November 12, 2012 | life

Men, Women and Equal Discrimination

I’m sure there isn’t a woman reading this who hasn’t been harassed in the street by men. From lewd comments, to inappropriate touching or full on groping, I am yet to meet a woman can’t recount a tale of feeling scared/petrified/unsafe/stressed/belittled/ashamed and plenty of other adjectives by those situations. I was sexually harassed last week in my local corner shop and virtually had to run home to escape the two men who were doing it. I vented a little on Twitter about how I loathe having to watch my back and always be aware of those situations. I ended by saying to parents who were raising sons, to please ensure they’re being raised to respect women. And with that, naturally, I got some backlash from men. We have now reached a stage where you can’t talk about women’s rights or sexism without men chiming in to try to make things ‘equal’. News flash fellas – IT’S NOT!

The most obvious response was ‘nonsense! I’ll raise my kids to respect people.’ Ahh yes, very clever boys. How equal opportunities of you. And of course the ‘disrespect isn’t just men towards women.’ Well, actually in the case of being sexually harassed in the street, sexual assaults and what have you (which is the type of behaviour I was specifically referring to), the vast majority of cases are actually. It was also said that my tweet insinuated all men were monsters. *Sigh* No it didn’t – if I thought that, I would just say it.

One of my least favourite arguments on any topic where a generalisation is made is ‘not everyone’s like that!’ – what a completely useless point to add to a debate. That rather goes without saying, doesn’t it? I obviously am aware that not all men are disrespectful oafs who sexually harass and assault women in the street – I have a father, brother and boyfriend who are all wonderful examples of gentlemanliness. By pointing out negative experiences that myself and a rather huge number of women have had with men, I am not tarring all men with the same brush – I have obviously not met every man alive.

What irks me is that we now, as women, cannot speak about our experiences, feminism, equal rights and what have you without men chiming in implying that certain things work both ways or we’re demonising men. One comment I received was that ‘most pro-women points alienate men and I can just see it hurting the positive efforts of men, making them resentful.’ So we can’t speak about the trials we go through as women now, because it hurts men’s feelings? You feel left out?

GIVE ME A BREAK.

That attitude to me is actually very symbolic of sexism itself. The fact that women have a voice now is clearly making a lot of men uncomfortable. Men are struggling to figure out their place now as over the decades, women’s roles in society have come out of the kitchen and infiltrated what were once, very male dominated arenas.

I understand there are a ton of men who are pro-women and I thank and applaud you for your attempts to understand our plight on the equal rights front, but that doesn’t mean that we should now shut up about our trials simply because some men are on our side. When we get equal pay, when the domestic violence statistics aren’t absolutely abhorrent to read, when there aren’t entire websites dedicated to the degradation of women, when the way a woman dresses isn’t cast as the reason she was raped, when we don’t have to fear walking down a street alone in case we’re harassed (this list could go on and on) – then we can all rejoice. But in the meantime, as much as you may sympathise with the plight, you do not understand it, you do not understand what it feels like as a woman, you do not have to live it.

It’s kind of like whenever there’s a discussion about racism, there’s always some white people who want to talk about reverse racism, implying that it’s even remotely the same thing. IT ISN’T. Seriously, white people, chill out on that. It’s an insanely offensive thing to even imply that our experience as white people can ever correlate with the discrimination faced by ethnic minorities in this country. Stop it.

If you are a straight, white male, you basically experience discrimination on zero fronts, let’s be honest. I’m not sure if you just complain whenever women speak of the sexism etc we experience because you want to feel ‘down’ or what, I feel the energy would be better spent trying to understand the perspective of women rather than endlessly hammering the point home that ‘not all men are the same’ or ‘we sometimes go through stuff too.’ We get it.

When those kind of comments are made, whether it’s deliberate or not, what it does is discounts and devalues our experience. It implies that what we go through isn’t really that serious. Saying boys should be raised to respect women doesn’t mean they shouldn’t respect all people, of course they should, but given the state of affairs, it is hardly a wrong point to make.

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18 Comments

Andrea

I’m so sorry that this has happened to you. This has been happening to me quite often for about 10 years now. Somtimes it will be as mild as a couple of men saying I’m beautiful of gorgeous as I walk past, which I just find a little embarrasing. Other times it will be far more lewd remarks which upset and anger me. This even happened to me in the Post Office last week! And on a few ocasions it has been a case of full on groping which has left me scared and feeling physically sick.

