Jill Meagher. Eurydice Dixon. Aiia Maasarwe. Sarah Everard. They were all just trying to get home. Geographically you might not have walked their path, but as a woman, we’ve all shared similar footsteps. We’ve crossed the road to avoid being “catcalled”; walked at pace with headphones in but no music on just so we can hear if someone approaches us; fingers pressed tight against our phone, ready to call for help; not breathing a sigh of relief until we’re home, door locked (and checked twice).
It’s a narrative that people who identify as female have lived day in, day out for years, but in recent weeks the conversation is back in the headlines. And why? Because yet another woman has lost her life in a senseless act, and many more have csome forward to bravely reveal experiences of sexual assault—Brittney Higgins, we see you and we hear you.
In Australia, the national gender pay gap currently sits at 14%. Not shocking enough? How about the fact that one in two women have experienced sexual harassment and are three times more likely than men to have experienced violence inflicted by a partner since the age of fifteen. The statistics are even worse for women of colour and those in the queer community. The facts are simple, women are not—and have never been—on an even playing field.
While this might seem like a redundant article for many, we’re writing this in the hopes that men will stop, listen and educate themselves on how they can be a better ally for women because quite simply, this has got to stop.
Here are just a few ways everyone can be a better ally to women.
Call Out Sexist Behaviour
Ever heard your mates whistling or shouting remarks at a woman when she walks by? Just because you didn’t do it yourself doesn’t mean you’re not accountable for your friend’s actions. Silence says you condone it. While it might seem harmless to you, actions like this can and do make women extremely uncomfortable and they set the tone for a culture that needs to be put to rest. To be quite honest, we’re pretty sick of having to swap our skirt for jeans and our heels for runners just to lessen the chances of being hollered at. Think it’s a compliment? It’s not, so please keep these thoughts to yourself. While no one likes confrontation, we ask that you explain to your mate how uncomfortable unsolicited comments make people feel. While it might feel awkward in the moment, you can bet it feels a whole lot worse for the female in the situation who could be your sister/girlfriend/cousin/aunty but, most importantly, is a human being.
Push For Equality In The Workplace
We know the pay gap between men and women is real—according to the government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, women’s average weekly earnings across all industries and occupations is $1,558.40 compared to men’s average earnings of $1,812.00. Rather than ignore this stat and keep scrolling, be an ally for women in your workplace. Not sure how? Start with your language.
Ever heard—or been guilty yourself—of calling female colleagues “bossy” or “overly sensitive”? Often, if the situation was flipped a male might be called “assertive” or “thoughtful” in the same circumstances. If you hear this kind of language from your colleagues, ask them for specific examples of why they’re using that kind of language and point out the bias in their actions. Not comfortable doing that? Talk to HR about it and see how your office can implement house rules around language.
According to Lean In, gender-blind studies have consistently shown that removing gender from decisions improves women’s chances of success. One study found that replacing a woman’s name with a man’s name on a résumé improved the odds of getting hired by 61 percent. If you’re in a management position at your place of work, look at your current executive team. Is there an even distribution of men and women? If not, challenge yourself, and your colleagues as to why that’s the case, and create a plan to diversify. To be an ally you need to stop just accepting things ‘as they are’ and really challenge gender bias head on.
Educate Yourself And Others
First off, we recommend sitting down and watching the recently released, Promising Young Woman starring Carey Mulligan. The thought-provoking flick shines a light on the uneven power balance between men and women in a brutal, raw and oh so realistic way. Is it an uncomfortable watch? You bet! Should you watch and encourage your male identifying mates to as well? Heck yes. Next up, check out books like See What You Made Me Do by investigative journalist Jess Hill–it deep dives into domestic abuse and violence in Australia.
And finally, at a base level, try to learn more about the female experience by listening to us talk about it first hand. Ask your female identifying friends what they’ve gone through and how you can help. You might not even be aware of the small things you can do that will make a huge impact. Check out these female hosted podcasts and incredible reads from female authors.
Join The Fight
Over the last week, rallies have taken place across the country with women and allies taking to the street in the Women’s March 4 Justice. If you’re not familiar, the community action organisation is calling for action on several important things you should know about:
A full police investigation of rape and sexual assault allegations, and misconduct by Members of Parliament and staff.
An independent wide-reaching review commissioned by the High Court of gendered violence in Australia’s Parliaments including Federal Parliament.
Australia wide strategies for deep cultural change in workplaces, and the political and criminal justice systems, focused on promoting equality, respect, fairness, integrity and a level playing field for all.
A Federal ICAC—Independent Commission Against Corruption.
While most of the marches have already taken place, that’s the only beginning of what can be done. You can head here to sign the organisation's petition to Parliament demanding action on gendered violence. And while you’re at it, head here to donate to the March 4 Justice Go Fund Me page.
While you're at it, read up on how you can be a better trans ally too.
Image Credit: Lechatnoir/Getty