Will’s World: Men don’t have to plan escape routes from rooms

It’s not often that a letter to Farmers Weekly completely stops me in my tracks, but a few weeks ago one did.

It was from a writer who’d asked to remain anonymous and told of her recent experience at the NFU Conference dinner on her local county table, and the shameful behaviour of their incoming chairman and deputy.

She talked of strategically avoiding sitting next to one of them because of his reputation when it comes to speaking to women, and so that he couldn’t lean all over her, only to then suffer a similarly unpleasant experience with the other man in question.

If you read it, then I’m sure you remember it too.

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About the author

Will Evans
Farmers Weekly Opinion writer
Will Evans farms beef cattle and arable crops across 200ha near Wrexham in North Wales in partnership with his wife and parents.
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I was so shocked and upset about it that I shared a copy on Twitter expressing just how appalled I was.

The post quickly received numerous comments, mostly from other men like me who, understandably, also felt outrage at the situation.

Though perhaps the more striking thing was that the women who commented on the post weren’t surprised at all; they were just very matter-of-fact about these things being a regular occurrence.

I had some private conversations with some of them as a result, and they bravely shared their own experiences that ranged from deeply inappropriate comments through to misogyny and sexual assault.

Common problem

So yes, be in no doubt that these aren’t isolated incidents, and it’s very common for women to experience such things in our industry and community. Think about that for a moment, if you will.

It’s probably impossible for men, though, no matter how hard we may try, to fully process this kind of behaviour and appreciate just how deeply traumatic and long-lasting its effects can be for women.

After all, we’ve never had to think carefully about who we sit by at a social occasion, or had to plan an escape route from a room.

We don’t have to make sure our friends know where we are on a night out, or need to keep a close eye on our drinks when we put them down.

We don’t get talked down to or have unwanted explicit images sent to us. We don’t get accused of overreacting or get told, “it’s just banter”.

No, men don’t get any of that, so although the majority of us will wish that these things didn’t happen, we can never fully appreciate what it feels like to experience them when they do.

The decent thing

However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that decent men everywhere can do, and it starts with us all admitting that this is an issue in the first place.

If we don’t, we’ll never begin to change things and these incidents will keep happening.

It’s then about standing up and speaking out. It can be difficult to do this, I know.

Sometimes it’s friends, colleagues, or even people with extremely high profiles using misogynistic language or behaving inappropriately, and it’s far easier to ignore it or pretend you didn’t hear or see.

But that isn’t good enough if we want to be true allies and back the women in our lives and communities. We all need to call it out, and by doing so help our industry become truly safe and inclusive for all.

I’d like to say thank you to the letter writer for her willingness to raise the issue, as I’m sure it must have been an extremely difficult thing to do.

I sincerely hope that by speaking out and helping to raise awareness in our industry you’ll have helped other women avoid a similar situation.