IF YOU ARE a news and current affairs junkie like myself, you could quickly come to the conclusion that men and women are at war with each other.
The majority of feminists believe that the west is a patriarchy that deliberately ensures that women are underrepresented in politics and higher status jobs and who, on average, earn less than men solely because of their gender. They also assert that we live in a ‘rape culture’ that both encourages sexual violence against women and either blames women or believes they are complicit in being assaulted.
In response to modern feminism are those men and women, some of whom are involved in men’s rights activism, who are concerned about the unequal treatment of fathers in the family courts and who point out that there is a gender gap in those areas of employment where men overwhelmingly do the most dangerous jobs in society.
They also point out that whilst men are derided for viewing women as sex objects they feel that many women view men as nothing more than ‘success objects’ when it comes to assessing whether a male is a viable romantic partner. Another issue they highlight, is that according to research, men are just as likely to be victims of domestic violence at the hands of women.
Sexual intimidation, harassment and violence
The one area where I find myself agreeing strongly with feminist and non-feminist women is that there is a problem with sexual intimidation, harassment and violence against women by some men and the concomitant lax sentencing in the criminal justice system for sex offenders.
I can acknowledge this problem whilst both disagreeing that the west is a ‘rape culture’ along with the radical feminist insistence that all men are potential aggressors or are complicit in sexual violence for the offence of being born a straight man.
At the same time, I find it very dispiriting when I read an article or a post online from a woman who is sharing that she was sexually harassed, groped or assaulted and then several men respond defensively that men too are often assaulted by women. It’s just rude and inconsiderate when someone is telling you about something awful that has happened to them and you have to immediately turn it into your issue.
Radical feminists are guilty of the same lack of empathy when they dismiss an individual male’s negative or painful experiences and when they start harping on about ‘male privilege’. Wouldn’t the most egalitarian and genuinely progressive way of relating to another human being’s suffering or unpleasant experience be just to listen and empathise or sympathise with them as an individual, regardless of their gender or any other arbitrary aspect of their identity?
One of the positives of the #MeToo campaign is that it has highlighted the many women who have experienced sexual harassment or assault. However, it has led some contributors to use it as a platform to pour scorn on all men.
The truth is that many men do acknowledge and talk about sexually aggressive males and challenge sexism and intrusive or harassing behaviour if we encounter it, but these kinds of facts aren’t convenient when you are trying to promote a moral panic that every man is a potential sex offender or rape apologist.
Another negative aspect of the campaign is that whilst it contains harrowing accounts of assault and harassment, it has also encouraged mildly annoying social interactions to be construed as intimidating behaviour. We now live in a world where a man merely looking at a woman can be viewed as a form of harassment. If you think I’m being hyperbolic then you haven’t read about the feminist trope the ‘male gaze.’
I’m not condoning the reprehensible behaviour of those men who stare lecherously in an obtrusive manner to make women feel uncomfortable. However, we are entering the realm of hysterical puritanism if merely looking admiringly at people you find attractive can be construed as a border line sex offence. The notion that a man merely looking at a woman he finds attractive is the first point on a spectrum of sexual offences that ends with rape and murder at the far end is ludicrous.
Sexually objectifying ourselves
The truth is that the majority of both young men and women sexually objectify themselves to some degree in order to bolster their physical attractiveness to find a mate. In fact, many women are far worse objectifiers of women’s bodies than men.
Pick up a few women’s gossip and celebrity magazines in any newsagent and observe the manner in which famous women’s bodily imperfections or weight fluctuations are commented on, often in very judgmental and disapproving tones. It is women who both compile and drive the demand for these magazines not men.
Too much of the debate in the mainstream and social media around gender issues is dictated by a strain of feminism that views masculinity as inherently problematic. On the other hand, too many men react hyper defensively to women discussing their grievances and concerns.
The rest of us look on and think to ourselves it’s neither men or women that are the problem, it’s just shitty people.