Updated: Mar 15, 2021
So, it's Mothers' day today and also recently International Women's day. Such a celebration of, and solidarity with women often does not sit comfortably with actual lived experiences.
The everyday consequences of feeling unsafe, abused, belittled, chastised or ignored is a norm for many women, and or for additional differences like skin pigmentation, sexual orientation, gender and cultural identity.
The fact many of us often can't see or refuse to accept this reality is an indication of ignorance and lack of education prevalent across all strata of society, and how these facts are often framed or worse still, obscured, to prevent both structural and individual change.
A tragic murder of Sarah Everard, and the hostility and whataboutary around women's safety, along with Harry and Megan's royal breakaway and the following backlash, exemplify how much change is required just to acknowledge people trying to live safer lives.
I've come to understand that on a system level, our societal organisation is structurally violent in many ways. Different biases, conditioning, harms and inequalities are created and perpetuated like a conveyer belt of norms.
Yet, we interlink as a social system. We can all try to improve and change. None of us are perfect and we can all do better. We need to be honest about our own fault lines and biases and how they influence our actions, so we can educate ourselves, support each other and stop taking each other down.
I've now lived in London half my life. I was in a destructive relationship that ran it's course soon after moving here. I then spent a lot of time in counselling - working though my own faults and recognising my responsibility - to challenge myself and change. Difficult, uncomfortable, necessary.
I also now live with and manage a mental health condition that's arisen over the last decade. From time to time I'm also affected by historical damage - being a parent adds all kinds or reflective triggers to overcome - from the disfunction and violence I experienced in my earlier years growing up in Wales.
So, I'm acutely aware that - no matter where you live - life is very different for men and women. I'm also hyper aware of the detrimental and destructive consequences to people's lives from sexism, misogyny, abuse, relative poverty, bullying and all forms violence.
As a man, I'm aware - now more than ever - of my presence. Will someone deem me a threat just for being me? To minimize this, I cross roads, I don't walk behind or too close, and yet I try to be seen and passive. It saddens me greatly that women feel threatened. Men need to understand and own this, and help.
I worry when my wife returns home in the evenings. I insist she gets a taxi from the station, even though its only a five minute walk. I know many friends who've been shouted at, followed, stalked and violently attacked when walking home. I've even prevented a potential knife attack on a friend.
Sadly, I also know that significantly more women are abused at home or behind closed doors. Yes men get abused and I do not diminish this fact. But the sheer scale of violence and abuse inflicted upon women - along with associated suicides - is staggering and should not be a reality. But it is.
Now, regarding the opinionated circus around the famous couple and issues of racism and mental health. Firstly, It's important to understand hereditary royalty. A family - based on outdated values, limited biological lineage and customs - which by default, at the very least, clashes with diversity, never mind equity.
As high profile as this couple may be, in leaving a family to protect their kids and their health - from regressive relationships, diminished status and racism - and getting such abuse for doing so, I find sad. Protecting our kids - not to mention our mental wellbeing - is surely a humane decision to make, whoever we are.
Maybe they made a pragmatic choice, knowing it will cost millions alone, just for the security needed to protect their children for decades to come. In breaking protocol and exposing the firm, their inheritance is cut and they move to secure the funds and safety they need.
I remember watching Diana's funeral. I will never forget seeing those two young kids - Harry in particular - paraded on dutiful display for all the world to see. It was a freakish spectacle that should never have happened and It made me cry.
Harry's mum was taken from him. She fell in love with a man with different skin colour and culture. Abhorred, or maybe even hated by the royals and establishment press - it's called structural racism - they were relentlessly hounded and vilified until tragedy.
The boy then grows up conditioned with royal norms. He makes mistakes. He falls in love. He marries and learns more about people outside his goldfish bowl. History begins to repeat, as he and Megan see first hand the racism and colonialist values now affecting their own kids and future. So they decide to get the f __k out.
All around us, sexism, misogyny, abuse, racism, bullying, violence, exploitation and glass lighting are happening, often fueled by those with the most to loose and or by the most ignorantly outdated. In both plain and hidden sight, these inequalities ruin and cost lives.
We must try our best to hold a light to darkness, add an additional plate at our tables, rally against abuse, support our whistle blowers, take mental health seriously and continually learn.
We have to recognise and challenge what we find in ourselves, to understand why we might feel so angry or hostile towards others, or why we feel so threatened by anyone trying to improve their lives or just live safer lives.
Making our world a more equitable place is an amazing journey, not a demon to be feared, apposed or fought against.
Now here's the thing...
If we fail to see or deny the existence of structural violence and racism,
If we feel threatened by feminism, thinking it not about equity for all, but as somehow diminishing men,
If we cannot recognize BLM as an attempt to move past racism and inequalities, rather than an attack on whiteness,
If we have a problem with diversity, gender identities or sexual orientation,
If we cannot see the benefit in decolonialising societies and reparation,
If we argue that free speech means a devine right to speak without consequence,
If we cannot recognise gaslighting by the powerful or bigoted,
If we don't understand whataboutary or if we use it to obscure or take people down,
If we don't take our public health and our mental health seriously,
If we chastise our whistle blowers when they come forward,
If we scream snowflake or liar at people who share experiences of abuse or racism,
then just maybe we need some more education, or maybe we're part of the problem?
"Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better" (Maya Angelou)