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A New Hope – A Conversation with the next generation of men

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It’s become clear that the recent tragedy of Sarah Everand has caused a lot of men to feel extremely threatened and attacked. Unjustified clearly.

I’m sure most women have had the sinking feeling in their stomachs when broaching the topic of female safety with the men in their lives.

Calls of ‘not all men’, ‘stop being dramatic’ replay over and over in the minds of women around the country.

Watching and waiting to see what men are posting on social media and what boys aren’t.  It’s exhausting and it isn’t good enough. Sarah Everand made me feel as this was never going to end, I was never going to feel safe.

 I became terrified I’d be dealing with this when I have a daughter. The fact that the slogan ‘Reclaim the Night’ has reappeared is a bittersweet moment considering the campaign was originally created during the 70s when the Yorkshire Ripper was rife and women were being told the same thing we are now, it’s our own fault for going out late at night

It is nearly 50 years later. I can only imagine how mothers and grandmothers must be feeling seeing the same words being used with their daughters protesting the same things they did. The feeling they have failed their daughters because nothing has changed. 

It has to start with men.

There is only so much women can do with this problem, only so much we can go through and so much trauma we can take. Men need to step up and some have in the past fortnight but many haven’t. Finding out which men in your life aren’t actively supporting the basics is upsetting. The number of men you feel safe around slowly dwindles. Your opinions change on people and you will remember that for years to come.

It had been a tiring week but surprisingly the thing that made me hope was a Facetime call with my 13-year-old brother Will. 

I wanted to talk to him about everything that was going on currently. 

He has been raised with two older sisters, both of us strong minded, ambitious and stubborn, myself backpacking the world at 18 and my sister in the midst of her veterinary applications.

Neither feat we could have achieved without the support of our mum pushing our ambition and helping with any goal we set our mind to. His cousin Annabelle can beat the majority of the boys in her crossfit class and his grandmother was one of the first specialist dieticians in the country. He has seen the 1st place Crufts trophy our great great aunt won and heard stories about our Great Aunt Madeline backpacking across Peru on her own.

Put bluntly he has been surrounded by some of the most amazing women I know his entire life. It has never been a question about the power women have. Even so I wanted to chat to him about this specifically about females safely and the importance of male support. He’s so used to female independence I wanted to make sure he knew this didn’t mean women didn’t need support.

Initially, he hadn’t heard much about Sarah Everard. I took him through what had happened and why it has triggered conversations and protests. We discussed what he thought men could be doing and interestingly for me the main aspect he picked up was how important it was for men to listen to women. 

“Listen to women and listen to when they say they need help”

He couldn’t pick out specifics that men could do; walking women home at night, calling friends out on their behaviour, using their gender but the fact he picked up the listening aspect was interesting to me. A real problem in recent days has been not listening to women, sidetracking and diverting conversations or just straight up denying and refusing to accept what women are saying. Barely listening and believing women’s previous stories quickly leads to not listening to what women want to change now. 

I also asked him why he thought that it was worse that a policeman is accused of doing this, regardless as to whether he was on duty or not. He said (word for word very eloquently I might add) “Well it’s a misguided sense of trust”. 

My proudest moment of the call was when I broached the ‘Not all Men’ response. I did not assume he’d understand the phrase or its gravity in nullifying women’s feelings. So when I asked what he thought about it and he said quite matter of factly “Well it reminds me of Black Lives Matter happening and people would say White lives matter or all lives matter”. He went on to say it sounds like men use it to distance themselves from the other men. 

The sheer fact that my brother who is a child could understand the problem with this response better than full grown men I’ve argued with this over. It astonished me. I had been on the edge recently of believing that I was a crazy extremist feminist, that nothing I said made sense. He made it seem so simple to understand. It’s bizarre a 13-year-old could restore faith in my own abilities.

It’s clear that the environment Will has grown up in has affected his maturity on views. As well as the women in his life, our dad was the complete opposite of toxic masculinity. He cried at ‘Inside Out’ every time, studied Art History at university and was always so open about his emotions. Dad never was motivated by Toxic masculinity, so Will wasn’t either. 

Not every boy has this growing up. Yes it makes it easier for him to understand these feminist concepts but that doesn’t mean there is an excuse for men to not educate themselves especially when it is so prominent right now. 

My point with this conversation is not to excuse some men’s views because they didn’t have the right views taught as children but to show that a child can understand this. So you can too, you just choose not to because it is uncomfortable for you to accept you are part of the problem. We keep saying things like we all have to work together it takes two genders to fix this, no it takes one. 

I am so proud that my brother is part of the next generation of men that will be changing society for the better. But I don’t want to wait that long. A new hope is coming but I don’t want to have lost all of mine by the time it gets here.

Featured image credit – Charlotte Sutcliffe

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