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Six things we can do to advance Australia's fairness

July 05 2018 By Patty Kinnersly, Our Watch CEO

Last weekend, the media cycle at home and overseas seemed dominated by examples of disrespect and inequality between men and women, in a number of exchanges that spanned sport, entertainment and politics.

Six things to do promote equality Image

To recap quickly; 
  • a surf competition photo showing the men’s and women’s winners holding their cheques – hers half the amount of his – spread quickly via social media worldwide
  • a group of AFL commentators made vulgar remarks about the pregnant wife of one of them
  • a much-loved TV personality joked about sexual harassment in the entertainment industry, and
  • a senator refused to apologise for making an extremely inappropriate comment about a colleague’s intimate life. 
The concentration of those few examples in a short time highlighted that we still have work to do; but the huge reaction to them shows us that Australians are absolutely clear on the kind of country they want – and that is a fair and equal one. 
There is a palpable appetite for good, practical advice about what we can all do to change the culture that results in damaging remarks and hurtful jokes, and I would like to respond to that by offering some tips here. 
The kind of Australia we create depends on the kinds of messages we send, on TV and radio, on and off the sporting field, in our workplaces and in Parliament House. 
Here are six ways we can all make sure the messages we send are the right ones for the kind of country we want – one that’s built on respect, fairness and equality. 
  1. If you hear a friend make a sexist comment, don’t let it slip by and definitely don’t laugh along. Say something, like ‘hey – that’s uncalled for’, or ‘I don’t get it – what do you mean?’. It’s not always easy or comfortable to speak out, and if you feel like it won’t go down well, you can at least change the topic quickly. Even an awkward silence can speak volumes. Send a clear message that disrespect is not cool or funny. 
  2. If you're someone who's held up as a role model in your field, whether it's sport, music, acting or anything else, call out the sexist joke or comment whenever you hear it. You are setting standards, especially for children and young adults. Say something like ‘that’s not ok, we don’t do it that way’. Send the message that it's never ok to put down women and girls.
  3. If you run a sport club or comp and the prize money for women is a lot less than men – maybe because of lower attendances or fewer sponsors – consider adding to the prize pool from another source. Send a loud message to women and girls that they are equally valued and equally welcome in your sport.
  4. If you work in TV news and current affairs, make sure everyone shares the responsibility for delivering content that is respectful. When Sky News aired Senator Leyonhjelm's crude, sexist remarks to Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, why was a young female producer the only one disciplined? Workplaces need to send a message that we are all equally responsible for upholding standards of respect.
  5. If you're a celebrity, understand that you have an audience and your words and attitudes will have an impact. So if you have the chance to make a speech at the Logies, don’t use it to make outdated, sexist jokes. Send a message that sexual harassment is never ok and definitely never funny.
  6. If a colleague makes an unacceptable remark about you or to you – whether you work at Parliament House or anywhere else – call it out. Look to your workplace code of conduct, to your HR department, to the Fair Work Ombudsman or the Sex Discrimination Commissioner. You don’t have to accept the unacceptable.  
This isn’t about men versus women, or about being politically correct to the point of never making jokes or behaving normally around friends, colleagues and strangers. This is about simply treating everyone with the same respect you’d hope to be treated with yourself, whether you’re male or female, famous or one of the crowd.