“It’s toxic masculinity. Male entitlement. Men and boys in a sweetie shop, helping themselves, and yet they’re ragin’. If you’re still thinking “Not All Men!” you are part of the problem.”
I needed a news blackout. Waking in the mornings and searching for that elusive cause to my existential angst, the images of a medieval-style parliament would drift gradually into focus. Baillie, Davidson, Ross etc pelting rocks at our First Minister. Then the Indy Pricks, with poisoned arrows, waiting in the long grass, while football slogans howl around our public places. Misogyny on a roll.
Then the really harsh awakening. I dip into Twitter. It’s awash with hate and grief. The Hate Crime Bill has been passed, the knives are out, and the ‘free-speech’ victims are lining up for martyrdom. And devastatingly, another abduction and unspeakably vicious, pointless murder. I had to know her name. It was Sarah.
Cue another tedious round of #Notallmen. Another defensive display of male-by-male murder statistics. Yes, we know. We know there are women murderers and abusers. We know that holding doors open doesn’t lead to murder, and that Salmond was not convicted for his “inappropriate behaviour”. Women jurors yada yada. Medals all round.
And we know that some of the witch-hunters against the FM are women. We’re still watching this battle rage through the independence movement. The battle for its soul within an ominously misogynistic, patriarchal society. We ache for Salmond’s return to oblivion.
I reflect. Moira Jones remembered with Sarah in heart-achingly colourful and eloquent splendour on the gates to Queens Park. The news is awash with the missing and the dead. It always has been. Bennylyn and baby Jellica just last week. Unknown and unseen victims of “domestic” violence. A description that screams “don’t get involved, it’s behind closed doors, nothing to see here.” Nothing new anyway. Nothing, yet everything is special about Sarah, and Moira and the others whose names are lost or forgotten.
Does it matter whether the alleged perpetrators are police or lone basement dwellers? Not to the victims. Not when your world and your life is being casually, hideously snuffed out by an opportunist. Does it really matter in the broader scheme of things whether the police acted out of venom towards women in respectful vigil for Sarah in Clapham, and protection of rioting Rangers ‘fans’ in Glasgow?
Not really. It’s part of the same rage and hatred. The same parade of establishment power. The same dark underbelly of the patriarchal society, supported by the iron will of the men and women of the far right, regardless of whether or not Priti Patel expresses ‘disappointment at the actions of the Met.
While the power base has roots that reach into the depths and cling on for dear life, the outward, day to day expression of our largely unchallenged misogynistic establishment cuts across rank and uniform and political affiliation. It cannot be equated with poverty or race or education.
It’s toxic masculinity. Male entitlement. Men and boys in a sweetie shop, helping themselves, and yet they’re ragin’. If you’re still thinking “Not All Men!” you are part of the problem.
More ominous waking nightmares. Teachers leering at 14-year-old kids. ‘Playful’ bottom slaps. A doctor asking for near nakedness for a routine health check. Groping strangers in the train and on the street. Unnecessary physical closeness, and worse on the crowded bus. ‘Slag’, when you’re minding your own business. ‘Lesbian!’ if you turn him down. Merciful escapes from nightmare hitch-hiking experience. Waking up to a stranger crawling into the tent during the night. Cat-calling, wolf-whistling, ‘smile!’ ‘humourless’ ‘fat’ ‘ugly’ ‘uncool.’
The dread, as a man approaches or walks behind you in a quiet place. The avoidance of quiet places. The draping, lingering arm around the waist. The vile opportunist wetness of a celebratory kiss. The humorous dismissal of men exposing themselves in Queens Park, as harmless tradition. Struggling to get a word in. The hesitance when getting into a taxi alone. The hesitance and shame of admitting that this is just my list of experience and observations, and it’s far from complete or explicit enough. Oh, and the gratitude when you turned out to be ‘Ok’ and passed by peacefully. Another medal to the men anxious to tell the world that they cross the road to avoid scaring you, and quiet gratitude to those who just tell each other to do it.
Much division and hatred has arisen on the back of Gender Reform discussion. Devastatingly, we are not speaking with one voice as women in these times. I do not intend to make the case for those who identify as Gender Critical. Instead I would ask every woman to evaluate the everyday threats, whether insidious or starkly threatening, that we all face. Trans women are not excluded from these threats and in many ways are more vulnerable. Predatory men rarely feel the need to disguise or hide from their perceived right to stalk, harass and attack. We know this. We see it everywhere. Entitlement, remember?
Will Sarah Everard’s terrible death, poignant remembrance and violent police response make an impact on women’s lives and women’s safety in the longer term? It’s not her responsibility. It’s down to every adult male to take responsibility for his actions, his thoughts, words, glances and intentions. The real hiding place for misogyny in all its degrees is not in our changing rooms or shared spaces. You could say it’s out there in plain sight, but, more insidiously, it’s behind the vile façade of our broken, toxic patriarchal systems.