Lizzie Marvelly: 'Hey gentlemen ... it's time to lean in'

Lydia Ko have joined a long list of New Zealand women we can be proud of.
Pictures / Getty Images
Lydia Ko have joined a long list of New Zealand women we can be proud of. Pictures / Getty Images

As a New Zealander, there are few things more satisfying than beating Australia. Especially when our team manage to deliver four sensational wickets in one over. In the lead-up to International Women's Day next week, it seems only fitting that the White Ferns should be in the spotlight, prevailing over Australia in a blaze of girl-power glory.

When it comes to girl power, we've historically had a lot of it. From Kate Sheppard to Dame Whina Cooper to (future leader of the world) Helen Clark, and beyond, bold, brilliant women are a part of our Kiwi legacy that we don't celebrate enough.

Adding Lydia Ko, Lorde, Eleanor Catton and the world champion Black Ferns to the mix, when it comes to our women we have a lot to be proud of.

This International Women's Day, however, I don't think it should be all about the ladies. We need to talk about, and with, men.

Gentlemen, you've heard us banging on about equality for years, and it's time you joined the party. #HeForShe. You need to lean in.

The truth is, we wahine can be as empowered, world-leading and badass as we like, but we won't truly solve the issues that face women without our brothers in arms. Because some of you are part of the problem.

While the White Ferns have been thrashing the Aussies, the lead-up to our day for women this Tuesday has been marred with a very different kind of publicity. "If your dog wasn't in your car, I'd rape you," a young man said to a Dunedin woman last week. His mates found this hilarious, because the idea of committing a violent sexual crime against a woman is apparently the height of comedy.

Then the Family Violence Death Review Committee's report highlighted another trophy in our cabinet of shame: not only do we have the worst rates of sexual violence in the OECD, we also have the worst rates of violence against women.

I know that for some, reading about violence against women results in switching off and checking out. It's unpleasant to think about and the problem seems too huge to take on. But it's the small changes we can all make that would make the difference.

I'm going to get the #NotAllMen disclaimer out of the way right up front; yes, of course not all men are involved in perpetrating violence against women, but such high levels of violence don't occur in isolation. The roots of gendered violence are everywhere, from Hamilton to Ohope, Manurewa to Ponsonby. It starts small: boys calling girls "sluts" at school, groups of guys making sexist jokes, men harassing women in crowded bars; all things that could be dismissed as "having a laugh", or simply "boys being boys".

But when "boys being boys" involves degrading women, is it really all that funny?

Of course, the idiots who drive around yelling rape threats out the window (or on national television) are the minority, but surrounding these overgrown toddlers are people who enable their stupidity.

When their feeble misogynistic jokes are rewarded with laughter, they spread to other idiots, and so the cycle continues.

But when it doesn't happen to you, it can be hard to notice the problem. Take walking past a group of men on the street, for example. As a woman, I instinctively assess the threat level. Will they catcall and make crude comments? Will they reach out to touch or grab me? And that's when they're sober. I'll cross the street to avoid a group of drunk men.

While the threat of violence is on the dark side of the spectrum, on the other side are the more mundane inequalities that are simply part of everyday life.

From paying tax on [apparently luxurious] tampons, to the perception that gender quotas would result in substandard women taking jobs from men (because, the implication tells us, there couldn't possibly be enough great female candidates to fill the allotted quota), the playing field is far from even.

Why are the industries built around the traditionally "female" skills of cleaning and caring so drastically undervalued?

Why is there no female media personality with her own prime time show to take on Mike Hosking and Paul Henry?

Why are we not demanding an action plan from the Government to close the growing gender pay gap? Why do we have only 39 female MPs in Parliament? Why were there no female chief executives of NZX50 companies in 2015?

Gents, I hazard a bet that if it were you being paid 11.8 per cent less than women for the same work, there would be hell to pay. If there were 82 women in Parliament and only 39 men there'd probably be a revolt.

If the CEOs of our 50 most powerful companies were all women ...

The sad thing is that I can't even picture that happening in order to imagine its effect.

From disrespect and violent treatment to accepting a status quo in which women are valued less, they are different shades of the same colour.

The majority of men wouldn't dream of hurting a woman. The majority of men are also not demanding that the powers that be close the pay gap.

I have no doubt that later today I'll be called a "tart", "bimbo" or much worse for writing this, slights relying on the idea that women are stupid and/or sexual objects to deliver their sting.

For some men who disagree with my opinions, the fact that I'm female would appear to add insult to injury.

But on Tuesday, differences of opinion aside, I hope you'll join women the world over in taking a moment to think about parity. Whether for yourself, your wife, your girlfriend, your daughter, your sister, your mother or any other woman in your life, they all deserve better.

We know that "all men are created equal". Now we just need to add "to women" at the end.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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