When I was twenty-two, I wrote an article about how much feminism irritated me. Like everything I wrote back then, before publishing it anywhere I sent it to two of my closest female friends. As you might expect, though I certainly didn’t at the time, they were furious.
This anger stemmed not just from what I wrote about feminism, but that I, as a man, had the gall to write about it at all. This shocked me. Despite having always been a fairly cynical person, at twenty-two I was less ignorant than most, but I was still only twenty-two. I couldn’t understand the problem. Six years on (those of you with maths degrees can share the answer in comments), I’d no longer be shocked; indeed I’d expect it. For all the talk of #indyref being the hashtag gateway to the worst conversation of all time, none of the abuse I’ve received as a result of it has come close to packing the vitriol of that thrown my direction when I talk about feminism, sexism or “women’s issues.” As a result, I rarely do.
The reason I do so today is because I’ve been reading a lot of self-identified feminists espouse and loudly defend the idea that, “innocent till proven guilty” doesn’t apply in cases of domestic abuse. The reason? Because if you assume the man in innocent, you assume the woman is lying. This is worse than convicting a man prior to trial, evidently. And I say ‘man’ deliberately.
Years ago when studying criminal law one of my lecturers understandably kicked off a two-hour seminar on the subject of sexual assault with the request that there were no jokes made (our group had a raucous sense of humour) because they might offend. She then went on to blithely offend most of the men in the room (this being university, some were asleep) by her characterisation of sexual assault as something that only happens when men attack women.
This was evidenced most frequently in her language. The assailant in every hypothetical raised was always referred to as male; the victim female. In the grand scheme of things, though irritating I’m not of the mind that this is world-ending. Switch it though. Isn’t it prime material for that irritating #everdaysexism hashtag that’s forever making the rounds?
I say irritating coincidentally, not because I’m of a mind that sexism doesn’t exist and can’t be evidenced every day, but that aside from the numerous examples which make proverbial mountains out of mole-hills, the narrative once again is that sexism is something done by men to women. Of course it’s not. I won’t even accept that it’s mostly men who are guilty of it absent empirical evidence.
I’m a man so I can’t multi-task, I’m not good with expressing my emotions, I never read the instructions, I show off in front of my friends, I’m bullish when I drink… sound familiar? Again, none of these accusations on their own are the end of the world (or true, but that’s beside the point) but switch it once more.
Women can’t throw or catch, never buy a round of drinks, always steal food, can’t problem-solve in a logical manner, are too emotional… I post that on twitter and I’m sexist.
What am I getting at? Let me put it the same way I did when I was twenty-two. If feminism was about equality then I could be called a feminist myself. I believe in gender equality as I believe in race equality, nationality equality and the equal nature of all religions as existential, controlling bullshit. I love equality.
Of course there are a lot of people who call themselves feminists for precisely this reason and I have no issue with them, beyond my idea that a campaign for “equality” should be concerned with everyone rather than one subset of society. They’re not the ones I tend to hear about, read from or speak to though. The ones I see have a problem with me for no greater reason than a Y chromosome in my make-up. It’s not always hateful nor is it particularly developed, but it is regularly present. From two of my best friends telling me I shouldn’t write about feminism because of my gender to those who don’t know me calling me a misogynist because I criticise Johann Lamont as a person, the behaviour espoused by most of the people I know who call themselves ‘proud feminists’ is one of sexism. Sexism against men though, and that doesn’t fit the narrative so we don’t talk about it.
Just as an aside while we’re here, if I criticise a famous woman and the best criticism you can make of my comments is that they’re sexist because they’re directed towards a woman, it’s you creating the problem. If I criticise Ruth Davidson for example, it will be because of unethical political practice, a substandard performance at FMQs, a bad policy announcement or the like. It will never be because she’s a woman (or a lesbian for that matter) and if you want to paint it as such, you’re the one painting her as a helpless victim being picked on by a more capable member of soceity. That’s crap, and it’s all you. Let’s get back to it though.
Let me reiterate. Not all women are like this, nor are all who call themselves feminists. Feminism does not mean sexism. At least, it didn’t and it shouldn’t. Feminism was once about a fight for equality in an unequal world; a fight which is being won, but isn’t over just yet. Too often it’s used to mask something baser though; a problem with men.
How many times has you read that men outnumber women when it comes to FTSE CEOs, board members, senior civil servants, MPs, et cetera? It’s all true. How often have you seen it described as unequal? Yes, add up the numbers of men and women and they themselves are not equal. But when we talk about inequality what we really mean in this context is opportunity. There are less women in parliament because it’s harder for women to get in, right?
Perhaps partially; I’m not going to say no. What’s not often talked about however is that most women when asked don’t want to become MPs. Many women (and a growing number of men, but again, narrative) choose to put children ahead of a career. Look at Mumsnet polling data. This isn’t an opinion, it’s a fact.
Take another example. Going by pretty much every poll ever done on the subject, men are more likely to have made up their mind on #indyref than women. If you use this data to make the perfectly reasonable statement that, “women are more indecisive than men” however, and you’ll get backlash. The media so far as I’ve seen, haven’t phrased it like that. What has been said by politicos of all stripes when they try to explain this phenomenon is along the lines of, “women like to consider things carefully.”
What’s the direct opposite to that? Men don’t consider things carefully. Again, you won’t have seen this reported on. Who cares? I don’t; not really. I’m just making a point. For the last time here, switch it.
“Women don’t consider things carefully.”
That’s sexist. Why isn’t it when we say the same thing about men though?
I’m not looking for a fight with this post. I’m hot, tired and haven’t had a real cigarette in about 24 hours. I don’t want to argue with the people who usually attack me when I write things similar to the above. This is the third time in the last year though, that I’ve started writing an op-ed about feminism and/or sexism and thought about scrapping it halfway through, because the backlash (assuming of course, anyone ever read it on my tiny corner of the Internet) would be more than I’m generally prepared to deal with.
And that’s why I kept writing and eventually posted this. I annoy people all the time with things I say and do. A month ago I was nearly attacked in a bar for cracking a joke about parkinson’s disease. I’ve had one of my closest friends incensed at me because she claimed she didn’t judge people and I refused to let her away with such an idiotic statement. I’ve infuriated more people than I could possibly remember by frequently, loudly and brashly claiming at every available opportunity what an enormous, irresponsible, disgusting, bigoted, outmoded, dangerous, vile, evil thing religion is. Probably got a few more just then.
With the exception of people I’m close to, I never care if I’ve offended. Someone being offended by what I say is their problem, not mine, and the backlash is always something I can deal with.
It’s always worse when I’m talking about women though and though it’s not unexpected nowadays, I still don’t understand it. The above is a rant against sexism. Aren’t we all supposed to be against that?
Here’s a little primer. If you’ve read the above and are tempted to label me misogynistic whilst simultaneously calling yourself a feminist, you’re probably not one. At least you’re not one in the traditional sense. More likely, you’re sexist and I’ve no fucking interest in anything you have to say. Nor am I keeping my mouth shut because of you any more.
I believe in equality.