"Men need to show each other what respect for women looks like"
For International Women’s Day today (8 March), Professor Andrea Cornwall, Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equalities and Diversity, says we need to change the culture of sexual harassment.
We have seen progress for women in many areas, but I’m struck talking to young women how much worse things have got for them compared to my generation in terms of sexual harassment and sexual violence.
It’s horrendous when you see how much sexual harassment of students there is in clubs in Brighton. It shows a total lack of respect.
Young people routinely experience digital sexual harassment and abuse, and grow up surrounded by so much negativity about sex.
Part of the problem is that we don’t have good enough sex and relationships education. We need more open, honest conversations about saying yes as well as saying no, about love, sex and pleasure, about what turns us on as well as about setting boundaries and being clear about what’s OK and what’s not.
When students come to university, many won’t have had sex education about the stuff that matters. Sussex students have developed a brilliant project called Role Models that’s all about giving young people in a local secondary school the sex education they’d have liked to have had themselves. I’d like to see this kind of initiative with young people here on campus.
And much more could be done to engage men - to mobilise men to stand up for women’s rights, to show other men what it looks like to respect women, to call men out for harassing women, to be part of changing sexual cultures.
Barack Obama is an amazing male role model. I love his open letter on feminism, where he says: ‘We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs. We need to keep changing the attitude that permits the routine harassment of women, whether they’re walking down the street or daring to go online … We need to keep changing the attitude that congratulates men for changing a diaper, stigmatises full-time dads and penalises working mothers.’
To be bold for change this International Women’s Day I’d like to see men holding themselves and each other to account. I’d like to see men doing more to end sexual harassment. I’d like to see men holding up a mirror to other men when they interrupt, demean or dismiss women. And I’d like to see men be braver in speaking out about the many forms of gender inequality that are still so much part of our world.