On Wednesday 12th August, the ANU Circle for Gender Equity held a panel discussion on the role of men in promoting gender equality. The event showcased diverse perspectives from the female and male panellists. These included Julia Diprose, ANU graduate and Communications and Media Coordinator for UN Women Australia; Dr Patrick Kilby, lecturer at the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology; and Tasman Bain, a White Ribbon Ambassador and social scientist at the University of Queensland (UQ).
With a mostly female audience, the event gave an optimistic yet challenging view of men’s involvement on the issue of gender inequality. The audience were informed of some shocking facts regarding the status of women: one in three, or 35%, of women around the world will experience violence at some stage during her life, regardless of age, social class, or race.
“I believe this figure is unacceptable. I believe this figure is devastating,” Diprose commented.
The panelists expressed their alarm that this already high figure was most likely understated, with Dr. Kilby stating: “Some bloke said to me it can’t be that high – my answer is that it can’t be that low!” He then gave background information about obstacles to the feminist movements both through history and across the world, ending with the fact that many movements have been initiated by women from the third world or developing countries.
Bain, who conversed through Skype, suggested ways in which men could engage in the discussion, including critiquing discrimination, working in solidarity, and challenging stereotypical gender roles. Directly supporting organisations that advocate for equality, and exposure to popular culture content produced by women were also amongst the ways he described. Most importantly, Bain said, they must “listen, listen and listen”.
All in all, the main thought taken from the panel was that little things do matter. The panellists agreed that communication was the key to involving men in gender equality, as well as advancing its process. Ultimately, it is not enough for men to just respect women, they should “speak with, and not for women”, Diprose said.
The ANU Circle for Gender Equity will be hosting another seminar on women in the academic areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in two weeks’ time, followed by a similar discussion focusing on equal opportunities, and why men should care, on Wednesday 26th August.