Liam Stevenson: This is the moment I realised how harmful my attitudes towards women were

Political activist and Tie Campaign co-founder Liam Stevenson explains why men must tackle the harm masculine culture does to women - and be honest with themselves in the process

IF THE recent Harvey Weinstein scandal has put a spotlight on anything, it’s that behind the glitz and glamour, the cash and corruption, the drugs and celebrity of Hollywood, lies a deeper conversation about wider society, male culture and power.

There is evidently still a massive problem when men meet, or feel, power. Far too often, men believe that the acquisition of power and status acts as the perfect conduit for their own sexual gratification and, until recently, they could remain confident that they would get away with a multitude of abuses.

Six years ago, I became the father of a little girl, and she changed my life. I underwent a period of deep self-reflection, and I considered what life had taught me. Raising my daughter made me re-examine my own attitudes.

READ MORE: Kirsty Strickland: Why it's time for me to speak up about sexual violence

I found myself confronting my own socially-ingrained masculinity. I began to acknowledge how I had looked at women, and how I had behaved towards them.

Of course, it shouldn't take having a daughter for men to realise that our behaviour towards women, our language about them and our relationships with them can often be damaging, but for most of us it does signify a new dawn of introspection.

The reality for many is that until they can feel something tangibly and palpably, they will not embark on a process of self-reflection and self-criticism.

I realised that I once believed men were superior to women. Indeed, I now understand that I was raised and conditioned in a world which actively injects notions of male superiority in all of us; that these outdated ideas spawn from a wider social phenomenon and were introduced to me, and enforced in me, by my father’s generation.

There are some standout examples of how this mindset shaped my own understanding of social life and my role within it.

READ MORE: Alasdair Clark: The "not all men" brigades need to realise how much harm they are doing

At 11 years old, following the breakdown of my family, I was told that I was now "the man of the house" by my dad. This led me to conclude that I was the one who had to protect my mum, to make sure that she was safe and supported.

The inferred idea was that she wasn’t capable of doing that on her own, without male influence, whether that came from her partner or her 11-year-old son.

At such a raw age, being told that you’re now the one with the responsibility, only gave me an undue air of entitlement. Later, in my teenage years, I was under the impression that I could tell my mum what social activities she could engage in.

I must have been about 16 or 17 when I remember being furious because my mum wanted to go to a nightclub, and I interjected to tell her that she couldn’t.

It sounds ridiculous now, but it’s obvious to me that my sense of authority - over my own mother - came from the notion that I was somehow atop a hierarchy, simply because of my gender. I was “the man of the house”, after all.

I must have been about 16 or 17 when I remember being furious because my mum wanted to go to a nightclub, and I interjected to tell her that she couldn’t.

It’s really not difficult to see how that mindset would shape my attitude towards women, whether I understood it or not.

I remember one early relationship, with someone I really liked, which fell apart quite quickly. It was only years later that she told me that the reason she ended it was because of the way I spoke about women.

I didn’t understand what she meant at the time, because when I was in that bubble I didn’t see the issue, but it’s since become clear to me that in my younger years I predominantly viewed women through a sexual lens.

When meeting a woman, at that age, the first thing on my mind wasn’t her career, her personality or her skills - rather, it was whether or not I wanted to have sex with her.

This is an expectation which is placed on young men: to be promiscuous, to have multiple sexual partners - the "lad culture" which is still celebrated and reproduced today.

I’m speaking to the men reading this right now: this culture is ours and it is our responsibility to face it.

It’s a patriarchal system and attitude, built upon silverback masculinity, which has so many layers to it, and which has a hugely negative impact on women. Yet we continue to recycle it.

Still, young men are taught to view women as sexual items. The Sun’s long-running Page 3 is the perfect example: why is it okay that a man can open the first few pages of a newspaper in the morning and, right there next to the latest breaking story, is a half-naked woman for him to peruse as he slurps his tea?

It sends a highly poisonous message to young men - one which undeniably impacts the way they view and treat women.

But ultimately, sexual abusers cannot hide behind an excuse of cultural and social conditioning for their behaviour. The continued objectification, subjugation and abuse of women cannot be framed as acceptable - ever.

There is an undeniable gendered phenomenon at play. Not only are women predominantly the victims of this behaviour, but the perpetration of sexual abuse is overwhelmingly male dominated.

READ MORE: Naya Koulocheri: All the Weinsteins of our world have this one thing in common (9 letters)

It is clear that masculinity is playing a prominent role, and this can only be rectified by men with the guidance of women. We need to shut up and listen.

My old attitudes are no different to those that most men still hold today, and it was widespread throughout my friend and peer groups in my younger years.

The issues facing women, which are fuelled by male culture, are my problem too: not just because they are my (our) daughter’s, but because I (we) have contributed to them. These issues start and stop with men, and so I’m speaking to the men reading this right now: this culture is ours and it is our responsibility to face it.

My generation needs to take ownership of this and understand our faults. We need to make it our work to ensure that this culture, these attitudes and these behaviours are not replicated among future generations. It’s time to break the cycle.

Picture courtesy of NCinDC

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Naya Koulocheri

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 18:17

Thoughtful and well-written piece.

