Are you supporting equality or happy to watch discrimination occur?

Do you believe that women should have a more subservient role to men in their relationships, families and workplace?

Or do you believe that men and women, boys and girls should be treated as equals and not prevented from enjoying their basic human right to safety, respect and dignity?

If you think that women should know their place, accept being ridiculed, minimised and be OK with being treated unfairly you are not alone. According to this survey about 20% of your fellow Australians feel the same.

Our Watch recently commissioned a market research company to conduct an online survey about the attitudes of people who observe sexism, gender discrimination and inequality and the actions they can take.  Bystander Research Snapshot Report. Our Watch has a mission to end violence against women and their children and so the survey is interested in finding out about gender inequality and sexism in Australia.

Bystander Action

Bystander action is (in this report) is defined as “Safe and approriate actions taken to challenge the drivers of violence against women”

The drivers of violence against women are defined as being:

  • the condoning of violence against women
  • Men’s control of decision-making and limits to
    women’s independence in public and private life.
  • Stereotyped constructions of masculinity and
  • Disrespect towards women, and male peer
    relationships that emphasise aggression.

Examples of bystander action include speaking out about sexism, discrimination and inequality and challenging sexist and violence supporting behaviours, attitudes and practices.

Examples of bystander inaction include laughing at sexist jokes and comments, reinforcing male privileged and gender stereotyping in interactions with others. Ignoring signs of violence and minimising violence, aggression and coercive control or accepting it as being “private” and none of your business when help is sought or clearly needed.

Research Methodology

An online survey of 1,204 Australians over the age of 16 was conducted including apparently a broad cross section of society. Clearly this is a tiny sample and my focus in this article is your attitude rather than whether or not the percentages would be the same if we did, for example, a national survey.

Research Results

The research found that “all respondents think it is common for females to be treated unfairly and/or without respect in a range of settings,  indicating that sexism, gender discrimination and gender
inequality are widespread problems in Australia.”

our watch survey results
Diagram from Bystander Research Snapshot Report

For me the most concerning results were the ones that seemed to indicate that the respondent believe that women should be taking a more subservient role and accept being the butt of jokes.

Look at the survey questions below (in bold font) and honestly consider do you accept these views as being correct or at least condone the behaviour by remaining silent? Or do you find them concerning?

  •  25% of people surveyed think ‘women’s requests for gender equality are exaggerated’.
  • 21% of people surveyed think ‘women are becoming too outspoken these days’.
  • 20% of people surveyed think ‘men should take control in relationships and be the head of the household’.
  • 19% of people surveyed think ‘sexist jokes are harmless fun
  • 18% didn’t find ‘females being paid less than a male colleague for the same work‘ concerning.
  • 22% didn’t find ‘a male colleague interrupting and talking over a female colleague‘ concerning.
  • 23% didn’t find ‘a friend sharing a sexist joke about an “ugly, fat chick” on social media‘ concerning.
  • 30% didn’t find ‘a male colleague making a comment about one of your female colleague’s sexual attractiveness‘ concerning
  • 30% didn’t find ‘women doing all the cleaning up after dinner while the men watch television‘ concerning.

51% of the respondents say that they think that women are better care givers than men.

What action are you taking to reduce inequality?

Are you guilty of any of the behaviours above or of ignoring them but feel a little bit of guilt about it?

The Department of Social Services is going to be launching a bystander campaign to try and encourage people to take action about sexism and discrimination against women in 2018.  You can get a head start by considering some of these questions and tips.

  • Do you treat men and women differently? Do you expect them to act differently? Do you show your disapproval if women don’t act in the way you think they should? Ask yourself why that is. Why should women limit their options in the way you expect them to.
  • If you find yourself blaming a victim of sexual assault by asking questions that imply that she has contributed or “asked for it” such as “What was she wearing?” or “Was she drunk?” Or hear someone else blaming the victim what do you do? Do you contribute to attitudes that excuse sexual violence and think that it is OK to perpetrate this type of behaviour in certain circumstances?
  • Do you demonstrate equality and respect between men and women in every aspect of your life? At home, at work and in your community? Who does the cleaning up after dinner in your house and in the work kitchen?
  • Do you show your children how to have an equal, respectful and fair relationship by talking through problems and sharing jobs and money? Or do you feel that you have the right to dictate roles, rules and how the families money is spent?
  • Do you talk to friends and family about their sexist comments, jokes and behaviour and indicate that you don’t think it is OK or do you smile and look the other way?

It is easy to see the problem of gender equality in black and white, women against men and yet that is not accurate. Some women also reinforce gender stereotypes, ignore signs of abuse and encourage compliance with “the way it is in this … ” helping to reinforce the historic inequalities that are a legacy of a time when the law and society strongly supported gender inequality and the subjugation of women.


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by Joanne Law time to read: 4 min
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