It’s been two months since Australia first learnt about Brittany Higgins’ rape by a staffer in a senior minister’s office. Since then, we’ve been subjected to allegations of rape raised against an Attorney General, to the news about masturbation over another MP’s desk, to other stories from female politicians and staffers about their experiences of sexual assault, harassment and other misconduct, and to strategic references to there being similar problems in both major parties. There have been declamatory statements from the PM and other senior political figures about the awfulness of the acts and the need to support the women concerned, in part through investigations into ‘workplace culture’. Heart-warming descriptions of protective feelings towards one’s daughters and wise advice from one’s marital partner…
To date, there has been almost nothing about the gendered nature of this culture inside of our national Parliament. Specifically, there has been little or no calling out the men who have been the overwhelming number of instigators and enablers of this toxic and abusive behaviour. The focus has been on either the women who have been on the receiving end of abuse and assault, or the nebulous, undefined ‘workplace culture’ that infects our seat of government. As if it’s just a workplace problem.
Where is the holding to account the men who have been subjecting women to sexual assault and sexual harassment?
Where’s the calling out of the men who protect perpetrators by covering it up, or enable it by being silent when it’s happening in front of them, or make behind-her-back jokes, or minimise the seriousness of what they see?
Sexual assault and the environment that breeds it is largely the province of the men who work there. Yes, it happens to women, and it’s done by women too. And by men to men. But we know this is mainly a gender issue. What’s still missing is a bipartisan, loud and ongoing acknowledgement that the men who work in Parliament are responsible for taking a stand against this aspect of Australian culture and society.
If it's a political issue at all, it's because many voters want to deny that this is a gender issue, and many politicians are more interested in re-election than they are about sending a clear message to the men of Australia.
Too bad. Male politicians and staffers need to speak directly to all of the men (including themselves) who let rape and sexual assault and harassment and discrimination happen, by action and by doing nothing.
And say what?
That we want men in Australia to aspire to something much greater than what so many of us are settling for right now. That every man is responsible for making this country safe for the women who live in it. That we want the behaviour to stop. That we want you to stand up for every single woman in Australia - not just your daughter or your sister or your wife or mother.
Every. Single. Woman.
This article was written by Greg Aldridge, CEO EveryMan Australia