If we want to liberate our society from the patriarchal set of values, we need to work together.

Openly challenging 'lad culture' will not only benefit women's physical and mental well-being but it will also free BOTH genders from the stereotypical behaviours they feel they should conform to. In the process towards this change, men can (and need to) be valuable allies to women.

Peter Dow's picture

Peter Dow

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 21:04

OPPOSING harmful police state violence against innocent men for peacefully expressing our natural sexual interest in women

Arrested, charged and bailed (again).

After being detained by uniformed police from my home and later arrested at Kittybrewster Police Custody Centre, the day before, I made bail from Aberdeen Sheriff Court, 24 hours ago, on the afternoon of Wednesday, 8th of November 2017, thanks to being defended by the court's duty solicitor - a brilliant solicitor by the name of Sheena Mair - and thanks to the independence of Sheriff Andrew Miller from the Crown, represented by a woman prosecutor (whom I don't know the name of) who opposed my bail and was seeking my cruel imprisonment on remand, as the Crown has previously sought to do, despite the fact that I have never been a threat to anyone.

The duty solicitor entered a plea of "NOT GUILTY" on my behalf and there is scheduled to be an intermediate diet set for 22nd January 2018 and a trial diet set for 19th February 2018 when the details and the truth will be revealed I hope. I haven't secured legal representation for the case as yet though I would dearly love it if Sheena Mair could and would take my case on but she suggested that there was a conflict of interest (I know not what) which prevented her taking my case on.

For now, all I will say publicly is that the case concerns an email which I had sent in reply to a letter I had received from my local MSP, Kevin Stewart, which email reply I also copied to two women whom I am not naming at this stage, saying only that I do respect and honour those two women and if I was given an opportunity to do so, I would wish to apologise to them both most sincerely for anything in my email which I copied to them which was not to their liking or which has caused them any embarrassment or offence. My email has massively back-fired and I regret that deeply.

The typically over-the-top response to my harmless email by the police and the prosecutors is not Kevin Stewart MSP's fault nor indeed entirely the fault of the SNP, even though Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service are governed by the leader of the SNP, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The police and courts in Scotland are part of the UK state and when they wrongfully arrest and prosecute anyone, it is ultimately the fault of the head of state, Queen Elizabeth.

Peter Dow's picture

Peter Dow

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 21:01

I write to disagree with and to argue against the dangerous royalist nonsense written by Kevin McKenna in the Guardian.

OPPOSING "It’s time a royal bairn came to live in Scotland" by Kevin McKenna, in the Guardian.

The royals and the kingdom are killing Scotland's bairns - like when the kingdom's police gave a firearms certificate to the man who shot 16 bairns dead at the Dunblane Primary School Massacre in 1996.

Not to mention all the other bairns murdered or killed in accidents because the kingdom, the state and its head of state, the Queen, is too incompetent to keep our bairns safe.

Therefore if Scots put our own bairns' lives first then we must ban the royals from Scotland as a first step towards establishing a Scottish republic, electing a Scottish president, a head of state who would protect Scottish bairns.

Allowing the royals into Scotland is equivalent to signing the death warrant of many Scottish bairns who will die in accidents and disasters because of this incompetent kingdom, monarchy and royal family.

It is not worth sacrificing the lives of our innocent bairns simply to pander to the royal family that gets them killed.

Peter Dow's picture

Peter Dow

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 21:02

"It’s time a royal bairn came to live in Scotland" by Kevin McKenna

Peter Dow's picture

Peter Dow

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 21:02

"It would also let us know that the royals were standing shoulder to shoulder with her Scottish subjects at a time of austerity and increasing multi-deprivation." - Kevin McKenna
Em, whose governments do you think it is which are agreeing austerity fiscal frameworks and passing austerity budgets, Kevin?

Her Majesty's governments are imposing austerity on all the Scots whether we wish to be "subjects" or not.

PM May and FM Sturgeon are the Queen's Prime Minister of the UK and First Minister of Scotland, respectively.

It's the Queen governments who are imposing austerity. Austerity is the Queen's fault.

If we want to end austerity then the fastest way to do that would be to end the rule of Her Majesty's governments, by ending the kingdom and establishing nation-state republics in their place, starting with a Scottish republic.

Peter Dow's picture

Peter Dow

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 21:02

It's time to call out the "RoyalWeal" who think it is appropriate to feature arch royalist and enemy of the Common Weal Kevin McKenna in Common Space.

Who in the Scottish progressive, pro-independence movement thinks McKenna deserves to feature here? Is there a single Scottish republican who wants to see the face of this stupid Queen's lackey here in Common Space? I don't.

Peter Dow's picture

Peter Dow

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 21:03

Which rather proves McKenna a liar - he thinks the royal family, royal babies are the future of Scotland. He DOESN'T really think "CommonSpace is the future".

He's having Common Space on. He's taking the mickey.


Wed, 11/15/2017 - 18:16

Very well said, Liam Stevenson. Thank you. More often I am dismayed by comments from others that I hear on this topic. For example, from people who apparently can’t see any difference between sexual harassment at work, when you are paid to be . . .er . . .working, and flirting when away from work / socialising. You are a breath of fresh air, Liam, and give me some hope of progress.

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