I’m a heterosexual man. I always have been. I was a child in the 1970s and a teen in the 80s. I have made lots of mistakes in my life and my attitudes have evolved over time – I’m sure that despite my trying to live in a better way, I have attitudes and unconscious behaviours that are far from perfect in regards to equality. But I’ve never raped or assaulted women nor have I wanted to.
Rape, sexual assault and violence are an extreme end of a spectrum of disrespect and abuse and oppression of women. How can any objective person not see that? That there are links between everyday, humdrum inequalities and the kind of violence that the La Manada* case exemplifies.
* (CW: Extreme Sexual Violence)
I think that despite the failings of men like myself, society has changed dramatically in terms of how women are treated and it’s better for everyone that it has. I don’t know about calling myself a feminist – I don’t know if I qualify for that, and its not important, what is important is to support women who are feminists and who have seen that the achievement of equality is political. That feminism is and has been and will be crucial in achieving equality – equality still hasn’t been achieved but is a damn site nearer than it has been in history.
I would say to other heterosexual men, don’t listen to those whining little shits like Jordan Peterson and the other men who claim that feminism is their enemy. Support your feminist partners, mothers and daughters. Nobody has anything to gain by women “knowing their place” Not for them and certainly not for men. I find myself sickened by the lad culture, informed by pornography and entitlement. I find myself reading about men acting the victim – we are being emasculated, we are unsure of our role, we are oppressed by feminist ball-busters getting on at us for not doing things their way and I don’t recognise their complaints.
I don’t want to be saying #NotAllMen or trying to make out I’m a saint or anything. I just find that so many of the gains made over my 50 years on the planet are being attacked by a stupid but influential fringe of more or less alt right, conservatively minded, and often childish men who want women to be their fantasy objects, whether in a sexual sense or in terms of how we all interact.
The countries with the best levels of equality are also the happiest countries. Feminism is not just good for women it’s good for us too! And I know we have all met counter productive, overly ideological and annoyingly strident and judgemental feminists sometimes, but they are necessary too. Sometimes its just that they are telling truths we don’t like to hear, and like any other political position, the extreme fringes tend to shout louder than the rest – but sometimes the extreme fringe has a point too!
We heterosexual men should support and encourage the women in our lives to be political on their own behalf, even if it’s sometimes uncomfortable for us. And we need to not pretend we are victims, but take it like a man when we are criticised for behaviours that we sometimes don’t even see, but which are part of the construction of the inequality surrounding us.
There is a demo today, June 24th 2018, against the release of the La Manada rapists, at 6pm at the Spanish Consulate, North Castle Street, Edinburgh
On May 25th, in the late evening, Ruth Davidson tweeted that at lunchtime she had been followed through the streets by a man shouting Indy slogans while filming her as his dogs barked.
As someone who has experienced my fair share of street harassment (I speak about it on this podcast, skip to 1hr 10mins in if you want to listen), my heart went out to Ruth. I’ve got four children myself and I well understand how vulnerable pregnancy makes you feel. Ruth’s account of events reads as an incredibly scary experience – being chased by someone yelling slogans at you while dogs bark at you must be terrifying . My mental image of a pregnant woman running away from someone shouting at her while dogs terrified her further was powerful, as I’m sure a skilled orator like Davidson was well aware.
And then the footage of the incident emerged. I’ll link it here so you can come to your own conclusions,
@RuthDavidsonMSP being economical with the truth again. Firstly, she described the individual as "a man". A bit rude considering she knows who he is. Also, he wasn't shouting anything of the kind. In fact all he did was ask a question of his MSP. Which she didn't answer! #Scotrefpic.twitter.com/XWTuXuLVaj
But what I see in that video is very far from the events described by Ruth in her tweet. I see a constituent break into a slight jog in order to catch up with their elected representative and ask them a valid question in a respectful tone. At no point was the questioner rude, abusive or even loud. At no point did they cross into Ruth’s personal space – they were never in arms reach of each other.
Granted, some people are afraid of dogs, but the dogs in question were small, and well under control -at no point do they approach Ms Davidson – and cannot be heard barking on the video at all. Also, Ruth Davidson doesn’t appear to have a debilitating dog phobia:
And she doesn’t appear to feel at all threatened by the questioner. She turns her back on him, and walks away at a relaxed pace, surrounded by her colleagues. He wasnt intruding on her leisure time, or following her into a medical appointment, or bothering her on a bus – she is very obviously out at work, doing her job as an MSP.
On parliament.uk, it states that an MP (so presumably also an MSP who is leader of the Scottish branch of her party) “generally try to meet as many people as possible” so that they can gain “further insight and context into issues they may discuss when they return to Westminster”
It seems only fair then, to assume that answering politely worded queries from probable constituents is a key component of an elected representatives job.
Some may say that demanding time and attention from women on the street is harassment. In the vast majority of cases I would wholeheartedly agree. Indeed I make that same argument on my podcast about street harassment. But Ruth Davidson was not a lone woman on the street being harassed and intimidated for attention. She was a woman at work, and being asked questions is her job.
So surprise surprise, Ruth’s telling porky pies. Why am I moved to write about it? It’s not exactly new behaviour.
Well, quite apart from the fact that if that man hadn’t been filming the encounter, he could’ve got into serious trouble – either through legal means or the knock on social effects of having people erroneously believe you are an abusive man who chases terrified pregnant women through the streets with your furiously barking dogs; a woman with power was prepared to sacrifice the quality of life of a stranger in order to present a narrative, and that’s both cruel and breathtakingly manipulative.
The actions of women like Ruth Davidson who exaggerate and fabricate encounters like this are harmful to women and girls everywhere, and perpetuate rape culture by giving weight to the idea that women aren’t to be believed when we talk about very real instances of street harassment and abuse that we face every single day.
Every single time we talk about harassment and abuse, women are shouted down by people who talk about false allegations that ruin lives. For a woman in the public eye to make a false allegation of harassment is unforgivable. To make one that is so easily disproven shows, at best, political naivety that makes her unfit for her post, at worst a malicious streak wide enough to throw a probable constituent under the bus while simultaneously trashing every woman who has been brave enough to talk about their experiences of #everydaysexism , street harassment and abuse. Frankly put, how dare she trivialize our experiences in this way?
In the UK we have a woefully low conviction rate for rape and sexual assault, we have a culture of blame surrounding the victims of street harassment, any displays of solidarity or supportive dialogues women try to set up online are swamped by MRAs and “egalitarians” sliding in to derail conversations with cries of “well, actually…” And “but what about..?”, gaslighting survivors of abuse and suggesting the majority of accusations of abuse and harrassment are false, and Ruth Davidson has just handed them yet another weapon to attack us with. So much for sisterhood.
As a survivor of abuse, an endurer of street harassment, the mother of a daughter, a feminist -I will always instinctively #BelieveHer. Which is why I’ve nothing but contempt for those in the public eye that muddy the waters by weaponising an image of vulnerability in the way Ruth Davidson did in that encounter and the subsequent, clearly well thought out tweet that followed some hours later.
Shame on any woman that would throw us all under the bus by polluting dialogue about our very real experiences of street abuse with spurious accusations like this. I can only conclude with what those before me have said – Ruth Davidson, You Ain’t No Feminist, Sis.
On this episode of Ungagged, introduced by Neil Scott, Graham Campbell talks about the Rethinking Race conference in Glasgow, Victoria Pearson reminds us that hope is apathy’s twin sister if it isnt backed up with action, and George Collins talks about how children are citizens now, not citizens in waiting, and they deserve to have that recognised in the education system, as well as wider society.
At the request of his daughter Zoe, Derek Stewart Macpherson reads The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, Paul Quigley of the FAC tells us why he cofounded the campaign against the Offensive Behaviour in Football Act, and Chuck Hamilton, will be talking Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, free thought (or not) in regards religion, and Marx. They are linked, we promise!
We will have an update on Jagtar Singh Johal, the Scottish man being detained in India from Damanvir Kaur, Debra Torrance* will give us her prediction of our situation come the day of Brexit, and Teresa Durran shares her poems Resurgum 1 and 2.
Catriona Stevenson, talks about the Glencoe Massacre, Thomas Morris asks if, when times are tough, it is better to leave “your” country, or stay and fight to make it better, and our Red Raiph talks about whit can go wrang when you give someone a job for life.
Ungagged is a not for profit collective of volunteers, and we rely on the generosity of our listeners to meet hosting and advertising costs, as well as help us fund the campaigns on our news page. If you’d like to donate us the cost of a newspaper or a cup of coffee to help keep us going, you can do so through PayPal here.
