CW: Discussion of violence, misogyny and mention of rape
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Desmond Tutu
The murders committed by Elliot Rodger have proved once and for all what Feminists have been saying since Year Dot. That hatred of women still exists, that is widespread and that it is dangerous.
More disturbing, almost, than Rodger’s act of violence and his plans for putting women in a camp to starve, has been the reaction of many ordinary men to this story. I have lost count of the numbers of men attempting to excuse or downplay the role misogyny played in Rodger’s murders, from saying that because several of his victims were men he can’t have hated women, to arguing that his autism or presumed mental health issues were the real cause. Even worse, I have had men on my own Facebook page, men I have met, express sympathy for him. Sympathy for a mass murderer who saw women as irrational brutes?
This rush to deny the misogyny that drove Rodger is echoing the way it has been treated in the media. BBC news articles covering the story omitted even the smallest mention of his hatred of women, or his racism, instead choosing to deliver inaccurate and harmful diatribes about autism. The mainstream media has almost entirely opted to blame autism or unconfirmed “mental health issues” for the murders and swept the real issue, that of violent misogyny, under the rug.
This denial of the reality of woman hating, both in the media and on-line shows far too clearly that we as a society are desperate to ignore and hide that fact that misogyny kills. We don’t want to think that as a society we condone and encourage violence towards women, so we quibble and shut our eyes to the obvious, or blame “mental health”. We do not want to admit that we have a problem. Hatred of women isn’t something that happens here, it’s something that happens in “backwards”, “third world” countries, not here in the civilised west!
The actions of the media and the men on my Facebook statuses are serving to derail from the real issues and are preventing us from having the conversation that we so desperately need. We need to talk about misogyny, we need to talk about how hatred of women leads to the deaths of women. We need to talk about the messages that we feed to young men and we need to talk about the ways that they choose to act on them. We need to make this the turning point where our conversation stops being one of excuses and justifications.
So, to achieve this, I am issuing a challenge. To men. To ALL men. No more excuses. No more hand-wringing.
Stand up. Speak up.
Stop complaining about being “lumped in” with men who murder and rape when you are innocent of those crimes. Show that you are better than them. Not raping and murdering women doesn’t mean you are an ally, it means you are meeting the bare minimum standards of human decency. You need to show more than that, you need to put yourself on the line. Challenge misogyny when you hear it, when you hear the rape jokes, the gendered slurs, complaining about the “friendzone”. Do not give misogynists your money, do not buy sexist music, do not go to watch sexist comedians, choose films that pass the Bechdel test. Do not speak over women or derail when they are talking about their oppression. Believe women when they tell you they have experienced violence from men, do not complain about “false rape accusations” or “creep-shaming”. If you find out your friends have committed sexual assault, cut them off, you cannot be friends with a rapist and still be an ally to women. Take the spaces you inhabit and make them safe for women.
You benefit from the system that oppresses women. That does not make you a bad person, but to avoid being complicit in the oppression of others you have to buck the trend. The social status and safety that comes from being male will protect you when challenging misogyny. You will not face the social and physical consequences that women face for doing the same thing. You will not be labelled a “man-hater” or a “feminazi” and you will not receive threats of death and rape. You will not be physically assaulted or harassed as is a common risk for Feminists and all women who challenge the sexist status quo.
If you wish to be considered an ally to women, or to merely be considered a “Good Man” then neutrality is not an option. Misogyny thrives because it is excused and tolerated and because it men do not challenge it. The recent documentary; “Blurred Lines”, demonstrated that when men with neutral attitudes to women laugh at or do not condemn sexist jokes, then it encourages Misogynist men in their views and made them feel vindicated. Neutrality has consequences, and they are not good ones. Your cries of “not all men are like that!” ring hollow if you do nothing about the ones who are.
Stand with women. Fight for women. Or you have chosen the side of men like Elliot Rodgers.