I am a white 50 plus year old male who has enjoyed a career largely in Leadership roles. As such, over a 30 year period, I could have, should have, been far more proactive in countering inappropriate workplace and societal behaviours.
It is easy to do as many of my generation do and use the excuse that “times were different then” or “what was acceptable then is not ok now”. Such an excuse is invalid.
The fact is, it was never, ever OK. Never.
Too many times I have sat in a male environment and been a party to conversations that demeaned women. Too few times have I called this out as being unacceptable.
As a participant in team sports for most of my life, I was in a male environment of competitive people where success is bound to a need for a healthy ego. Competition was not only on the field. What I will refer to as “off field achievements” were discussed openly within the confines of the “locker room”, at after match drinks or other gatherings.
It could be argued that much of what was being “bragged” about was not true but that is not the point. The fact that such demeaning conversations occurred could not help but reflect even if only sub-consciously in the way us males treated and viewed women on a day by day basis.
I never really called out the inappropriateness of such conversations and only occasionally made an excuse to leave the discussion. On a very rare occasion I did ask the question “how would you feel about your sister being spoken of in such a manner” but not often.
I may not have been an active contributor to such conversations, however I was there and was therefore a participant. Passive participation is no better.
The most damaging thing about this behaviour is how it was passed down from generation to generation. 16 year olds were exposed to the environment and learned to be immune to it and then perpetuate it.
The proverbial Locker Room is not a sanctuary where inappropriate behaviour in any form is excusable. There is no Locker Room moratorium.
Conversations taking place in any environment that are demeaning to Women, or demeaning to any group of people only serve to legitimise the behaviours that are perpetrated towards Woman and others. This is then reflected in broader society.
We are very quick to call on our high-profile sports people to set an example, and critise them when they don’t. They do have a role to play, however far more can be achieved at the local sporting club.
New minimum standards can be set by the many incredibly dedicated suburban sporting club volunteers.
The Presidents, Secretaries, Committee Members, Coaches, Canteen Staff, Grounds People, Jersey Launderers, Equipment Officers and others. Collectively, they are in contact with and in a position to influence the behaviours of many thousands of boys, youths, young men and adults. Collectively, they care.
Boys learn so many positive things through team sport such as working together, selflessness, resilience, discipline and tolerance. It is an obvious environment to instil respect, understanding and proper behaviour standards towards women.
There has been huge progress made to reducing smoking in our society and this has been driven by education at all levels starting at a young age. Few teenagers and even fewer males take up smoking. It is socially unacceptable, it is not a cool thing to do.
We must make inappropriate behaviour towards women equally as uncool, and then some.
Perhaps it is time to launch the campaign #iamonboard
To the Women of the world, I apologise.
To the women of the world, I promise to do better, always.