Yes, men do need to start calling out their mates for being sexist

Next time I fire up Netflix it will eagerly recommend yummy new offerings of my favourite thing – stand-up comedy. I love stand-up for the clever writing, the brave delivery, the ability of comedy to deliver the most evil and savage of satire in a sweet package of hilarity. For me, it is one of the most entertaining, valuable and socially relevant art forms. You can't be dumb and do comedy.

I have a decent man crush on Aussie Jim Jefferies, scratching furiously at the underbelly of American society, skewering nincompoop thinking on abortion and gun control, all the while cleverly hiding in plain sight behind his boyish charm and laconic accent. 

I love Amy Schumer, comedy world champion Ricky Gervais, Jimmy Carr, Russell Peters, Sarah Silverman, Joe Rogan, Jack Whitehall, Marc Maron and … Louis C.K.

Problematic partnerships

For anyone who doesn't know, Louise C.K. has recently apologised to women he sexually harassed through his career, after being outed by The New York Times for masturbating in front of women, like Harvey Weinstein. Now, in my opinion, there's nothing less visually erotic than a bloke with his pants around his ankles, tackle in hand and a hopeful expression, but this is clearly about power, not sex.

Now, Louis C.K. is a problem for me and Marc Maron. He is Maron's best friend and was, until last week, my pretend best friend too.

Maron and Louis C.K. occupied the elite inner sanctum of comedy, they had the best table at the best comedy club in the world, the Comedy Cellar in New York's Greenwich Village. Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld would get a seat if they were lucky.

"I certainly can't condone anything he did. There's no way to justify it, no way to defend it, no way to apologise for him about it, no way to let him off the hook," Maron said in a podcast last week.

But he's going to stay friends with Louis C.K.

"He f****d up. He's in f*****g big trouble. What am I gonna do? I'm gonna be his friend. What do you want me to do?"


Take a moral stand

What we want you to do, Marc, is not be his friend any more. Tell him why. Speak about it publicly. Mourn your friendship. But no more fun nights at the special table.

We live in extraordinary times. We've recently witnessed an incredible international social tipping point. So many women are yelling "we're mad as hell and we're not taking it any more", that other women finally feel safe enough in numbers to add their voices to the world-wide scream of outrage. Sisters are really doing it for themselves.

What can men do? We can lean our shoulders against the boulder and help women get it rolling faster and faster.

It's time for good men to be that guy, the one who calls his mates out at a barbecue for muttering "Whoa, look at her, I'd smash that …".

We're going to have to say, out loud to our friends, "Mate, if you keep talking like that, I can't be your mate."

Improving the species

Men carefully police each other, making sure we all present a united manly front of acceptable, aggressive, blokey, stoic, emotionless, tough, behaviour. To start raving, seriously, about sexism is going to see us ostracised, called "gay", (still one of the most powerful mind-control weapons, not even signifying a man who likes other men but a man who's not traditionally "manly"), sneered at, openly laughed at.

We'll hear a lot of "Mate, relax, I'm not serious, it's just jokes."

Ironically, one of the most powerful things a man can do is stand up for what he believes in. That takes a special kind of tough.

Women have shown us how to do it. One person raises their voice, despite the consequences. Then another. And another. The more people who stand up and say "Hang on, this is wrong!" the more will feel comfortable to join in. There is safety in numbers.

Learn from your mistakes

One close mate who regularly reads this column feels I am "not being myself" and "writing for an audience" rather than using my authentic voice. Didn't we once have a list of the top five hottest women in the business where we both worked?


But one of the beauties of being a grown up human being in the world is you can look around, educate yourself and change your mind about things. Life is a constant exercise in self-improvement. One of the clearest thinkers of our time, Alain de Botton, says "anyone who isn't embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn't learning enough."

So let's be that guy and start change from within.

Soon, there'll be more of "us" at the barbecue than "them" and everyone will laugh at the stupid, uncool, dumb, sexist dickheads. A few attitudes would change very quickly, I suspect.

It's time to stand up and be a real man. You might find there's a lot more standing right beside you.

With more than 25 years in Australian media, Phil Barker has edited NW and Woman's Day magazines, and published such titles as Vogue, GQ, Delicious, InsideOut and Donna Hay. He is a consultant creative director and communications specialist, currently writing a book on "man stuff" for publisher New Holland. He is a regular commentator on the lives and style of Australian men.

What will you do be part of the change? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.