A recurring concern in Australian society in recent times has been the behaviour of a significant proportion of men in relation to women. A series of deplorable crimes and misogynist actions and the continuing scourge of domestic violence across all stratas of our nation makes this a critical conversation, be it an uncomfortable one.
This is not a new phenomenon, but rather an enduring societal issue that continues to be raised as needing resolution, but sadly lacks committed action at several levels of society, in particular governmental levels- a place, not surprisingly, dominated by men.
Domestic violence and harassment is an abuse of power. It is the domination, coercion, intimidation and victimisation of one person by another using physical, sexual, financial, verbal or emotional means within relationships (intimate) and within workplaces.
As a male, my first responsibility has been to listen to the individual and collective voices and stories of women who are speaking out about this. The women who have encountered abuse. Women of all ages.
My next step was to find a way to respectfully lend my voice to the efforts directed towards enacting meaningful and lasting change. Daily, I am reminded there is some way to go before anything close to truly respectful relationships is reached.
What's this got to do with poetry?
Well, poetry has always possessed the power to perform many roles within a society. It has always been capable of providing a voice for change. Poetry has been a vehicle for protest and revolutionary change. It has traditionally played a role in actioning social change.
I am under no illusion. I must continue to listen and learn. My words today are a small effort. The wider I can share them, the better. Change often comes about through collective and sustained effort.
What is needed is lots of voices and heaps of action lending support to those brave women speaking out. I am reminded of the words -'speak out, even if your voice shakes.'
Each raised voice puts abusive power closer to a day of reckoning.
Men can’t win
Wrote a man recently
A cliché without currency
Well, yes they can.
Yes they do.
Yes they will.
Men win every time they embrace honour and respect
When conducting relationships with others.
Men win when they steer well clear of mansplaining
With its overtones of arrogance.
Men win when they listen actively
Lower their voices
Relax their hands, unclench their fists of fury
And seek to build power with
Men win when they learn to lose with grace and dignity
By taking responsibility for their actions
Men win by feeding the kind wolf inside
Rather than the angry, mean wolf
When they seek to be honest men
And take solace in such nobility
And its common deeds and actions
When shining a light for younger men to follow is a conscious act.
-Time after time.
Alan j Wright