coalition MP andrew laming
Coalition MP Andrew Laming (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

Responsibility is a hard pill to swallow. Claiming victimhood when women expose harassment, bullying and sexual violence is much easier — and it’s often done by those very same men quick to call out the “woke brigade”.

Notably, Liberal MP Andrew Laming has used a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as his scapegoat after being caught out harassing women, while The Courier-Mail’s long-time columnist Mike O’Connor has come forth in defence of the boys, arguing 2021 has been hard for men.

Cue my tiny string quartet.

Not all men

O’Connor is convinced men need a bigger platform to list all the reasons why they’re not responsible for sexual violence.

He believes the government should replace the troubled “milkshake consent video” series with men from different generations standing in front of a camera talking about “how it hasn’t been much fun being a bloke in Australia in 2021”. (I think what he’s describing is called Sky News.)

How this would teach consent to school-aged children is completely unclear.

O’Connor said grandfathers would talk about suffering through economic hardship and fathers would speak about the gratitude they had for their wives “keeping the household functioning while juggling the twin burdens of work and domestic responsibilities”.

The women, presumably, would make sandwiches and burst into rapturous applause after each man’s soliloquy.

“If we hear any of our fellows showing disrespect to women, we will come down on them with all our force. That’s our job — protecting the women in our lives, and it always has been,” O’Connor wrote.

Interesting that during this year’s wave of reckoning for sexual violence, O’Connor devoted zero columns to coming down hard on his fellows.

Not only does O’Connor’s argument make absolutely no sense, but it spews dangerous rhetoric. “Not All Men” is the notorious battle cry men employ when faced with the hard truths about sexual violence. One in six women and one in 25 men have experienced sexual assault. Ninety-seven percent of sexual assault offenders recorded by the police are male.

The drivers of sexual violence are power and inequality — such as, for example, assuming your wife should take on the dual burdens of working and childcare, or assuming a bunch of men talking about their hardships would do a better job at communicating consent than female-led experts.

It’s the old adage: every woman knows a woman who has experienced sexual violence, but no man knows a man who has perpetrated it.

Is it ADHD, or are you just a dickhead?

Laming has said he had a “shock medical diagnosis” which explained his erratic behaviour — behaviour including taking photos of a woman as she bent over (police cleared Laming and no charges were laid), harassing women online, driving one to suicidal thoughts, and failing to file official paperwork — which led to allegations of electoral rorts investigated by the federal police.

It’s a spectacular reversal from taking responsibility to playing the victim, one only rivalled by our very own prime minister.

Despite undergoing empathy training (which experts predicted won’t achieve anything) Laming still insists he’s been misrepresented. His friends have also described him as a “dickhead”.

ADHD can be a serious and debilitating condition. It’s underdiagnosed in girls and adults and affects about one in 20 Australians. Symptoms consist of, among other things, becoming easily distracted (and, conversely, a hyper-focus on certain tasks), poor organisation and time management skills, forgetfulness, impulsivity, emotional irregularities, a negative self-image, restlessness, anxiety and a lack of motivation.

None of those symptoms includes harassing women.

The right way to do it

Monash associate professor Steven Roberts recently wrote on the importance of non-violent men denouncing men’s violence, being active bystanders and telling their stories to increase awareness about masculine norms and violence perpetration.

He recounts harrowing memories of domestic violence growing up, comparing it with violence he’d seen perpetrated by women. A slap on the face by a girlfriend — broken noses and threats of murder by his stepdad.

Telling his experiences is “another way of breaking the silence and of making clear that, actually, as men we also know it’s more than just a few ‘bad apples’,” Roberts said.

“Violence is enacted by a significant number of ‘normal’ men.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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