“It is incumbent upon each of us to be the woman that [killer’s name] wanted to kill. We must live with this honor, this courage. We must drive out fear. We must hold on. We must create. We must resist. Andrea Dworkin (2007)
Online, in an increasingly polarised section of the internet called “the Yes Movement” (nationalists versus progressives/lefties etc… ) Men, and women, just a fortnight before the eighteenth anniversary a hate crime that shocked the world, were defending the strange position that Scotland does not suffer from sexism. In fact, some people outwardly stated that “gender was not a problem,” and that the feminists were going too far in asking for gender balanced panels at meetings.
On December 6th 1989, a man decided that affirmative action (positive discrimination) in École Polytechnique in Montreal (a university in the city), was keeping him back in life. He walked into an engineering class, where he lined up all of the women students and shot them, shouting, “I hate feminists…”
The fourteen murdered women were Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, and Annie Turcotte.
The murderer’s name doesn’t matter. In fact I won’t be mentioning his name in this article.
In all we do to remember the injustices against women, be they small as exemplified in the online #everydaysexism hashtag, or in this terrible event and in the dreadful statistics that show our society has a problem with violence against women, we must remember these women had their lives cut short by a man who blamed them for his perceived loss of privilege.
Many people came into the Scottish twitter spat, #manelgate, saying they hated feminists (regardless of the adjective they used before the word),or saying they weren’t feminists, and they “saw men and women as equals.” One of the panellists went as far as to say that people who were highlighting this issue were attacking him as a man.
The chilling thing about this Twitter “conversation” this week, is that it mirrors debate and discussion in civic life in Canada before and after the awful event in Montreal.
On the lead up to that event, there had been an increasing reaction from some men on the legislative moves towards equality. “Men’s rights” groups were springing up, as the campaign to give women equal rights and opportunities in society was in its infancy.
The killer’s suicide note, which in the weeks after the massacre had been withheld by Montreal police, was chilling.
“Would you note that if I commit suicide today it is not for economic reasons … but for political reasons,” it read. “Because I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker … I have decided to put an end to those viragos.”
He listed all of the aspects of life he thought women had taken advantage over him and other men.
In sum, the killer held feminists responsible for all of his personal problems, and had also made a list of women to be shot, including politicians and business women.
Some “intellectuals” and public discourse after the event, blamed the perceived victory of feminism as the cause. And the word “veragos,” a word that had become prevalent in the discourse before the shooting, was used on occasions during debates in Canada about interventions in cases of domestic violence.
One of the masculinist rhetorical strategies to absolve the responsibility of the massacre from the killer to feminism, was to talk about a “feminist plot,” there are many examples of this across the internet (I recommend the research of Mélissa Blais), but one chilling quote from a piece by a Masculinist, Francois Brooks (1999) entitled “[Killers name] et les feministes,” says,
“On December 6, 1989, there were in fact 15 victims shot down by an insane idea introduced by an outrageous feminism. The idea that men are executioners and women the victims must be eliminated. What’s needed is love, simply love. It would have taken women to love [killer’s surname], to save him and the fourteen others from the murderous idea engendered by the feminists.”
It was, according to Brooks and others, women’s fault for not loving the killer that the killer murdered women.
We saw the same again in 2014, when a 22year old man killed 6 people and wounded 14 others, in Isla Vista, California. Again, we don’t need to state his name. He left a 100,000 word manifesto and a youtube video explaining his motivations, explaining that he wanted to punish women for rejecting him and that he envied sexually active men so he wanted to punish them for their sexual activity. He stated in his manifesto that in his self-proclaimed ideal world, he imagined that he would;
“quarantine all [women] in concentration camps. At these camps, the vast majority of the female population will be deliberately starved to death.”
Once again commentators speculated that had more women loved him, been more friendly to him, given him the attention he wanted, he would not have committed his crime. When feminists and journalists tried to frame the motivations of the killer against a backdrop of a patriarchal society that tries to rob women of agency while shaming men who do the meet up with a stereotypical masculine ideal, they were shouted down on the basis that the killer murdered men too, and had mental health issues. The hashtag #NotAllMen was born.
Masculinism and meninism claims that there is a feminist conspiracy – feminists are hijacking their lives and organisations. And this discourse happened in Canada AFTER 14 women died at the hands of a masculinist. And happened once again AFTER a meninist had expressly stated that his reasons for going on a killing spree were that he didn’t feel women were giving him what he was entitled to.
Psychologist, Patrizia Romito arrives at the following definition of the ideology implicit in blaming the victims and the whitewashing of male violence and misogyny;
“[A] set of concepts and beliefs grounded on a distortion of reality and conceived, sometimes unconsciously, for the sole purpose of protecting the interests of the dominant group, in this case, the perpetrators of violence.” Furthermore, she writes, “to protect these interests, blaming the victims may turn out to be insufficient; in some cases punishment must be dealt out.”
The killers have been heroized by masculinist groups and individuals. Heroizing takes three main stages, “first to be known and accepted, any hero must carry out actions.” Second he must be officially confirmed, whether by a government, a group of admirers, or a population. Finally, “he must be institutionalized, that is given institutional status to ensure his immortality.”(Julie Perone 2007).
The Montreal massacre is well known, and is commemorated every year in a series of events across Canada and indeed the world. And there has been attempts by men in articles and in ceremony, to legitimise and celebrate what he did as “understandable,” and a tactic worthy in a perceived fight against feminism. The killer has in turn been excused by pseudo psychologists and the press in Canada, almost, in some masculinists eyes, taking on the mantel of a martyred hero for the cause.
Nicole Brossard, a writer, stated,
“Reading La Presse and Le Devoir, … I have wondered if [killer’s name] will soon have received more sympathy than his dead and injured victims.”
Micheline Carrier (2002) says,
“Each week, women are murdered for motives similar to those of [killer’s name], that is, the inability to let women determine their own lives and become full members of society… The “fathers lobby” downplays domestic violence and, ignoring reliable data, claims that the violence of women against men is equal to if not greater than the violence of men against women. Some men believe that recognition of a right for women results in the loss of rights for them. These people demand legislative changes that would limit the rights of women and endanger women and children living in a violent environment.”
I am not suggesting there is a masculinist/meninist in Scottish society who is about to kill women because of Yes groups being called out for the gender inequality that seems to be prevalent in the groups and their public meetings, but I am suggesting some men need to look at the language they used during that discourse, and how easily some played the victim card, and were in turn given sympathy.
Our words have power, perhaps greater power than we mean them to, and we should be mindful of how that power is directed.
A society that has 51% women can no longer make excuses as to why women are excluded from political and other civic discourse. We need to be looking for solutions. Some of these crowdfunding, victim blaming speakers would do well in standing aside or refusing to sit on a platform that is at the very least, not gender balanced. Society is skewed, violently, in favour of men in many ways (WASPI women being one of the latest to hit the headlines, the disproportionate effect of Universal Credit sanctions on pregnant women another).
Women’s voices need to be heard, promoted and normalised as part of public discourse and women need to feel safe and confident they will be heard, not demonised, or worse for speaking out and taking their rightful place in a society that has a long way to go to be equal. We can do better than this. We should be doing better than this.
If this has led you to reflect on what you could be doing better, or just inspired you to do more to stand against misogyny and violence against women, we’d encourage you to look up the White Ribbon Campaign which was set up in response to the Montreal massacre, who aim to address men directly – so they understand the scale of the problem, and become part of the solution, alongside women.
I like to think most men agree that grabbing a woman by the vagina without asking permission first is not a nice thing to do.
Most men would, I hope, agree that forcing parts of yourself into a woman while she is passed out drunk behind a dumpster is also not very nice.
Most men don’t lurk about on social media waiting to call women ‘entitled skanks’ and ‘sluts’, telling them they should get cancer or making vile comments about their miscarried babies.
Yeah, the world is full of men who treat women with respect, who never use misogynist language and would never dream of asking for nudes, let alone send a dick-pic.
The unsolicited dick-pic which has, by the way, become the 21st century equivalent of the flasher in the park. Instead of jumping out of the bushes waggling a shrivelled appendage from beneath a grubby mac, they now get their pervy kicks by sending slightly out of focus photos of their cock and balls to any women who has had the audacity to exist in a public online forum. Cheap, nasty thrills has to be why they do it. Sending someone a disembodied picture of your wang-doodle (or in most cases just doodle) can’t actually get you anything in return except ignored, blocked or bombarded with pictures of other men’s junk.
