Across Australia, and the world, women are marching en masse in defiance of the systems that frequently allow men to benefit at their physical expense. They are in the streets and they are shouting and they are tired of having to do so because men will not stop raping and killing them. They are screaming for change, and it is a problem that affects all men. Yes, all men. Yes, you too.

The widespread March 4 Justice demonstrations should be a stark wake-up call for all men watching on. And they come on the heels of a shocking period for women who have suffered, and died, because of gendered violence. A period where repeated claims of rape have been levelled against men in the highest echelons of public office.

Parliament House – Australia’s so-called democratic epicentre – is fronting multiple rape allegations amid revelations of a workplace culture that has historically treated women as less-than. The Prime Minister is also actively shielding a colleague, a cabinet minister, from rape allegations. The Prime Minister himself could not summon the empathy to approach the issue without viewing it vicariously through his own wife and daughters. The cabinet minister at the centre of one set of allegations implied that acknowledging them somehow threatens the entire rule of law. It is unconscionable that these allegations – levelled against the same Government in a year that is not even three calendar months old yet – have yet to result in a single observable change.

And it is merely the top tier on a multi-layered pyramid of muck.

With international headlines currently plastering the horrific and tragic Sarah Everard case across the globe, it’s worth noting that while the circumstances of the case are somewhat rare, the root motivations are not. Here in Australia, our headlines have been routinely dominated by similar stories over recent years; women killed by men at random while committing the act of existing; their names burned into our collective conscious. Aiia Maasarwe, Eurydice Dixon, Jill Meagher, Courtney Herron. Living, breathing souls robbed of life by callous ghouls who did it because they could.

That says nothing of those murdered by men who they knew and, at one point or another, maybe loved. 56 Australian women in 2020 murdered by men in domestic violence-related killings. That’s a sickening national shame. And that, once again, is just one thing.

Women pressure themselves to tolerate certain behaviour in workplaces because speaking out too often results in punishment. They placate abusive partners because they have been told repeatedly that it is they who are they crazy ones. The route women choose to walk home, the way they react to idle conversation with strangers, the makeshift weapons they carry on them, the check-ins they do when they get home safely… all of these things form the litany of internal defences put up to protect from unwanted advances or random attack.

Women everywhere are shouting as one, against all of this. They are sick of it. And if you’re sick of it too (and you should be) then fucking do something about it.

It is no longer enough to simply be the silent “good man” who acts passively and challenges nothing. The change must be active, and it must come from the idle majority.

“Not all men” is the catch-cry that you hear far too frequently and it so bloody badly misses the point. Of course not all men assault and rape and murder but yes all men have witnessed misogyny in a workplace and yes all men know of at least one friend-of-a-friend who has verbally or physically abused a partner and yes, yes all men have seen or heard or watched on as another man has put a woman in a position where she felt vulnerable, used, or afraid.

If you think you haven’t, you have.

If you think you don’t know anyone who has done this shit, yes you do. Yes you bloody well do.

You have seen it, and you have turned a blind eye, and I know this to be bone-achingly true because I have done it too. I have seen it happen and I have sat idly by and I have done nothing, like a coward, because I feared the consequences of speaking up. And that is not good enough any more.

It’s the smallest acts of cruelty that have the furthest reach, because it’s from there where this insidious crescendo begins: Making sexist comments in a workplace environment. Sending lascivious unprompted DMs. Obsessively contacting an ex-partner after a break up. Cornering someone or making unwanted advances in a pub or at a party. Groping a stranger at a packed gig. As men, we frequently don’t challenge it because we fear the repercussions. But that forms so, so much of the problem.

Not challenging the crook behaviour of men is the framework of their protection. When it goes so unchallenged for so long, that crook behaviour simply becomes the status quo. Any victims left in the wake of shitty men – friends, co-workers, strangers – become the steps upon which they lift themselves up. Politicians, bosses, friends, partners, so-called normal men. All elevated by the system that tells them they can get away with this, because they do. And it’s that same system that seeks to shut down, discredit, and destroy the women who speak out against it.

That’s when that silence, from the “good” majority, is so bloody deafening. Idle will kill, and it does so tragically often.

It is cowardly to hand-wave all this away by thinking that it doesn’t apply to you; that no one you know could possibly be like that. They can. They may well be. Statistically, they are. If we do not challenge it at low levels we permit the foundation upon which much, much worse shit can be built. The halls of power in this country are all covered in paint from the same bucket. It is the combined ignorance of thousands of small individual acts that contribute to this greater pile of shit. The rot seeps upwards, and the victims pay a price no one should ever have to.

Do not sit idly by and watch the small things happen. Get angry. Get active. Your bawdy mate telling sexist gags is not “just like that.” He’s an asshole. Call him out. Women do not need to get a sense of humour. Fucked men need to tell less shit jokes.

The women in your life are on their feet, in the streets, marching and screaming because they are sick and bloody tired of navigating a system that demands they live in fear. They want to be believed. They want to be supported. And they want those who are capable of enacting change to stop waiting around.

So what are you gonna do about it?

Image: Getty Images / Jenny Evans