An open letter to the men we represent
CONTENT WARNING: mentions of gender-based violence, assault and harassment
This week has been very emotionally taxing for women and minority genders in our community. Starting with International Women’s Day on Monday, where social media was covered in pictures from individuals, brands and organisations telling us about the women who lift them up and contribute to their successes. Then for us in the SU, on Tuesday we announced the result of our election where every executive position which was contested by a woman was won by a woman – which is fantastic in terms of representation and such a great step forward.
However, the news this week has been just impossible to ‘switch off’ from. Everything that happened with Meghan Markle in the news, Sarah Everard’s murder, followed by the report that concluded 97% of women have experienced harassment or assault. We’ve seen the vast majority of women and people of minority genders posting on social media about the very real and painful experiences we’ve suffered at the hands of male violence. We could all be Sarah Everard, many of us have almost been Sarah Everard, and there is a very real sense of collective grief and ongoing fear. Some of us are far more at risk of something like this happening to us due to our class, race, religion, sexual orientation and this is something we cannot ignore.
Throughout all of this, what has made us most angry is the silence from the majority of men. Scrolling through social media saying ‘where is their outrage, their anger and dismay?’ and most importantly ‘why aren’t they helping?’ Talking to men in our lives who say things like ‘I don’t feel it’s my place to comment’ an attitude that we have to change if we want to solve this. We’re seeing men taking a step back here, when what we need you to do in order to progress this conversation, is take a step forward. So to the men that we represent, we say this:
If you’re not angry, then you’re not listening to us. It absolutely has to be your place to comment on the discrimination, misogyny and culture which leads to violence against women and minority genders. It shouldn’t have to happen to your mother, daughter or sister for it to matter. I know that it may seem overwhelming and it’s hard to know where to start or how to help – but you cannot continue to be silent on this issue. We’re asking you to talk to your friends, colleagues, team mates, you family even – wherever it is you hold power in your life. Donate your time or money to organisations that protect and support victim-survivors if you can, organise/attend a by-stander training to learn how to intervene, learn to walk a mile in our shoes (at night), stand up for us when your friends use derogatory language, research what all these phrases mean and how misogyny operates - then help us to stamp it out. When we tell you about something that has happened to us, believe us. As hard as it is for many of us to admit, we can’t tackle this without you. So it’s time you stepped up and started taking action.
Amy Smith, Union President
Lexi Ehresmann, Vice-President Education
Sam Davis, Health and Wellbeing Officer
Tash Miller, Sports Participation Officer
Juliette Oliveras, Sports Communication Officer
Nela Cadinanos Gonzalez, Union President Elect
Caitlin Turner, Sustainability Officer Elect
Esme Foxworthy-Bowers, Health and Wellbeing Officer Elect
Sophie Charlton, Sports President Elect
We would also like to note that we completely understand there are several others who have not had the capacity to engage with this topic just now and sign the letter - but nevertheless support the aims.
If you have been affected by this issue please know there is support available for you here.