All Men All Women

25 May

The murderous rampage by Elliott Rodger in the US over the weekend, said to be in response to his constant rejection by women, has stirred up an emotive response from commentators on social networking sites, not least through the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter.

In essence the campaign is making a stance against those who feel that Rodger was justified in his actions, and more generally against the continued misogynist attitude perceived to be held by many (of if some of the commentators are to be believed, ALL) men.

As a man my views on this will be unwelcome to some. Certainly, I cannot completely empathise with women on this. I don’t generally face the same daily sexist attitudes where my personage is reduced to a physical entity and that physicality reduced to a sexual object – although I have had a little experience of those attitudes. There aren’t the same ‘jokes’ made about raping men, for example, as are made about carrying out the same act on women. The #everydaysexism campaign is predominantly about male attitudes towards women for a good reason.

However, there is within some of the comments I have read a worrying tendency to tar all of the heterosexual male gender with the same brush – a sweeping generalisation which I suspect is as sexist as the attitudes we as men are accused of having.

It must ultimately boil down to personal experience – but men are not the only ones I have heard make lewd comments about the opposite sex in the street, not the only ones to treat the opposite sex as a sex object, and aren’t the only ones to talk about and enact in revenge when rejected (have we forgotten that adage Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned…).

I saw the same generalisations being made when Clare’s Law was announced back in November last year and introduced across the UK in March of this year. The majority of the news headlines in November, and many of those in March emphasised the fact that the new legislation would serve to help women know about the previous violent history of their male partners. The implication clearly being that a) this was a right being given exclusively to women and b) that women were not capable of being domestically violent.

Fortunately the coverage improved and the law applies to both sexes. But the demonisation of men continues to be a problem. It is little wonder that the statistics around incidents of domestic abuse on men by women are so low – with many unwilling to report it because of fear of disbelief. In the UK it is thought that some 40% of domestic abuse incidents are against men.

Not every man holds a derogatory view of women. Not every spurned male will go out and plot a homicidal revenge, or indeed any form of revenge at all. Not every person with a penis is determined to penetrate every person without.

I’m 33. I lost my virginity fairly late compared to my peers (though not as late as Rodger). I’ve had long periods of celibacy (not necessarily through choice). I’ve been rejected many a time. I’ve also had some mental health issues. But that doesn’t mean for an instant that if I make a pass at you and you say no, that I’m going to become enraged and try to murder you! This #YesAllWomen response is understandable, but is in danger of making men seem threatening in a way which the vast majority are not.

I don’t want to be left scared to talk to someone because they’re already sizing me up as a looser or a psycho because of one individual. I don’t want women and girls to be left scared because of one person either. The messages are mixed and menacing. Further than that, I don’t think it helpful that the entire response seems to make an assumption that a woman wouldn’t go out and do the same thing if she was continually rebutted.

One of the posts within the BBC article states that women use psychological attacks because they cannot use physical ones. Worryingly this sounds like comments from someone who is both uninformed and has perhaps been on the receiving end of rebuttals himself. Women are perfectly capable of being physical as well as psychological in their responses. Just as capable as men in fact.

There is an equality issue at stake here. Simply that both sexes are as guilty as each other of taking too much for granted and throwing back stereotyped assumptions which leave them vulnerable. All Women and All Men are responsible for their own actions.

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