EARLIER this week, I visited Queens Park to read some of the hundreds of messages left there on the park gates by women in the aftermath of the murder of Sarah Everard in solidarity with women affected by male violence and the Reclaim These Streets movement. 

The sense of urgency for actual change, not slogans or platitudes, was palpable. 

Just a few days earlier, I’d witnessed an incident right on my doorstep, at the exact same time that social media feeds were filling up with images of candles lit in solidarity and defiance. Then, my wife and I, and a passer-by, all intervened to diffuse an abusive, potentially violent situation and to ensure that the woman involved could get to safety. 

This issue is real. The stats don’t lie. Violence is overwhelmingly inflicted by men, and it’s a product of a society that privileges men and elevates a narrow view of maleness.

READ MORE: Sarah Everard: Glasgow memorials to be removed for protection

Dismantling male power and ending male violence is men’s problem. We have to face that truth and we have to act on it. I’m listening to women and reflecting on what more I must do, personally, politically and in influencing policy.

Firstly, (and if I am honest, most dauntingly), I know that I have a duty as a father to two boys, to be a role model, to demonstrate what healthy, respectful relationships are, and to allow them a full range of emotions. This feels daunting because even at their young ages it’s clear how much their lives are already conditioned around gender stereotypes, in ways I have limited direct control over. I have found myself asking what if we’d had girls instead? Would I expect to find myself dispensing “stay safe” advice to them as they grew older? I need my boys to understand why that wouldn’t be okay.

I also know that the political space I am in is often sexist. Still too much of that space is occupied by men, and overwhelmingly it’s men’s occupation of it that turns it hostile, aggressive, and abusive. I know the abuse my female colleagues receive, online in particular, is almost exclusively from men, and goes way beyond anything I ever get. We all have a duty to clean up political discourse, and act on abuse when we see it, without exception.

Glasgow Times: Sarah EverardSarah Everard

Finally, as a local councillor, I know there’s more I can do to campaign for practical changes that women want in order to be and feel safer. Much of what the council is responsible for, particularly physical infrastructure – parks, roads, buildings, high streets, transport and more – conditions how we behave and how we feel, and it can entrench inequality. Up to now, those charged with overseeing these things have overwhelmingly been men. That’s resulted in spaces designed by men, for men. As it happens, the council is in the midst of creating a new super-department covering all these aspects of our local places. It needs to take this opportunity to turn that around.

Above all, I know that we need to act collectively to advance equality. Some debates around equalities have become very polarised, but that only serves the interests of those opposed to progress. Let’s always be clear that a more equal society benefits everyone. It means everyone can fulfil their potential, without limits being imposed on them.
It’s in all our interests to make that happen. Let’s get to work.