Do you blow the whistle when you hear sexist comments? It’s time to step up

Are you surprised by this?

That 21 per cent of Australians in a survey think “women are too outspoken these days?”

Or one in five thinks “men should take control in relationships and be the head of the household”?

It’s not very likely you’ll hear anything that bald on the streets. More likely, it’ll be a group of blokes making suggestions about a woman in the pub, a comment about what a woman is wearing, or her weight, instead of what she’s saying.

Our Watch survey results

  • 51 per cent thought woman are better care givers than men
  • 27 per cent thought men have more sexual needs than women
  • 25 per cent thought women’s requests for gender equality are exaggerated
  • 21 per cent thought women are becoming too outspoken these days
  • 20 per cent thought men should take control in relationships and be the head of the household
  • 19 per cent thought sexist jokes are harmless fun

Would you call them out? Do you?

That’s the challenge now thrown out by Our Watch, the anti-domestic violence advocacy group, that commissioned the survey of 1,204 people.

They’ve started a campaign to encourage more people to speak out when they hear sexist comments, or witness any form of intimidation or demeaning of women.

It has recruited sports stars — AFL’s Jarryn Geary, rugby’s Chloe Dalton, netball’s Caitlin Thwaites and NRL’s Sione Mata’utia — to appeal to the public to “be more than a spectator”.

Where sport meets sexism

The nexus between sexism and sport is important. Dressing rooms, clubs, pubs after a game — this is where sexist attitudes have often been entrenched and reinforced.

Not just the exclusion of women and girls from traditional male sports, but the subtler things — every assumption that overwhelmingly puts women in the tuck shops, every comment rating WAGs on their looks, every time they said a girl couldn’t tackle.

But what’s been largely overlooked is the way men have themselves been trapped by this sexism.

The young lad who feels uncomfortable about the sexist comments of his senior teammates — he’s been held silent too.

As Tarang Chawla, brother of Nikita, who was murdered by her husband in 2015, says: “I think it’s very challenging for men to speak up, because we’ve conditioned them not to speak up about issues affecting themselves, let alone others.”

Nikita Chawla

And that’s because it’s about power. The power that silences dissent against homophobia and racism in dressing rooms.

Bystanders unite

The good news is that 79 per cent of people surveyed by Our Watch wanted practical tips about how to safely intervene when they see disrespect towards women and girls; 75 per cent wanted to know how to respond to casual sexism in a social environment without being called a “party pooper”.

The notion that violence starts with disrespect has redefined the problem, and thrown out a wider circle of responsibility to all of us.

And that means calling out friends, family and strangers. But how?

Tackling Violence event

Former Raiders captain Alan Tongue has been working with young rugby league players for years in workshops, urging them to speak up — if not on the spot, then later to a trusted member of the club.

Because as that circle of responsibility widens, every one of us will be asked to consider what we could have done to prevent abuses or intimidation.

Another recent revelation by a sports star that emphasises this point — Jelena Dokic, who has detailed decades of abuse by her father.

The questions of “who knew and what did they do?” have given fellow players, journalists, managers and administrators some uncomfortable moments of reflection.

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