Dear fellow men: A brief reality check on misogyny from one man to another.
Are you consciously aware of your misogyny? Mikael talks on men’s entitled and misogynistic attitudes towards women and how we can be better
As a man, my everyday encounters with institutionalised oppression due to my gender are… well, minimal in comparison to that of a women’s. Although this knowledge is a given to some, I’ve realised it’s not obvious to everyone. Recently I went to visit a childhood friend for what I thought was going to be an enjoyable reunion. Within the first ten minutes I started to realise this wasn’t the same kid I knew growing up. From his warped, androcentric view on women to his archaic and oppressive preferences in partner, it was clear that ignorance, partnered with a narrow and sheltered worldview, had caused him to regress to the point I was unsure if he even regarded women as the same species. This mindset of dehumanising women is seen far too often where abuse is concerned, and when a person is viewed as less than human it becomes easy to treat them as such.
There’s a disturbing tolerance and acceptance of a ‘boys will be boys’ attitude that frequently overrides negative views on the misogynistic attitudes and actions of men
From groping strangers on nights out to catcalling in the streets, in our society it’s commonplace for us men to harass women. This is common knowledge, but I believe that makes it worse. There’s a disturbing tolerance and acceptance of a ‘boys will be boys’ attitude that frequently overrides negative views on the misogynistic attitudes and actions of men. Sexism and misogyny are undoubtedly learned, the same way racism is or any form of oppressive structure are. Statements like ‘boys will be boys’ consistently permeate society, trivialising issues while giving men breathing room to be ignorant and (consciously or subconsciously) enforce the ideals of a value system that hold women accountable for the actions of men. A man ogled you in the street? Your boss sexually harassed you in the workplace? Well maybe if YOU covered up this wouldn’t have happened. Sounds familiar right? This problematic mindset highlights what is wrong with our attitudes towards women, and stems from the reinforcement of ideals left unchallenged.
It’s often through the media that these age-old ideals are perpetuated. The concept that ‘sex sells’ repeatedly encourages the objectification of women. Referring to Laura Mulvey’s feminist theory, the male gaze in media consistently portrays women from a heterosexual masculine viewpoint. Although Mulvey’s theory was originally coined for cinema and film, these conventions are also seen in other forms of media. From advertising to magazine covers, sexist tropes reinforce the idea that woman are our objects or playthings to be enjoyed. These tropes however, are only the tip of the iceberg. Although media manages to pervade these perceptions, it is only an effective tool used in the grand scheme of the oppressive nature of misogyny and sexism – which have both been and continue to be embedded in societal structures far before the current rise of media.
If a woman doesn’t adhere to the conservative and oppressive regimes placed upon her she is disparaged by society
On the flipside, the same disdain and hatred can be seen for women who choose to find empowerment through the reclamation of their sexuality from society’s constraints. When a woman chooses to explore her sexuality for herself and not for men, this will often incite anger and resentment in men towards women as it is the first time a man’s privilege to a woman’s sexuality is removed. Basically, women can’t win in a misogynistic society. If a woman doesn’t adhere to the conservative and oppressive regimes placed upon her she is disparaged by society. You can see this level of exerting power and possession over women when you look at sexual assault statistics.
In an official analysis conducted by the Crime Survey of England and Wales this year, “one in five women in England and Wales have experienced some type of sexual assault, including attempts, since the age of 16.” This isn’t even taking into consideration the sheer amount of excess sexual abuse, violence and oppressions women of colour, LGBTQ and disabled women face on top of this. A report commissioned by Women’s Aid, Making the Links: Disabled Women and Domestic Violence stated that “disabled women are twice as likely to experience gender-based violence than non-disabled women,” and many women of colour face disproportionate levels of sexual violence on top of the previously mentioned statistics – an estimated 60% of black girls and women have experienced “coercive contact of a sexual nature” by the age of 18. This isn’t even taking into consideration other women of colour besides black women but the statistics paint a clear picture. LGBTQ women also face higher rates of sexual violence with 44 percent of lesbians and 61 percent of bisexual women experiencing rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 35 percent of heterosexual women. One in five LGBT people have also experienced a hate crime or incident because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the last year. These statistics aim to highlight the often-missed plights of all women as too often we assign all experiences under the guise of a generalised view on women. Compared to women, men face vastly lower instances.
When you also take into consideration that upwards of 80% of victims don’t report the ordeal to the police, the issue becomes a whole lot broader. Why don’t more women come forward? To that I say, how as a society can we expect women to have confidence in coming forward when the stereotypes and preconceptions of rape culture and sexual abuse constantly hold women accountable for the traumas around them? The fact that only one in fourteen rape allegations results in conviction in the UK and Wales shows why sexual assault and rape survivors often remain silent, and heralds a broader issue – there aren’t many places in society where women can be safe and taken seriously when it comes to these ordeals. Apart from this however, when it comes to the reasoning for not coming forward there are many factors at play. Upwards of 70% of rapes are committed by acquaintances, friends or family members, which can play a part in deciding whether to report someone within close quarters of you – especially if they can easily access your details or home address. Other factors include PTSD, intoxication, a history of sexual abuse, shame and many others.
If the idea that the actions of bad men are being brought to light puts you on the defensive, then either you’re one of those bad men or you just don’t care about women
It’s easy to let your pride take over and declare that “not all men are bad”, but that only goes to show how fragile your masculinity is. If a snake bit you, wouldn’t your friend look stupid if he felt the need to exclaim “not all snakes are bad!” Of course, not all snakes are bad, but that doesn’t remove the venom in your leg does it? If the idea that the actions of bad men are being brought to light puts you on the defensive, then either you’re one of those bad men or you just don’t care about women. It’s not even that a majority of men are ignorant per se – sometimes we fear being the target of aggressive violent men (no one wants to get beat up for defending a woman) and sometimes we use our privilege by choosing to do nothing or even worse, trying to disprove its existence through undermining and diverting tactics (cue the Men’s Rights Movement). Those that are the latter, I believe choose to be this way simply because, in a power system built to aid you, why inconvenience yourself with something that would directly hamper that privilege? In other words, why would you want to be a decent human being when you can just sit back and relax knowing these issues won’t directly affect you? Well, sorry to burst your bubble but they do.
