Culture impacts how we perceive the world and interact with others. Like when we welcome someone with a handshake or by kissing them on the cheek or with a bow – we are following the norms that society has set. The same goes for norms around gender.
As a bystander to a situation, we have the choice whether or not to intervene and what that looks like. There are many different ways we can interact in a situation and we can choose what feels appropriate and safe to us. There’s no doubt that it can be uncomfortable to step into this role. Whether that’s calling someone out for their comments or behaviour. Whatever the reason, if we don’t speak out, we’re condoning that behaviour.
“If I learnt one thing from the MATE training it’s that I will no longer stay silent. I won’t stay silent when women are belittled or others are spoken about in an ill-mannered way through humour. Humour is not an excuse and I feel that it is crucial to challenge others because maybe one day I’ll have the courage that someone next to me doesn’t have. By speaking up I hope that the courage is transferred to the one that didn’t feel comfortable to make that challenge so that next time they can feel more comfortable to do so. For me, being an active bystander is not just about stopping a violent action but begins by us using our voice and challenging others when we feel courageous to do so.” Carolina Salloum, Bonnie’s staff member
Educating ourselves on power, privilege and oppression helps us learn how we contribute to structures and systems that marginalise people around us. We can make a choice to stand up for issues, even if they don’t affect us personally. As MATE states, “This is the pinnacle of courage, and leadership and it takes time, maybe even generations, and it takes all of us working together to set new standards of behaviour.”
“I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good I can do.” Jana Stanfield, Motivational Speaker
Written by Celine Massa