I GREW up with plenty of bad male role models when it came to attitudes towards women.

I come fae a pretty wee Angus village where things are relatively rural and traditional. Men lived the public life – men were the headmaster, the shopkeeper, the publican, the minister and the garage owner. Behind the scenes, women made the dinner, looked after the kids, and did the unsung work outwith the limelight. Subconsciously, it was clear who was in charge.

My mum told me that, growing up, she closely policed my sister’s behaviour and appearance to try to prevent her attracting dangerous attention from the shadowy boys and men of the village. My brother and me were left to run loose. Never were we instructed on how to treat women beyond holding doors open and carrying heavy things for them. Certainly, we never had any training that recognised the ongoing threat men posed to women.

It wasn’t the done thing to tell young men how to behave. Instead, the pressure was on women to keep themselves safe from predation.

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I carried many toxic traits and language with me from this upbringing into my young adulthood. They went unchallenged in Scotland. It was only when I moved to my dad’s natal home of New Zealand that some of my attitudes, actions and language got called into question.

The Kiwis have had votes for (some) women since the 1800s, and have far more progressive attitudes around sexual relations and gender equality than we have. I was very lucky that soon after arriving there, I got into a relationship with an articulate, informed feminist New Zealander. She empathetically schooled me out of policing women’s outfits, or feeling compelled to pass judgement on female behaviour, and all the other toxic stuff I’d been up to. It shouldn’t have been her burden to correct my behaviour, but I’ll always be grateful that she took it upon herself to do so.

I wasn’t cured overnight. But I had been made aware of my privilege and of my responsibility to correct my behaviour.

I eventually returned to Dundee. And I got a bit of a fright. I couldnae believe how bad the situation was for women in the city I was born. Female friends and family are regularly harassed, wolf whistled at and worse as they walk around my neighbourhood. At work, I would hear and see aggressively sexist words and actions every day.

Behind closed doors here, things escalate. Dundee has the UK’s highest domestic abuse rate and has done for years. The most extreme end of violence is reached often. Women are murdered. Often by partners, sometimes by strangers. Almost always by men.

Although I could now see the problems, I had no idea how or where to start trying to do contribute something positive to it.

Then last year I was approached by Police Scotland. They were launching a campaign to help men realise they were part of the problem and help them become part of the solution. The campaign launched with a viral video. It featured normal youngish guys asking questions like: “Ever called a girl ‘doll’?” Ever whistled at her going down the street? Ever stared at her on the bus or said to a mate: “I’d do that”?’

The video has had more than three million views to date. My involvement in the campaign was to produce a few short videos for my followers that addressed male sexual entitlement.

The campaign generated interest. Similar campaigns have followed in Bristol and, in the last few days, one has launched across London too. This is a message that has at last found its moment.

I felt the journey I’d been on personally with these issues might be helpful to share. I wrote it up as a pitch for the radio and with two producers fae Radio 4, Peter and Dave, we set about creating a show. It’s called Am I That Guy? and it airs today. In the programme, I speak to lads in the street talking about the difficulty of policing their peers when their behaviour strays into the unacceptable. I speak to a pal about sexualising women in public.

The most insightful conversation in the programme, and the one that gave me most hope and direction, was with Graham Goulden. Graham is a retired polis who was for a long time part of the Violence Reduction Unit in Glasgow. Now he focuses on reducing male violence against women.

Graham works with young men and boys helping them grow into good men. Men who are active agents of positive change, who act to reduce male violence. “Look at your own behaviours around women. It all starts with you. Most men don’t look in the mirror and see an offender but most women I know have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives,” Graham says.

“No, not all men are abusive but, yes, all women, many men and all children, have to deal with the consequences of male entitlement and its link to violence every single day. Finally, we cannot expect women to be the only ones leading men to change. You can be part of the solution too.”

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Women have been thinking about, writing about, agitating against this state of affairs for a very long time, and most men have not been listening. Hopefully, thanks to the widespread campaigns which started in Scotland, men will become switched on to the severity of the situation and to their role in it.

And hopefully, through the work of Graham Goulden and others, men can start to take responsibility for enacting positive change. Certainly, change cannot come soon enough.

Am I That Guy? is on Radio 4 at 11am today and is repeated at 8pm tomorrow evening. It is available from today on BBC Sounds.


Alistair Heather’s viral videos for Police Scotland can be viewed at: