In the wake of the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard, there was a huge social push to curb the dangers women face on a daily basis. Social media posts were rapidly shared and many had the emphasis on male behaviours; passing responsibility away from the legal system and directing it towards men as a whole. In doing so, men have been collectively vilified which is not only inaccurate, but dangerous to an already big issue that is mens’ mental health.
To provide context to the current surge in tackling women’s safety and sexual harassment, women are three times more likely to be a victim of sexual harassment and nine times more likely to be raped. It is estimated that 20% of women have experienced sexual assault. Furthermore, the number of cases of rape have tripled within the last decade and the number of rape convictions are also at an all time low with less than 2% of suspects even being charged. It is clear something needs to be done to tackle this issue. In today’s world, it is widely viewed that sexual harassment is disgusting, you certainly would not find many, if any, publicly supporting sexual harassment. So why is the current method of tackling the issue directed at all men and the behaviours being permeated by a tiny fraction of the male population?
The crimes of a few have been assigned to the gender of the majority which eradicates any form of individual responsibility and accountability. The justice system does not criminalise people on the basis of their gender, but by the actions of the accused. Within the social media age, there has been a developed talent of pressuring people to prove they are not ‘part of the problem’ by joining in the activism. The post below mentions some genuine examples of sexual harassment. However, by including examples such as “The ones who don’t say anything” or “The ones who are more upset about the issue being raised than the actual issue itself” targets any opposing view on the method to tackle sexual harassment by including them on the same level as the actual crime. The two just do not equate. Opposing the view that getting men to tackle the issue is not the same as sexual harassment.
Some of the other posts provide a list of steps men can take to make women feel safer. Some of these include walking on the other side of the road and walking at a different pace to indicate you are not a threat. Last time I checked, only people found to be guilty of any sort of behaviour is then asked to change how they are. Trying to get all men to follow these steps insinuates that all men are a part of the problem why women do not feel safe. All men are guilty in effect. Again, this post shares some steps that morally, we should all be doing, but to then control normal behaviours by insinuating the utter presence of a man makes women feel unsafe is just not the same and completely unfair.
There are many of these posts used to make men feel guilty of their gender and convince them that they need to change their actions regardless of whether they have actually sexual harassed someone. No one is saying that women’s safety is not important and should not be addressed, but the method currently being used to tackle the issue completely fails to acknowledge the potential impacts on men where many are facing major issues which never seem to be spoken of or addressed: men less likely to talk to someone about mental health; men are almost 4x as likely to be addicted to some form of substance because of poor mental health; 75% of all missing persons are male; more than 80% of rough sleepers are male and are 3x more likely to commit suicide. There is a major issue facing many men – purpose. Men are losing their purpose in life, which leads to lack of responsibility and accountability.
Jordan Peterson has a lecture based on men’s purpose. He highlights that the men most affected by this issue are ‘excluded’ men. Men who are not doing very well in life; they are not as successful as they would like to be. Linking to the method used to address women’s safety, many men are being made to feel guilty of an uncontrolled characteristic. When you then apply Jordon Peterson’s research of who are most impacted and why, there is logic in the hypothesis that the vilification of men will worsen the current crisis many men are facing.
To believe that it must be tackled through society and social pressures, you must believe that we live in a world where sexual harassment is normalised at every stage of life. Schools teach consent and sexual health, parents have a responsibility to make their offspring socially desirable and we have criminalised sexual harassment. The social parameters are already there. So what is the correct method to tackle women’s safety without adverse impacts mentioned on men? The focus of this issue must be addressed within the legal system. According to the Government legislation (section 26), sexual harassment is the unwanted conduct of a sexual nature. This definition leaves a lot of room for debate and is probably why so few cases end in prosecution. The definition allows the crime to be claimed based on the subjectiveness of the victim. Therefore, changing the definition so that it is more precise and less open to interpretation, police will not only be able to more accurately address all claims, but it will also seep into the social parameters of acceptable behaviour resulting in more appropriate social norms where both parties understand what is and is not acceptable.