Understanding disrespect towards women

Disrespect towards women is anything that makes a woman feel uncomfortable, unsafe, put down, or treated unfairly because she’s a woman. It’s pervasive. It’s targeted. And it often involves sexist and sexually harassing behaviours, like:

  • making sexist jokes and comments
  • interrupting, talking over, and speaking for women
  • pestering a woman who said she ‘isn’t interested’
  • thinking or saying women ‘belong’ in certain roles
  • using patronising language with women you don’t know (‘sweetheart’, ‘love’).

Where it happens

Unfortunately, disrespect towards women can happen anywhere at any time.

Most Australians think it’s common or very common:

  • in bars, pubs (67%)
  • on social media (65%)
  • in workplaces (65%)
  • on the street (57%)
  • in sport (55%)
  • on public transport (54%)
  • at home or with family (50%).

How doing nothing does harm

Research tells us that when disrespect towards women goes unchallenged, it creates a culture in which violence against women is more likely.

Doing nothing about disrespect also:

  • sends the message that we’re OK with what was done or said
  • encourages people to keep being disrespectful
  • makes women feel they should just ‘take a joke’
  • stops women being themselves on social media
  • makes women avoid places where there are lots of men
  • leads women to leave their jobs.

    And while not all disrespect leads to violence, all violence starts with disrespect.

    Iceberg image of violence towards women
    Gender inequality is what lies below the surface driving violence against women. Image adapted from Gippsland Women's Health.

    Change the story

    Watch this video to get a deeper understanding of just how disrespect towards women leads to violence against them in Australia.

    Illustrated silhouettes of women on a green background

    So, what’s the good news? Well, we can all do something about it . And actually, it makes a huge difference when we do.

    If you or someone you know is experiencing disrespect or violence towards women, please visit the Help and support page for support services.