Whenever I raise conversation about male violence toward women and the lack of equality, I get comments usually from men, offended by the discussion of male perpetrated violence. These men take great lengths to remind me that they’re decent blokes and ‘it’s not fair and it’s not true.’ If I want their ongoing support, I had jolly well better start being nicer to them.
Let’s define what they mean by ‘decency.’ Is it, for example, the number of men who stand by when they listen to comments that men have a right to discipline their partners for misbehaving? Is it drawn from those folks who want women to know that even though they’re not saying it’s their fault, they bought the trouble on themselves; they should not have provoked him. Is it drawn from a belief that if men made the decisions and took control in relationships abuse wouldn’t happen? Is it found in the proportions of men who talk about how it’s women’s own incompetency that’s holding them back from sitting in positions of power or being paid equal wages for equal work? Is it in the number of men who wax lyrical about how ‘ugly’ women are when they express a robust opinion
No, apparently all it takes to be considered a ‘decent bloke’ these days is to take an each way bet at doing nothing – nothing to perpetuate oppression, and nothing to stop it. Edmund Burke once wrote, “In order for evil to flourish, all that is required is for good men to do nothing.” It seems particularly appropriate when discussing the inaction of otherwise inoffensive men when it comes to gender violence. Doing nothing, be it bad or good, is not enough to actually promote respect and equality. Real action is required, even when it makes you feel awkward, even when it ruins the mood – even when it might shift the target of ridicule onto you.