Men swear to change

November 25, 2009

Every couple of months a story breaks about footy players abusing women, and we are all rightly appalled. We shake our heads and wonder what the hell the men were thinking, and why their teammates did nothing to stop it. We call for the codes to get tough, but rarely do we look at the ways in which we ourselves contribute to the problem, and we rarely seek to do anything, at an individual level, to change it.

Today is White Ribbon Day, a perfect opportunity to ask ourselves what we can do. And the first step is to acknowledge that the poor behaviour towards women that seems so prevalent among our footy stars is a reflection of Australia's bad behaviour in general.

At least one in three Australian women at some stage experiences violence at the hands of a man. Violence outstrips obesity, smoking, drink-driving and breast cancer as the leading contributor to death, disability and illness for women in the prime of life. These women are our wives, our daughters, our sisters, our girlfriends, our colleagues and our friends. And whether we are aware of it or not, every one of us knows a woman who has suffered the appalling effects of violence.

By virtue of being raised a man in our society, most men will have contributed to the problem in some way over the years. I can think of countless times in my own life when I've laughed at sexist jokes, for example, even when I felt uncomfortable, just because I felt too small to speak up. Or when I've seen friends or colleagues disparage their partners and been too embarrassed to say anything.

I've known people who were living in situations of abuse and had no idea what to do, and consequently did very little. And I admit that at times in my life, I've behaved in ways that fell somewhere on the spectrum between insensitive and scurrilous, ways that have been hurtful to women I love, and excused that behaviour on the basis that, well, that's what men are like, and it didn't really mean anything anyway.

But it does mean something. Every time I behave that way, I am supporting the belief that men have rights and privileges greater than those of women, or that somehow men have a special place in the world that isn't shared by women. It doesn't mean that I beat my wife. But for many men, that belief is the basis of the notion that it's OK to beat your wife, that it's OK to run your partner down, or to treat women merely as objects of sex. Because those forms of abuse are all based on the notion of male power and privilege.

And it's that notion we need to change if we are ever to change the statistics. Until now, we have tended to deal with violence against women after the fact, through our police, our courts, our hospitals and women's refuges. It's a constant mop-up operation.

Wouldn't it be better if we never spilled the blood to start with? If we could actually prevent violence occurring in the first place?

It is possible - but we all have a role to play, from individuals and governments to organisations and workplaces, starting when children are small.

The Federal Government's plan to combat violence against women, Time for Action, has many recommendations about respectful relationship education in schools. We must agitate so that the issue remains a top priority for our leaders, state and federal.

We must also seek to target boys outside the school environment, especially in sports clubs. While sportsmen may be no more inclined towards violence against women that the male population as a whole, the AFL and NRL are the first to concede that they are powerful tribes in Australian society, and that their players are role models and must be above reproach.

Most importantly, we need to target men and boys through their most important influences. For boys, this will be their dads, because we all know how formative the example of a parent is. If you read to kids, they will read; if you love kids, they will love; if you show them what respect means, they will respect themselves and each other. For adults, it will be their mates and colleagues.

With both their sons and their mates, men need to start doing some things that sound so simple, but which most of us find difficult - speak up when we feel that our buddies are putting women down; do something when we know or suspect that abuse is occurring; to act as a role model in our own relationship by treating our partner with respect; and to teach our sons and daughters what it means to respect women and respect themselves.

Essentially, it all boils down to men making a very simple pledge: that from now on, I will not commit, excuse or stay silent about violence against women. That's the White Ribbon oath. And if we could get every Australian male to sign up, we could end violence against women in this country.

Of course, it might take decades before the name of every single Australian man is on the list. But if we can achieve that, we stand a good chance of fostering a generation of Australians who truly understand that men and women are equal, that all people deserve respect, and that violence against women is never acceptable in any form.

Channel Seven presenter Andrew O'Keefe is chairman of White Ribbon Day, the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The oath may be signed at www. myoath . com . au  





Commentary by the Ottawa Mens


My god, Andrew O'Keefe, you know, the same one whose employer recently forked out the grand sum of $25,000 to "buy" a video, of well, "aberrant public behaviour" and now, this gutless wonder decides to insult every male in Australia, every Australian male everywhere with a blatant promotion of hatred towards men.

Andrew O'Keefe, wishes us to believe that men, real men, assault women at such vast numbers, that there needs to be a special day to commemorate, "female victims".

Andrew O'Keefe, needs not just a check up from the neck up but if, he was asked to drop his pants, judging by his article, we might find that two round objects are missing.

Most Australian men are very protective towards women and would never hit a woman. The fact is most women, will under the excuse of PMS, suddenly start having delusions that their loving husband is a creep from hell.

Its during those mad moments that the feminist propaganda goes to their head and they frequently decide to assault him, or even worse, engage in psychological abuse, psychological terrorism that is a hell of a lot more damaging than one black eye or even double black eyes.

Hell, my first wife used to punch me in the head after hearing voices talking to her and that, was a hell of lot less painful than never seeing my daughter again, thanks to man hating family court judges who are indoctrinated with the promotion of hatred towards men, as frothed by the likes of Andrew O'Keefe.

And he calls himself a Australian Male.

Its enough to make you want to puke.