Misogyny and violence against women are on the rise, both online and offline. While women do their best to educate and fight back, the silence of a lot of men on this issue is unacceptable. It's high time for a change of attitude.

When I was recently scrolling through my Instagram feed, I stumbled upon a statistic. It was about murder victims and victim-offender relationships in the US and indicated that 34% of female murder victims were killed by an intimate partner. For male victims, this same percentage was 6%. In other words, women in the US are five times more likely to be murdered by their partners than men.

This was not the first time that I saw this, or a similar, statistic. It gives me pause every time I see it.

Misogyny and sexism are still very much alive. The fact that this particular statistic is from the US shouldn't fool us either: In many ways, Europe remains a cesspit of hatred and violence against women as well (need examples? Here, here, here, here, here).

Through centuries of oppression, women have fought back and through collective struggle achieved remarkable progress in certain areas. But still to this day, the support structures that do exist are regularly pushed to their limits.

Something that has bothered me for a long time is how whenever there is a news story about yet another femicide or another study about how sexism is on the rise, it is nearly always women who decry the callous indifference this society displays again and again when it comes to women's issues.

The best we men can do, it seems, is to sheepishly nod and say "Ah yes, we should do something about that…"

Sexism and violence against women are not some great mysteries of the universe. We know exactly who's to blame. I'll give you a hint: it's not women.

There are no isolated cases

One thing that we desperately need to understand is that violence has a tendency to escalate.

While a lot of men will condemn more extreme forms of violence, such as sexual assault, rape, or femicides, a shocking number of us is easy to dismiss certain other forms of violence, e.g., casual sexism, catcalling, or macho culture.

The more aggressive assaults against women don't happen in a vacuum. The mindset of the perpetrators is fuelled by a society that, in large parts, continues to celebrate male dominance and entitlement.

You can't be serious about fighting the increasing number of femicides and sexual assaults and at the same time dismiss your buddy's sexist jokes at the bar as "harmless."

In my own experience, men who say stuff like that are the sort of type who generally like to bang on about how you "can't say anything anymore these days." What I have always found striking is that whenever you ask one of them what exactly it is they aren't allowed to say anymore, it is often some of the vilest things imaginable.

We are the problem

To solve an issue, one must get to the root of it.

Women's shelters, helplines, advice on which parts of town to avoid… all of these things are important. But what they do is treat symptoms, not cure the disease.

The first step to solving a problem is recognising it. In this case, there's an easy answer, for once: men. We are the problem. Now, whenever this is brought up, there is a tendency to immediately follow it up with: "Well, not ALL men." While I am certain that most men who say this have no ill intentions, we need to realise that statements like these are a bit of a cop out. By removing us from the equation and reducing the issue to an individual level, we ignore the systemic nature of misogyny - which, at least in my opinion, is undeniable. So, for the sake of this piece, I kindly ask you to humour me and just go with this hypothesis: All of us are the problem.

I am part of the problem. You can't grow up in a society like this without ending up with some level of internalised misogyny by the time you hit adulthood.

I have tolerated sexist jokes from friends because I didn't have the guts to call them out on it. I have drunkenly sung along to folk songs with highly questionable lyrics just because they're "traditional." If I look at my bookshelf, there are way more books written by men than women.

You may say that the sexism of the publishing industry isn't really my fault, but that isn't true. I may not have deliberately avoided books written by women, but I clearly do not invest enough effort to seek them out.

This is the kind of work that we men need to do: Instead of assuming that we're infallible just because we've never roofied anyone, we should take an honest look at ourselves and our actions. Not the person we'd like to be, but the person we actually are.

Speaking of actions, there is a lot we can do as men. First, call out sexism when you see it. Don't be an enabler and don't let degrading "jokes" and remarks fly.

Start taking a genuine interest. To all of you men reading this: How many of you have asked your female friends about their personal experiences with these sorts of things? Do you know about all of the little strategies and instincts that many of them use on a daily basis just to protect themselves, particularly those living in big cities? Talk to them. And start to understand that sexism goes beyond the headlines.

If you happen to be a man who participates in public life and gets invited to a lot of talks, interviews, and the like: You know you don't have to say yes to everything? I'm always baffled to find out that apparently, in the year 2023, it's still perfectly acceptable to have all-male panels during conferences or discussions.

A simple suggestion for men in the public eye: If a panel is going to be all-male or mostly male, just decline the invite and politely explain your reasoning. In case you are a member of an organisation, suggest one of your female colleagues. If this somehow seems "radical" to you, know that this is already standard practice. In 2014, for example, the BBC banned all-male panels on its comedy shows, with the then head of television Danny Cohen describing all-male line-ups as "not acceptable."

Of course, raising future generations differently also plays an important role in bringing about long-term societal change. However, I feel that it is important to remind ourselves from time to time that just because we've reached adulthood does not mean that we are now unable to learn and grow as human beings.

A better world is possible – for everyone

I understand that some men might feel unreasonably attacked by this piece. For those of you, I do have one last point to make and I implore you to consider it.

The patriarchy as a system benefits straight cis men to the detriment of women and other gender minorities. That is a simple fact that we have to face and accept.

Centuries of this oppressive system have given us countless privileges and advantages. Men are still generally paid more for the same work, their judgment is trusted more for no reason, and even safety standards disproportionally benefit men (look up the problems caused by crash-test dummies based on the average male).

I'll give you one more example of just how all-pervasive male privilege is. In a 2019 article for the Guardian, Caroline Criado Perez pointed out that the formula to determine standard office temperature was developed in the 1960s around the metabolic resting rate of the average man. While no one in the 60s saw a problem with that, Perez goes on to explain that a study from the Netherlands found that the metabolic rate of young women performing light office work is "significantly lower" than the standard values for men doing the same activity. Perez writes:

"In fact, the formula may overestimate female metabolic rate by as much as 35%, meaning that current offices are on average five degrees too cold for women. This leads to the odd sight of female office workers wrapped in blankets in the summer, while their male colleagues wander around in shorts."

-   Caroline Criado Perez (23 February 2019), "The deadly truth about a world built for men – from stab vests to car crashes," The Guardian.

It is beyond me how anyone would not be anything but infuriated by these almost absurd levels of injustice. Why do so many of us just accept this reality? But if you need another perspective, consider this: The stereotypes, prejudices, and social expectations, i.e., the things the patriarchy has spawned to sustain itself, have also damaged men in significant ways.

If it weren't so serious, we would laugh at how this society likes to portray men as the "rational" gender. Please. Do you have any idea how many of my male friends struggle with emotional issues? Some recognise them, others don't. Because of the way boys have been brought up for a long time, the emotional intelligence of some men is embarrassingly underdeveloped.

A lot of us bottle their feelings up. We don't know how to deal with rejection or how to heal emotional trauma. The result is a broken existence.

These problems are real. But they don't have to be. Check in with your male friends. Talk to them about "deep" stuff. Share your pain, the ways you've been hurt, the regret that keeps you up at night. I've had talks like this with friends of mine and you always leave them with a sense of relief and appreciation. If we don't take care of each other, the most vulnerable of us will be sitting ducks for the snake oil salesmen of the internet, with their red and black pills ready to poison the mind.

We can do so much better than this. For everyone. A post-patriarchal society is possible, but it needs men to actively participate in taking it down from the top and bottom.

So, please, assume responsibility and do your part. And for Pete's sake don't do it for any current or future daughters you might have – do it because it is the right thing to do.