We Need Men To Start Calling Out Their Friends’ Sexist Comments

The texts from the Belfast rape trial show that 'locker room talk' is alive and well in Ireland.

After the verdict in the Belfast trial was handed down yesterday, I couldn’t stop thinking about the texts from the defendants’ Whatsapp groups that were read out in court. You’ve no doubt heard about them. The ones that refer to ‘spit roasting’ and ‘Belfast sluts’ and a ‘merry go round at the carnival’.

Even detached from the rest of the trial, these texts are disgusting. This kind of talk isn’t ‘banter’ or ‘locker room chat’. It’s toxic, dangerous, and emblematic of the worst elements of masculinity. Women are under no illusions that this is only happening in Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding’s Whatsapp groups – but just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s OK. It shouldn’t be women’s job to ensure that we’re not being humiliated and belittled all the time. Men can and should stand up for women in these situations.

I’ve seen a lot of tweets from men rightly repulsed by the content of those texts, and some of the more gloating responses to the verdict – we need you to now apply that repulsion to your own friends and Whatsapp groups. You know that ‘real men’ don’t speak about women like that, so back it up. It’s not enough to laugh along through your discomfort, or stay quiet in fear of being labelled a ‘dryshite’. If you feel uncomfortable with the way a friend is talking about women (or any other minority) say something.

You don’t have to start a fight – just keep your cool and tell them why what they’re saying is wrong. That’s all we’d like you to do. If they’re not willing to examine how they think and talk about women on the advice of a friend, it might be time to examine that friendship.

Today, hundreds of people – men and women – have congregated in cities and towns across Ireland as a show of support to the complainant in the Belfast trial, with many more chiming in online with the hashtag #IBelieveHer. I hope it’s a sign that many of us no longer find the attitude towards women displayed in those texts acceptable. And I hope it emboldens people to call out ‘locker room talk’ when they see it.

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