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Sports stars join Our Watch to encourage men to ‘do something’ when women face disrespect

April 13, 2021 / Our Watch media

In this article

As women all over the country took to the streets last month to march for justice and an end to sexual assault, harassment and discrimination, there is a renewed call for men to play a bigger role in challenging disrespect towards women.  

In a bid to help men ‘do something’ when they see everyday sexism, Our Watch has today released a series of new advertisements as part of its national Doing Nothing Does Harm campaign. 

AFL star, Zach Merrett and NRL player, Kyle Flanagan have come on board as Our Watch ambassadors to launch this new iteration of the campaign and encourage other men to step up. 

NRL player Kyle Flanagan AFL player Zac Merrett

The new campaign advertisements, broadcast on Catch up TV, YouTube, social media and in stadiums, feature common scenarios where male bystanders are shown to be clearly uncomfortable that women are being talked down to, degraded, or objectified by other men 

While the advertisements at first show the bystander’s discomfort about not doing anything, each scenario then rewinds to give him another chance to ‘do something’ about the disrespectful behaviour. 

“As a young man, there can be a lot of pressure from other men to act a certain way – tough, strong and stoic,” Zach said. 

“I have been in situations with a group of ‘lads’ where one of them puts a woman down by making sexualised jokes or comments about them. I know most of us have felt uncomfortable with what’s been said but have chosen the path of least resistance and done nothing or just laughed it off – essentially saying that behaviour’s okay.  

While I have tried to align my values with my actions as best I can, I knew I had to do more, which is why I wanted to become an Our Watch ambassador. “ 

“What I love about the Doing Nothing Does Harm campaign, is that it allows you a second chance almost. Unfortunately, there is likely to be a ‘next time,’ so if you felt uncomfortable about it the first time you heard your mate or a bloke at the footy club say something disrespectful, this gives you the tools you need to ‘do something’, continued Zach. 

The campaign was created in response to research from Our Watch, which found that 75 per cent of Australians want practical tips on how to respond to casual sexism without being perceived as a ‘party pooper’, and that only 14 per cent of Australians felt confident to call out disrespect towards women.   

NRL player, Kyle Flanagan said the Doing Nothing Does Harm website provides a suite of options for how bystanders can ‘do something’ including how to show your disapproval with body language, ways to support women, and what to say if you want to speak up and act. 

“Having played NRL for most of my life, it is pretty common to hear what is disguised as a bit of ‘friendly banter’ about women around the locker room,” Kyle said.  

“The important message we need to convey to men is that there are many ways to ‘do something’ to challenge disrespect towards women. You don’t need to be super confrontational – you can roll your eyes, not laugh at a sexist joke, take the offender aside and have a chat – and if the woman’s there at the time of the offence – check-in with her and make sure she’s okay. 

Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly said the new campaign speaks to the idea that men often recognise that certain attitudes and behaviours are disrespectful to women in the moment but don’t know what to do.   

“What came out strongly in the market testing for this iteration of the campaign was that men recognised that something was sexist but didn’t know what to do in response,” said Ms Kinnersly.  

“There was also a feeling of regret for not knowing how to call out it out, this campaign shares a host of ways they can do something.”   

Research shows that society’s expectation of ‘what it is to be a man’ based on ideas of dominance, control, aggression, and disrespect towards women contribute to violence against women.  

When behaviours that make women feel uncomfortable, unsafe or treated unfairly go unchallenged it creates a culture in which violence against women is more likely. 

This campaign provides the tools and resources to show that individual men and men as a group can help to change these behaviours and unequal structures by ‘doing something’ when it comes to disrespect towards women.  

“Violence against women exists on a continuum and it starts with disrespect towards women. Part of preventing this violence includes promoting the fact that there are many ways to be a man and addressing the role men play in their own lives to help change attitudes and behaviours for the better.” 

For more information visit Doing Nothing Does Harm. 

Media contact

Saraya Musovic, Senior Media and Communications Advisor (saraya.musovic@ourwatch.org.au or 0448 844 930) or media@ourwatch.org.au

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:
“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.”

To access guides for reporting about violence against women and their children, visit Media Making Change.

About Our Watch

Our Watch leads Australia’s work to stop violence against women and their children before it starts. The organisation was created to drive nation-wide change in the structures, norms and practices that lead to violence against women and children.

Find out more about our work to end violence against women in Australia.

The evidence
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