Last week, says Barbara Ellen in The Observer, Sadiq Khan launched his new awareness campaign, “Say maaate to a mate”. The idea is to make young men feel “empowered” to step in if their friends make sexist comments. Well-intentioned as it is, the concept comes across as “woolly and over-idealised”. If some guy is making “awful remarks”, it’s unlikely a pal saying “maaate” in a disappointed tone is going to “magically banish” his misogyny for good. Even more ridiculous is the interactive video, which features some oaf (“working class, of course, as are all sexists”) spewing out anti-female vitriol until you click a button saying “maaate”. Why don’t his writhing friends just stop inviting him? “Does he buy all the beer and weed?”
The main problem with the campaign is that it ignores the “big, ugly problems” – things like rape and violence – which women face every day. Men making gross comments to their mates is, of course, wrong. But there are “different degrees of sexism”, and they pose different levels of danger. Besides, ask any woman, and I think she’d agree that trying to control the personal conversations of youngsters is a “dire waste of public funding”. There are plenty of tangible things that would make our streets safer for women: improved policing, more street lighting, and better support for women fleeing abusive partners. Sure, the cost of this campaign wouldn’t come close to solving any of these “more deep-rooted issues”. But a “feeble ‘maaate’” is nowhere near enough to take on the “real threats”.