Whenever a woman is hurt or killed at the hands of a male stranger she has just met, we soon hear the comment that she should have been more careful, that women should not go into dark or confined spaces with a man they do not really know, or trust someone they have just met in a bar or on a dating site.
This is often the reaction of women, especially older women, and it is not wrong. It is good advice. But when men hear or read this advice, they should get angry and ashamed. Angry that women need to take precautions that a man does not. Ashamed that men have made these warnings necessary. Not all men of course, not even most. But it is a blight on manhood than any men can do violence to a woman.
When crimes like the murder of Grace Millane occur, criticism and blame is often directed at a male culture of violence in this country but this may be counterproductive. It can give perpetrators they impression they are typical Kiwi men when in fact they are not. It goes against the grain of most men to strike a women. Their deepest instincts — their sense of themselves as men — recoil from the very idea of using their physical strength to hurt a woman.
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Men who do violence to women should be made aware of how despicable they are in the eyes of other men. If they talk about it or joke about it to other men they should be treated with utter contempt. This might not be what the prominent women calling for action today mean when they say to the men of New Zealand, "If your male friends are discussing women in a degrading manner, ask them to stop". But it will take more than that.
Psychologists will say that contempt does not help, that men who hit women are probably already suffering low self-esteem and that may be contributing to their behaviour. But we need to get through to those men and gentle expressions of disapproval such as they have been reading and hearing for decades, have not done much to reduce violence towards women.
Grace Millane's murder has moved New Zealand more than any such crime for some time. The reasons are obvious. In her photographs she looks very young and vulnerable and she was a visitor here. The whole country feels the shame so well expressed by the Prime Minister when she said to the Millane family, "Your daughter should have been safe here and she wasn't. I'm sorry for that."
The family has been moved by the vigils around New Zealand, as has their village in England and the UK media, but we know our response is not just that of a small population of nice people. We know we have a problem. Maybe no worse a problem than comparable countries but we should be better than them, precisely because being a small country makes it easier for us to change.
The most effective change can come from men, all men who find themselves in the company of those who do not respect women. Those men should know how unmanly they really are. And when that fact is generally realised we might become a country in which a woman have all the ordinary human rights and freedoms of travel and safety that men take for granted. We can do it.