So you’re not one of *those* men

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Content warning-this post discusses violence, gun violence, violence against women, misogyny, ableism.

 

I’ve spent the morning reading with horror about thehorrific murders in Santa Barbra, California, and about Elliott Roger, the man responsible.  According this Daily Kos article, Rodger was influenced by the Men’s Rights movement. In his chilling video manifesto, he stated:

On the day of retribution I will enter the hottest sorority house of UCSB, and I will slaughter every single spoiled stuck up blonde slut I see inside there. All those girls that I’ve desired so much, they would have all rejected me and looked down upon me as an inferior man if I ever made a sexual advance towards them. While they throw themselves at these obnoxious brutes. I’ll take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you. You will finally see that I am in truth the superior one. The true Alpha Male.

There you have it, in the man’s own words. Violent misogyny. Rape culture. male entitlement.

In the aftermath of the murders, the usual script was trotted out. “He was a madman”, “a lone psycho”, an outlier. Why is it that people are so averse to calling violent misogyny for what it is, they won’t name what is in front of their own eyes? Why are they prepared to throw the vast majority of people with mental illnesses who don’t murder under the bus to deny this?

Of course, as commentators raised the issue of male violence and misogyny, the predictable response was “Hey, we’re not *all* like that!” How incredible it is, that we can’t even have a conversation of hatred of women and male entitlement without it becoming, once again, all about the men. Yes, men, we know you’re not *all* like that, however, don’t be waiting for a pat on the back for not being a violent abuser of women.

Not all men.

Yes, of course, we *know* that not all men are violent misogynists, but the reality is, a significant proportion of  men are. Let’s look at Ireland, as a microcosm. A study carried out by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) found that a quarter of Irish women have been victims of violence.

The survey suggested 26 per cent of Irish women (394,325 women in 2012) had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner or non-partner since the age of 15.

Almost one in three Irish women (31 per cent or 470,157 women) had experienced some form of psychological violence by a partner.

A total of 15 per cent of Irish women (227,495) had experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner and 8 per cent had experienced sexual violence by a partner or non-partner.

Not all men.

“Yes”, I hear you say, “but those men are violent monsters, I’d *never* lift a finger against a woman”. Well, good, have a cookie, you’re not a reprehensible human. These abusive men do not exist in a vacuum. Violence against women is not limited to a raised fist. Do you make sexually objectifying comments about women on the street? Do you feel so entitled to police our bodies and behaviour that you growl at women you don’t know in a pub or nightclub, telling them to smile? Do you earnestly believe that the friendzone exists? Do you think PUA sites are sound relationship advice? Do you think that women owe you sex? Do you think that some women are asking for it?

Not all men.

“Ah now, you’re really being unfair here, it can’t be that bad?” I urge all people to spend some time viewing the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter. Countless testimonies from women of violence, assault, harassment, catcalling, victim-blaming, shaming. Stories were shared of “rape schedules”, the strategies that women rehearse when walking home  in the dark, keys gripped between the knuckles. When we are laying our lives and experiences bare, and your first response is to scrunch up your face and whine “that’s not me,” that tells me that you feel so assured of your status, and so steeped in privilege that the testimonies of thousands, if not millions of women, adds up to less than your feelings.

Not all men.

Misogyny is not just a few violent outliers. Misogyny is structural, deeply ingrained into the very fabric of our society. Misogyny is in our courts and judicial system, where a violent man can walk free if he can wave enough notes in front of a judge’s face and if he’s from a respectable family. Misogyny is inherent in victim-blaming. Misogyny is in the disproportionate targeting of women and their children in the government’s austerity programme. Misogyny is visible in rape crisis centres in the midwest of Ireland having to shut down because they just haven’t the funds.

Men; when women are sharing their lived experiences of violence and sexual abuse and harassment, your first  impulse should *not* be to fire back a wounded “Hey, we’re not all like that!” Believe it or not, everything is not about you. Just because you’re not like these men you’ve decided are monsters, that doesn’t mean that your work here is done. Examine your attitudes and behaviour. Have the courage to call out friends. Listen to women; sometimes the best way you can contribute when marginalised groups are speaking out about their lives is to take a step back, listen, reflect.

You’re not like *those* men? Show, don’t tell.

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Reproductive Rights Are Non-Negotiable

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I am loathe to give any credit to anti-reproductive rights organisation The Life Institute, but they very thoughtfully compiled this little list of candidates that they deem suitable to represent the good holy people of Ireland in Europe. The candiates were asked two questions:

  1. Do you support the repeal of the legislation which permits abortion on suicide grounds, and support making Ireland a place where unborn children are legally protected and mothers get all necessary life-saving treatment in pregnancy?
  2. Will you oppose measures in the European Parliament which seek to liberalise Ireland’s abortion laws and support pro-life measures such as the One of Us campaign?

The independent candidate for Ireland South, and activist with the ‘Ballyhea Says No’ campaign Diarmuid O’Flynn replied as follows:

“On a purely personal level I disagree with that particular legislation and the suicide clause but as stated in the original mail, it is not a European issue, it is a national issue.

The second, absolutely I would oppose any such measures. There are some questions that are for a nation to decide for itself; this is one.”

 The intrepid folk at Broadsheet.ie asked O’Flynn if the quotes attributed to him were correct. 

O’Flynn went on to expand on his opinion on his blog.

He stated:

ABORTION

The ugliest word in the dictionary, leads to the ugliest arguments, the most vile and vitriolic of exchanges. In the recent debate leading to changed legislation following the X-case I stayed out of that debate. I had and have my opinions but they were nobody’s business but my own. I accept however that is no longer the case, that many people have a genuine concern about how I might vote should the subject arise in an EU context. Herewith then, my thinking, and undoubtedly a host of lost votes!

