Could a masculinity positive arise from the endless Trump debacles?

Trumps abhorrent behaviour shines a spotlight on the magnitude of misogyny; the hatred of women. It is a conversation that needs to be had and repeated and had again until real progress is made.

Trump divorces his behaviour from the wider issues impacting women and girls; issues such as rape, domestic violence, trafficking of women, pay inequity, porn, poverty and more.

Trump’s defensive responses to his obscene sexist rants reveal the extent of his delusion. He actually thinks that he loves women; at least beautiful women.

But the big teaching from this circus spectacle is that Trump is not alone.

His behaviour is widespread amongst men and as we see from the women who cling on to the rich and powerful, condoned by some women.

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Equally shocking are the dialogues on radio and TV where men say they have not been exposed to other males who talked or acted in this manner.

What wholesale denial! I don’t know what universe these men live in but in my 77 years as an Australian male, I have witnessed countless examples of men trash talking about women.

I first heard the degrading conversations amongst my peers in the schoolyards of country Victoria 60 years ago; it shocked me deeply. Later I heard similar conversations in the surf club I loved and at university; it created conflict in me because I liked the majority of these older boys and men. Sadly, many years later, I heard similar portrayals of women in many of the male groups I associated with in both Australia and America.

Here is one example: One day in the 80s, while working as a ski instructor at Perisher Valley, NSW, I encountered a young woman sitting in the snow crying. She had been thrown out of the ski lodge by a charismatic man I knew. He had said to her if you don’t ‘f..  then ‘f’… off. Night was falling and she had nowhere to go.

Turns out he had promised her accommodation on the mountain and assumed he would be sexually rewarded.

On another occasion I spoke with a ski instructor colleague who stated he had had a bad day how he would find some young snow bunny and ‘f’ the hell out of her to get rid of his anger.

Another example: In the 90s, while working as a white-water river guide in Oregon, while camped out in the Klamath River wilderness area, I found myself in the middle of a 12-man bucks party. The evening became ugly and impacted me so deeply that I wrote about it.

The story, Sexism on the River, was picked up by some men’s magazines and a number of feminist groups. More recently, as the Trump circus continues, I have decided to revive the story.

But sadly there is more sexism to spotlight. My wife, Grace Gawler, is a physically beautiful woman who has spent almost 48 years working and caring for cancer patients. She has endured a lifetime of sexist abuse from men in many countries where she was giving cancer related presentations.

In 2012, after giving a rousing speech at breast cancer function in Eumundi, Queensland, Grace was sexually heckled as she and I walked past the Eumundi Pub on a warm summer’s evening.

That this grandmother of five and tireless cancer worker should be subjected to such filth is beyond the tenants of a just and safe democracy. I was so angry about by wanted to sweep these men into a large crevice and leave them there.

As a lifetime outdoor adventurer, I have spent very little time in pubs and sporting clubs, however, most times that I do, I am confronted with the same misogynistic rants; their derision of women is always palpable.

In 2003, I worked on a project to combat sexism in one of Australia’s top Olympic teams. The team performance had recently been suffering because of sexist behaviours by male members of the group. The group shall remain anonymous for confidentiality reasons, but many of the athletes are gold medallists well known to most Australians.

Remarkably; as I was being briefed for the job at the Australian Sports Commission in Canberra, I detected a vibe’ amongst the men employed by the sports commission, there was that nudge-nudge, wink-wink, wry smile, old boys club vibe about the sexism topic we were discussing. I doubt these men knew they were doing it because it was so similar to the problem in the Olympic team. I reasoned that this was unconscious learned behaviour. It also explains why it is hard to make changes to masculinity norms or memes.

I imagined meeting the same men in a pub after they a few drinks. I have no doubt their sexist putdowns would be amplified..

I applaud First Nations AFL player, Adam Goode’s stance against racism in his sport. However; I would like to see the same energy applied to misogyny and sexism amongst football players and their followers. Undoubtedly prominent sportsmen have a role to play in this awareness raising campaign.

My story, sexism on the river and another story (whose link I provide below) about three female river guides working for the American National Parks on the Grand Canyon, are indicative of the barriers faced when decent people try to tackle misogyny and sexism.

In my case I was alone in the wilderness with 12 other men, most were younger and bigger than I was and some carried hunting knives – I would not have been surprised if there was a hand gun or two.

The three female National Parks river guides on the Grand Canyon were confronted by the old boys club which fought hard to maintain the status quo – the ancient code that gave man ultimate power over women and children.

In Australia, we’ve seen misogyny and sexism rife in just about every corner of our society; the defence forces, sport and Olympic sports, the ambulance service, amongst doctors and surgeons in the medical profession, and as so accurately described by Peta Credlin, in government.

It took a lot of guts for me to make a stand against 12 men in the Oregon wilderness. I’m no hero, I was shaking and upset and did not sleep that night. But I did make a stand.

I ask decent men everywhere to join together to stamp out what is one of the world’s great barriers to human equality and functional democracy.