Actions speak louder than hashtags, so step up
Iwas waiting at a taxi stand in Manly at the weekend when a couple walking past began fighting. The man was aggressive and angry, swearing at his partner, accusing her of looking at another man. He was becoming more and more volatile, irately shouting in her face while she cowered backwards, evidently scared and trying to calm him down.
It got to a point where I decided this wasn’t just a normal lover’s tiff. I walked over and asked if she was OK and if she wanted my help. She looked at me with gratitude. I’m not sure if she was relieved that I broke up the momentum of the fight or grateful for making him aware that I was watching them, or maybe just surprised that someone cared enough about a stranger in obvious trouble to intervene. He began hurling abuse at me before walking off.
Other people in the taxi line began applauding me, saying: “Well done for stepping in.”
I didn’t need their applause and didn’t do it for recognition, and couldn’t help thinking: if everyone else knew his behaviour wasn’t OK, then why didn’t they step in as well?
In a world of viral Facebook posts and hashtags I wonder if everyone has forgotten that while words may raise awareness, they don’t equate to action.
It’s all well and good to share a #MeToo post or change your profile picture to the latest banner pushing a social reform — but real change needs more than typing.
For a few seconds before I went over to the couple, admittedly, I asked myself: “Is this my business? Should I get involved? What if he turns on me? What if it makes me feel awkward?”
I didn’t know if he had a tendency to turn physical or whether it would have amounted to that. But I decided it was better to try anything than to do nothing.
Particularly on the matter of domestic violence, government policies can take us only so far. The majority of the weight for change falls on the shoulders of our society’s culture.
If we are going to make any change, on any matter, we all need to be making an effort — and not just applauding those who do.