No how I met your mother story starts with ‘Well, I sent her a poorly lit picture of my semi-erect penis and the rest is history.’
But I digress.
The point is, most guys aren’t misogynistic, rapey arseholes. They are just nice guys. And we all know, nice guys finish last, right?
I read this article entitled ‘https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FDangerousMindsBlog%2Fposts%2F1295376133850701&width=500“>The friend zone isn’t a thing and women don’t owe you shit.’
But, according to a whole bunch of ‘nice guys’ in the comments section, they do. These guys would never call a woman a bitch or cat-call you in the street. They will tell you how they think female stand-up comedians are actually really funny and how much they like the latest Beyonce album because it’s so empowering. They are just poor, nice guys, telling us how it really is.
“The truth is if we are attracted to a woman, we never want to be just friends.”
Oh, well that’s just rude. I thought we had loads in common. We like the same music/support the same football team/both hate our boss and like to create ever more elaborate comedy scenarios which result in him losing his job. But we can’t be friends because I have lady parts and you don’t think I’m completely ugly. Cheers mate.
“He had a desire for her, she should directly reject him as soon as she knows she doesn’t feel the same way, and have no expectation that he wanted to be friends.”
Yeah women, if a man starts talking to you, instantly assume he wants to have sex with you and then shoot him down in the bluntest way you can.
“Not every compliment is an attempt to sleep with a woman. Some grown ass women could just plain and simply be polite about rejection.”
But wait…didn’t that other nice guy just say…oh, now my silly woman head is confused.
“The friend-zone is not about sex. It is about unrequited love. It’s about a woman being tone deaf about the feelings of a man. I submit that if a man has romantic interest in a woman, then she relegates the man to the friend-zone, she is communicating to him that you are not good enough to be my lover.”
Newsflash my dude, there is no such thing as ‘unrequited love’. You don’t live in a fucking Mediaeval courtly love story. That is infatuation, pure and simple. And it’s all in your head.
This reminded me of someone I once knew. Let’s call him Neil. Neil had been infatuated with a certain girl since school. Nothing more than a few drunken goodnight kisses ever happened between them, but he was her faithful puppy dog. She even drove his car whilst drunk and crashed it. He, of course, took the blame. What a bitch, right? What a prick tease? Stringing poor Neil along like that. He used to ask my advice. I always told him she wasn’t interested in him in that way, and to give it up. He didn’t. He hung around just in case she ever changed her mind and realised she had been in love with him all along. She didn’t. Ever.
But the thing about Neil isn’t that he was treated badly by this particular friend-zoner, it’s that he was also treated like this by his so-called male friends. They kept him around because he gave them lifts and let them take drugs at his parent’s house when they were on holiday, but behind his back they called him a loser and a geek and laughed at how tried so hard to be like them but never quite made it. He was friend-zoned by his actual friends, and he didn’t even know it.
My day got even better, when this little gem popped up on my Twitter feed.
I don’t want to link to the article and give it click-oxygen. You’re clever, if you really want to read it, you’ll find it. I’ve saved you the trouble however, by picking out the choicest cuts of nice-guy wisdom.
‘You had your chance on our first (and only) date. I was wonderful to you, I was a gentleman. I treated you with respect … I didn’t expect anything in return except a chance to win your heart… I’m the man of your dreams, but you couldn’t see that.’
Ahh, he wanted to win my heart, how sweet. I mean sure, he thinks he knows what I want better than I do, but he sounds like a super nice guy.
‘I get it though, now that you’re on the downside of 30, the wrinkles are starting, the body is sagging…I know it was impossible to see that that deadbeat irresponsible jerk was actually a deadbeat irresponsible jerk, but that’s not my problem. While you were waiting for those texts that never came I was busy getting my career in order and maximizing my credit score. Now my biggest issue is deciding which colour Audi I’m going to buy.’
What a catch. How could I have let him slip though my fingers?
Sure, I know “Leo Stevens” probably isn’t real, and none of this ever happened, but if anything that makes it worse. There are plenty of men out there who truly believe they are the nice guys. That they are everything you are looking for and you are going to regret turning them down, because how could you possibly not find them worthy of your affections? How could you not love them? They love you. They really do. Bitch.