A lot of men (and women) still have no idea how to help or what to do when it comes to saying ‘not on my watch’. Diana Fisk shares three things that can be done.
‘Is this what I think it is?’ he asked, referring to a #metoo article I shared on my Facebook account.
‘Yes, it is.’
‘Ughhhh. Why didn’t you say something? I wish I had of known, I could have tried to stop it. I am sure there’s something I could have done.’
‘I don’t know.. I had no idea what to do.’ I replied quietly.
As it turns out, neither did he.
There have been a lot of conversations on sexual harassment since the downfall of Harvey Weinstein in October last year, and there are still many conversations to be had.
One thing that’s been concerning for me is the idea that men should be stepping up in some way, to stop this and to be allies for change. This idea is fantastic of course, but it does worry me that a lot of men (and other women) still have no idea how to help or what to do.
I am in the fortunate position of having had a number of men around me that are truly leading by example on this issue. They have been very clear in saying that they want to understand this more, and have made active steps to do so.
I have also recognised men who are hiding away, in hope that it resolves itself on its own. My hope is that they are doing so not because they don’t want change, nor are they concerned about how getting involved would be perceived by others.
My hope is that they are not getting involved due to the fact they have no idea what they can do. If that’s the case – brilliant, because we can change that right now.
Step 1: Be aware
A good friend of mine recently told me a story about an experience he had at Sundance. He was in a conversation with a female journalist and a reasonably well known industry male.
The conversation flowed okay to begin with, but not long into it he started feeling the man in the conversation to be quite overbearing, enough for my friend to want to move on.
Before he left, however, he checked in on the female journalist and recognised something he had not thought to look for before. She was extremely uncomfortable. He also noticed that she was actually blocked in, she was literally backed into a corner and the way in which they were standing gave her nowhere to go.
He decided to step in, in a very subtle way. He was able to shift the way his body was positioned, and that gave the woman a clear exit to remove herself from the conversation.
And within around 30 seconds, she did.
This is a perfect example of how being aware of power dynamics and discomfort can help the people around you. Keep your ears and eyes open, trust your instincts.
Step 2: Check in
There’s a common phrase used at the Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission when they are speaking to survivors of sexual harassment: ‘If you think it’s sexual harassment, it most likely is sexual harassment’.
The same would then apply to onlookers who suspect something may be wrong. If you believe someone is struggling with a sexual harassment experience, they most likely are.
Have you ever heard some work gossip that concerned you?
Do you know someone who is posting a lot of #metoo or #timesup posts all of a sudden?
Are you aware of someone who has openly spoken about an experience and perhaps has not been believed?
It can be incredibly difficult for individuals to speak up and they will often find ways to subtly test the water before opening up. If you suspect something is off it could be a game changer for that person to have a colleague or friend check in on them.
A lot of fear is connected to the concern that they may not be believed, so be the one person that says ‘I see you, I hear you, I am here if you ever want to chat’.
Step 3: Stand up
‘In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’ – Martin Luther King Jnr
For a woman to know that she is supported means a lot. For a woman to know that there is someone willing to stand for her, is huge. The only way we’ll see change is by action, and often the reality is that victims are far too vulnerable or broken to act at the time that is most needed.
If more people were willing to look these predators in the eyes and say ‘not on my watch’, think how quickly the systems would break down.
From personal experience I can tell you that having a number of strong and incredible men stand beside me, changed everything. Not only did I feel supported but I felt their strength to stand up and reclaim my power.
If you are that man listening to all the #metoo and #timesup conversations happening around you, I beg of you to consider these three steps. Things will change for the better, they already are, but it will be a hell of a lot easier with your support.
What side of history do you want to be on?
Diana Fisk is a founding member of NOW Australia, aiming to end sexual harassment, abuse and intimidation in workplaces.