The only occasion on which I can foresee abortion arising in the EU is as an equal rights/civil right issue. I would vigorously oppose any such imposition on Ireland. 

We have been too slow as a nation to introduce and implement equal rights and civil rights legislation over the decades in this country and in that respect our membership of the EEC/EU has been a benefit – they haven’t so much shown us the way as dragged us kicking and screaming into becoming a truly equal society. However, I believe there are already far too many areas in which the EU is now dictating policy that properly belongs to a sovereign government, far too many diktats coming down from on high on issues minor and major. 

Abortion is an area in which we should remain sovereign; this is an issue for Ireland to decide, on its own.

I have further been asked if I would work to reverse that recent legislation on the above-mentioned X-case. This could happen only if I stood for the Dáil – that won’t happen, now or ever. I’m giving politics this one shot; win or lose, that’s it.

Again, however, I can see why people would want to know where I stand on this, even if there IS nothing I can do about that legislation in an official capacity (if elected as an MEP) one way or the other.

Over the years I’ve argued many an issue with my family – my mother, my four sisters, my wife, my daughter, my father, my four brothers, my son, all strong-minded strong-willed independent people – and with my many friends. Abortion has figured occasionally in those discussions. We’ve agreed on various topics, we’ve disagreed, but we’ve always got on, respected each other’s thinking and each other’s decisions. 

To sum up my thoughts on such a complex issue is difficult but has to be done.

There are lots of things I don’t know for certain, which is why dogmatism has never appealed to me. I don’t know if there is a concerned God who watches over everything we do, I don’t know if there’s not; I had all religion battered out of me by the Christian Brothers by the age of 14 (they weren’t too keen on the kind of questions I was asking, not in the 60s) so content myself now with my own spiritualism, my own wonder at and appreciation of the world around us.

I don’t know when life begins. I do know I don’t like to see it deliberately ended. There is life in a foetus, helpless life that needs nourishing and protection. Everything possible should be done to bring that life to the birth stage. 

I believe in the equal right to life of the mother and child. If there is a threat to the life of the mother there should be timely medical intervention to save her life. Every effort should also be made to save the life of the child; if this fails, it fails. Life hurls such tragedies at us and in this family, we haven’t been immune.

I can see why many people believe that such a threat to a mother’s life should include suicide. I don’t agree. I believe this then makes the life of the unborn foetus subservient to the life of the mother. 

Even for the most stable, mentally strong woman, abortion is surely a highly emotive decision. A suicidal prospective mother is already suffering serious emotional stress. An abortion will add to that stress.

In the situation where a suicide threat is deemed real (and I can’t imagine a situation where a professional is going to put her/his entire career on the line by saying ‘Ah, I don’t believe you’), the unborn foetus is aborted, its life ended. But how do we know the threat was real?

On the other hand, if the suicide clause is removed there will certainly be cases where a suicidal prospective mother will take her own life, in which case – even allowing for the fact that very often no-one really knows what triggers such a drastic decision – those of us who would push to have that clause removed stand accused of helping to cause this death.

It’s a lose/lose scenario, a most divisive argument and for very obvious reasons. But there it is. I know that in a situation where I’m going to need every vote I can get this will cost me but given that I’m coming out of nowhere I believe it’s only right people should know who I am.

 

The last paragraph of the piece struck me as fascinating.

So there we are. If those are your do-or-die issues for your favoured MEP candidate I’m probably dead in the water and either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael will take a second seat in the Ireland South constituency, or Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour will take one each. If you take a wider view and prioritise the issues on my manifesto, the issues I see as critical to a new and better Europe and a new and better world, I have a chance.                  

For me, O’Flynn’s comments here epitomise so much of the rhetoric we hear from supposedly “progressive” men. How many times have we heard that feminism is so divisive, and that we should set aside issues like abortion, women’s rights, race, LGBTQ issues and so on to fight a common foe. 

O’Flynn is campaigning under an anti-austerity banner; in his campaign literature he pledges to campaign to reduce the bank-debt burden, to help Ireland move out of recession, and to force retribution from those responsible for the crisis. However, there cannot be economic justice without reproductive rights; the two are inextricably linked. The idea of Reproductive Justice, developed by women of colour activists in the United States, based on the idea that

 reproductive oppression is a result of the intersection of multiple oppressions and is inherently connected to the struggle for social justice and human rights. Women of low economic means suffer consequences from the lack of access to complete health care. Source

Abortion restrictions disproportionately harm marginalized people. This brilliant post on Feminist Ire illustrates this quite powerfully.

Have you been to the doctor? How far along are you? Do you know the further along you are, the more expensive an abortion is? Can you get a loan from a Credit Union? Or will you go to a money lender? Do you have anything you can sell to raise the money? Can you lie to your parents or friends to borrow money? Can you max your credit card? Do you even have a credit card? Are there any bills that you can get away with not paying this month? Have you gone through all your old coats and looked down the back of the sofa? How long will it take for you to get €1,000 together? Can you get an extra €20 off the Community Welfare Officer? Can you not buy coal for the next few weeks? Are you on the dole? Can you use your savings? Can you defer your year at college and save the money for your Master’s Degree again? Is it Christmastime? Can you return any gifts for a refund or sell them for cash?

 

Women with money have options, women with nothing have babies.

 

You cannot claim to be a voice for marginalised people if you mean to oppose reproductive rights. I myself am not in O’Flynn’s constituency, but if I was, I am afraid he would not be getting a vote from me. Any person who would oppose my right to bodily autonomy and my dignity is not someone I would want as a representative.