While men reinforce rigid ideals upon women, it’s easy for us to forget that those same ideals form barriers which constrain us too
There is an often-overlooked flipside to misogyny in the machismo-dominated society we live in. While men reinforce rigid ideals upon women, it’s easy for us to forget that those same ideals form barriers which constrain us too. When we state women are irrational and emotional it leaves us to be emotionally inept or reserved, this is particularly evident in the way many men don’t talk about their feelings due to the conditioning that men don’t cry (because that is apparently a feminine exclusive trait) or talk about what upsets us. Comparing the statistics between male suicide rates and female, it’s easy to see how a lack of emotional support effects the mental state of men. Equally when we state a woman’s job is to look after children it creates a bias where fathers are less likely to be given fair parental access rights with their children, making it harder for good fathers to remain a frequent part of their child’s life. Another example is the stereotype that women have to be delicate and pretty, while men are expected to be macho, dominant and strong, enforcing ideas of inadequacy and self-hatred on many who don’t fit these preferences. These are but a few examples of how our male-dominated society and its ideals influences and affects us men too, which goes to show rigid gender roles in a patriarchal society aren’t just a problem for women. We can’t partake in ideals whilst being selective of how and who it will affect.
Instances of misogyny, sexism and rape culture often govern a women’s lived experience…
Instances of misogyny, sexism and rape culture often govern a women’s lived experience, making it impossible to not instinctively pick up on these issues. At least some of the women you care about have been victims of sexual assault at some stage in their lives whether you know about it or not. If the idea of a woman you care about undergoing such an upsetting ordeal angers you, hold onto that emotion, bottle it and save it for the next time you see a random woman being pestered whilst waiting for a bus or on a night out when a man isn’t taking no for an answer. If we put that same energy into looking out for all women instead of silencing women’s cries for equality, we’d be taking strides in the right direction.
It’s time we stop victim blaming and start addressing the issue. So, if you’ve found yourself shaking your head in disagreement to the points raised in this article, congrats, you’re a part of the problem, but more importantly you’re exactly who this article is meant for. As sad as it is, I write this article knowing that typically, men will listen to a man’s word over a woman’s (just look at how quickly a guy will stop harassing a girl on a night out once he realises you’re with her). It’s time we stop turning a blind eye. Women don’t owe us anything, so let’s stop hiding behind the guise of being “nice guys” in return for entitlement to their bodies and minds, because if you haven’t already noticed, that actually makes you the opposite of a nice guy (a wasteman to be precise). From the gender pay gap to domestic abuse statistics, we can’t claim nothing is wrong just because it isn’t our lived experience.
Empathy and understanding are the foundations of solidarity…
Empathy and understanding are the foundations of solidarity, so when you hear parents telling their daughters they don’t want them going out late or realise many women carry rape alarms, take that as a reminder that the struggle is real – even if you don’t initially notice it.
I’m not just writing this article to slate mandem, I’m writing this because I know we’re better than this. There are a plethora of reasons why we grow up to become sexist and misogynistic. But on a real one let me just make it clear that every one of those reasons are bull. Whether it’s personal reasons like upbringing, a bad relationship, mummy issues, just downright getting played, or the learned traits from social constructs we occupy – none of the above justify misogyny. Letting these events influence your judgement of ALL women just serve to make you look like a dickhead because you can’t distinguish that all women aren’t the same woman who hurt you. If I reflect back a few years my mind-set was just as problematic in areas as the ones listed above. I mention this because knowledge will always be a learning curve, no one wakes up informed or enlightened on a topic, especially if their views are rarely challenged. Once you become aware of the behaviour of men towards women, you can’t un-see it – from the predatory glances I see in men’s eyes directed at my female friends walking down the street to the level of entitlement over women we display.
Thanks to the women around me I’m still unlearning the subconscious prejudices and male entitlements we grew up conditioned to believe to this day. Where equality is concerned it’s everybody’s job to help one another. I’d be a hypocrite if I was campaigning for racial equity but ignored the cries of other marginalised or oppressed groups. Misogyny and sexism is everybody’s problem and women shouldn’t have to pioneer alone for a change against a system set up and upheld by men. It’s easy for us to blame women for our actions but all it takes is a little reading and an open-minded conversation with a woman to see it for what it is. On a basic level, raising awareness within ourselves is something we can all achieve as awareness is a catalyst for understanding and empathy. So, if you like me, saw aspects of your own misogyny and entitlement explored above or, like me have a friend who shows signs of (or is blatantly) a misogynist, maybe it’s time you had this conversation with him too ay? Peace!
Support more young people to have their voices heard
Rife is Watershed‘s online magazine created for young people, by young people.
We offer paid internships and publish work by young writers, photographers, illustrators, and filmmakers from all sorts of backgrounds, helping them get into creative careers. Rife has reached over 8,000 young people through our workshops, over 220 young people have made stuff for Rife on topics ranging from mental health to identity to baked beans, and last year, over 200,000 people visited our website.
In these complex and uncertain times hearing from and supporting young people who are advocating for social change and contributing fresh perspectives has never been so important.
Through supporting Rife you can ensure that this important work continues and that more young people have their voices heard.