I like to think I’m respectful to everyone, not just women. It’s just that at the moment I find myself questioning every interaction I have with female colleagues. I know I’m over reacting, well, probably. Female colleagues often seek me out in the communal areas to say hello and chat so I must be doing something right, maybe. This maelstrom of abuse stories, claims and counter claims has just about the whole of the (normal, respectful) male population running for cover. I don’t think many men really understood this problem, nor it’s impact or scale and this has really caught most of us by surprise, though maybe it shouldn’t have.
Don’t get me wrong, I hate what has been happening but I am really struggling to know how to respond. The victims are telling their stories. Those that know the victims are offering support. The guilty are rushing for counselling so that they don’t have to admit responsibility and the (ex)friends of the guilty are distancing themselves as fast as possible. I don’t think I know any predators, I don’t know any victims that I’m aware of, I’m not a victim myself so I’m left wondering what to do, what is the right way to react to this? This is a problem with a minority of the male population so should the rest of us have known, are we guilty of complacency? Should I be apologising? There are very few male voices speaking out in support unless they’re asked. It feels like that if a male speaks up now, without being prompted it would look like a) attention seeking or b) a distraction, a guilty man trying to divert attention from his behaviour.
I don’t think any victims are interested in hearing what men have to say, it’s all about the victims stories which I can’t say I disagree with. So most men are playing it safe and keeping quiet. For me, the only thing I can think of to help is to look for this behaviour in the men around me and do something about it if I see it, which seems a bit inadequate but I am struggling to come up with something more worthy.
I have in the past unwittingly helped female friends avoid the attention of predators. I feel a little pride in providing that help, even though I didn’t realise the significance of what I was doing at the time.
Back in my younger days I would often be used by women in my social circle as a sort of protector; whenever they were approached, they would say ‘sorry, I’m with him’ pointing at me. I should point out I am a big guy, over six feet tall and broad shouldered. It always bemused me as to why I was needed like that, but was happy to help even when not really understanding the extent of why.
I see the consequences of these predators everywhere now. Women in the street avoiding eye contact with any men they pass, or pretending to talk on the phone. All of them using strategies to avoid being singled out for attention, trying to be ignored.
It makes me sad that they have to do this and that I never even noticed it happening until now. All of this adds up to sense of complete inadequacy for the moment. I have no real contribution to make to this, something that feels like I am actually helping in some way. It’s very frustrating, I’m just hoping that in time, something will appear that allows me to help stop this happening. Apart from watching the men around me, there seems little for me to do. I don’t actually think any of the men around me seem likely to be sexual predators but there is one thing all these stories have taught me, you can never really know so I’ll watch them anyway.