Should men or society stop the Harvey Weinstein’s of this world

There is universal outrage over Harvey Weinstein’s apparent behaviour in Hollywood, and so there should be. Of greater concern are claims that this behaviour is the tip of the iceberg, and indicative of men’s behaviour in Western society more generally including Australia. Calls for men to be more proactive to address this matter is problematic however, and instead a more radical response is required.

There are circumstances when men have opportunities to intervene and call out bad behaviour of other men. However, these opportunities present only after society has already let women down, and only provide for shallow responses.  Like giving loose dollars to a homeless beggar, some succour perhaps, but too late and after the damage done.

To intervene on behalf of a woman is itself patriarchal and conservative. Other than in the most extreme circumstances, what right has anyone to interfere with the liberty of another, and to interfere with choices women make on partners. Further, abuse of women is often in private, hidden from others, and beyond imagination. This is the issue that needs to be tackled.

Politics is more private and personal for women than for men. Matters related to reproduction, violence, abuse and childcare, tend to affect women more harshly than men. Pain is often suffered in private, in silence, and impenetrable to communities. Individual men are often not placed or equipped to help in sometimes complex matters, but society can.

I recently read Anne Summers’ Misogyny Factor, and was confronted by how bad things are for many women today. I was also reminded of how the Office of Women’s Affairs was established in 1975, and how much progress it achieved before it was progressively dismantled. It is towards this kind of radical response to which Australia needs to return. An office of competent bureaucrats charged with coordinating public policy on women. An office responsible for developing legislation and policy, for coordinating states, for coordinating agencies, for developing education campaigns, and for reporting statistics and indices. It is only through collective effort in government that lives of marginalised women can be effectively changed.

There will be conservatives who argue against bureaucracy, against red tape, and against larger government. Others will pillory initiatives, and accuse government of social engineering. It is here where true radicalism begins, to argue in favour of building and defending institutions that fight injustice and uphold personal freedoms.

There will be other conservatives who argue that developing new consensus positions is not compatible with freedom. That it is not the role of government to interfere with the private. These need to be argued through, policy by policy, norm by norm, campaign by campaign. It must be clear, matters of rape, violence and poverty are nonnegotiable issues needing real solutions.

Some conservative commentators have sought to gain exposure and media advantage from Weinstein’s behaviour. Using this single case, in a distant land, and predominantly involving glamorous white women, to fan outrage and reproach a whole sex. As if the pain is often not experienced double by women of colour in Australia (Intersectionality? Not while feminists participate in pile-ons). As if the second X chromosome provides for telepathic communication with male HQ.  These white conservative commentaries are opportunistic and simplistic. A competition on who can express injustice most eloquently, most passionately, or with most venom. They do not proffer solutions or analyses, nor engender feasible action.

predominantly white glamorous victims Vanity Fair

My research interest in social science is not feminism, but technology and changes to work. A clear and consistent message from my research is that societies that cannot address inequalities in gender and race, will find it increasingly difficult to participate in technology’s progressive future.

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