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

This is an uncomfortable time to be a man.

The Harvey Weinstein allegations opened the floodgates in Hollywood, as women and men felt empowered to tell of their own experiences of sexual harassment and assault.

Kevin Spacey and Steven Seagal are highly likely to have other big names for company on the list of the accused as the scandal deepens.

Over here, the storm has engulfed the House of Commons.

Inappropriate touching, sexist comments and much more are the allegations being made against some male MPs.

It would be easy to fall back on centuries of male conditioning and say that women need to learn to take a joke or a compliment.

I prefer to take the harder path, though. That path is the one where all men take a long look at themselves.

It’s most likely very awkward. For while the Weinsteins and Spaceys are relatively rare, the vast majority of us are guilty of casual sexism.

Men, have a think about the last time you got together with your mates over a few beers. Was the talk about women entirely respectful? What did you say about your wives? Did you make a woman in the pub feel uncomfortable by staring at her and nudging your mate?

Sexism is still endemic, and what is happening right now will be making many men think.

And so we are uncomfortable. What can we say to a woman? When is a touch inappropriate? Have we crossed the line? Where is the line?

But so what if we are uncomfortable? It’s a small price to pay for the culture change that is long overdue.

Every year of history has been an uncomfortable one in which to be a woman.

Across the planet, men have dominated women.

They transport them like cattle to be sex slaves, force them to cover their bodies, beat them, abuse them and overlook them.

The world is dominated by men and the results are nothing for us to be proud of.

Britain today is one of the least worst places, but there is still a scandalous power imbalance.

In the Commons, in boardrooms, in offices and in most places of power, men dominate.

Women have to work harder to get where men get. And along the way they often face being belittled, patronised and even abused.

It’s just a bit of fun, isn’t it? Banter, a compliment, a joke?

The line is not clear, but I’d suggest that if something makes a person feel uncomfortable, that line has been crossed.

Sadly, many men cross the line. And don’t try to pretend that you’re above reproach.

I am part of the problem. You are part of the problem. And we need to be part of the solution.

The culture will not change unless we all do our bit. So, however uncomfortable it is, I think we need to challenge our behaviour and confront our thinking.

For while the big things make the headlines, it is the small things that combine to create the culture.

Harvey Weinstein was able to put women through Hell because he had the solid foundations of Hollywood misogyny to stand upon.

Abusers in the Commons benefited from the same in the corridors of power.

If each of us addresses our own behaviour and attitudes, those foundations should crumble.

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