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Courage to speak up against disrespect  

[supplied by 33 Creative]

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Renee Thomson is a proud young Wiradjuri woman from Western Sydney. Image: supplied

There’s been many times in my life where I’ve spoken up about a disrespectful comment or behaviour towards women, and also times when I didn't speak up, but later wished that I had.

 

An example of that is hearing off-the-cuff jokes and comments being made by older men like, “women belong in the kitchen”, and not saying anything because I thought, “well, that’s just their mentality, there’s nothing I can really say that will change the way they think”.

 

Regretfully, I’ve seen the impacts these comments have had on young people in the community and the way they behave towards each other.

 

Now, I always make sure to speak up about disrespect.

 

There have been times when I have been out with friends and noticed the disrespectful way some of my male friends talk to girls passing by. It’s like they become different people depending on the environment and who is around them.

 

Whenever I’ve seen this, I’ve spoken up about it, pointing out how inappropriate, disrespectful and intimidating this kind of behaviour is. In most cases, the guys I’ve said this to have taken on board what I’ve said. Not everyone will, but I think most people will listen to you and it can lead to a positive change in the way they behave in the future.

 

It’s so important to break down disrespectful behaviours that we’ve learnt from a young age. Explaining the harm that these words can have can help people understand they can have a lasting impact.

 

What I would say to any person about speaking up is: you have a voice. Remember to always use it, even if you feel tears coming on, or you feel embarrassed. Just remember that even if one person hears you, that’s better than no one hearing you.

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