I have to agree with everything you have said. Of course we can’t tar all men with the same brush – these incidents don’t happen to me every day but I do meet pleasant and respectful men every day. However, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with wanting parents to remind their children to respect women. It is incredibly frustrating that in the year 2012 we have to endure such behaviour from certain individuals.

I hope you’re feeling ok after what happened.

Tom Flay

I’ll be honest Bangs, and you know I love you sister, but I do find some of what you say in your posts very anti-male. It’s comments like “Men are struggling to figure out their place now” that are offensive – no we are not struggling to figure out our place, and it is offensive to suggest so. And I don’t think those sexist males you’re actually speaking of (who ARE actually the minority, may I remind you) have ever given the issue enough thought to even attempt to figure out “their place” – whatever that may be.

In saying “I thank and applaud you for your attempts to understand our plight” (when referring to us “pro-women” men) it’s almost as though you are suggesting that you, as a woman, are on the forefront of forward thinking, have sussed out the ways of the world and are troubled or perplexed by how backward the male population is. Can you see how that is offensive? It is, of course, offensive to thank me for my “attempts” at understanding an issue – as that implies that, as a male, my understanding and grasp on the issue is lacking or less than yours, which is baloney. I might not experience the issues you experience first hand, but that under no circumstances means I don’t fully and completely understand, and to suggest so is offensive.

And may I remind you that us men experience those things too – have you tried being a male walking through a city centre after dark on a weekend? We’re groped, kissed, pulled at, called names, wolf whistled at, told we’re ugly and assaulted (sometimes sexually) – all in the name of sexism, FROM WOMEN.

I was brought up by (surprise) a woman! I was taught by women throughout education. When I was a child there was a female prime minister. I am surrounded by strong, single minded, beautiful (in many ways) women who all would more than likely take a different view than yours on these issues.

Sometimes when reading your posts (which, as I’ve said before, more often than not I love), I do feel as though they’re coming from a very bitter, very guarded, very bloody-minded place.

Bangs and a Bun

ANDREA – I’m sorry to hear of your experiences. Some are easy to brush off and some are damn near petrifying. And I agree – I’m not trying to tar all men with the same brush, but when these issues are just swept under the carpet or their severity kind of poo pooed, it’s really frustrating.

TOM – I’m gonna start by saying I love you too! And part of what I love about blogging is hearing the perspective of others and wading in to the debate. And especially on issues like this, it’s important to hear it from all sides, so I thank you for your comment.

The reason I say men are struggling to figure out their place in society now is as a result of endless discussions I’ve had with both men and women on this topic who agree. If generation after generation have been raised to believe in certain gender roles (which, looking at society as a whole, we have), it stands to reason that the way in which women’s roles have changed has unsettled a fair few men who believe in those traditional roles. I don’t think that’s a stretch and I also don’t think it necessarily will be something these men are overtly conscious off. These changes are often very subtle shifts and the reactions to them, seen in the accepted, casual, everyday sexism we see, can also be subtle.

I’m not on the forefront of forward thinking and I wish I had sussed out the ways of the world! Part of the reason I write is to help me do that – but by no means do I think I’m right and everyone else is wrong. Far from it. I will say this though, while I respect your point in feeling, as a pro-woman man that you understand the issue as much as a woman, I respectfully say, I really don’t believe you do. That’s the same as me saying I understand what you go through as a gay man. While I can sympathise and understand discrimination you go through on a contextual level, being that I am not a gay man, I can only understand it to a degree. I don’t understand what it feels like to be you, going through it. Does that make sense? I’m not taking away from the fact that you’re ‘with us’ and support us and fight with us, which as women, we do genuinely appreciate, but to understand it on the same level as a woman, I’m not sure I agree.

In response to men going through similar things, you’re right, that does absolutely happen and it’s equally deplorable. I never said that it didn’t. I would like to read a post on that from a man’s perspective to help me understand what it feels like for men to go through that.

Every single woman you know would disagree with the points I make here? Really?

As for me being ‘very bitter, very guarded and very bloody minded’ – OK then! That’s your opinion and there’s not much I can do about that.

Thanks again for commenting – I do genuinely enjoy your input. Thank you for making me think.

Kash

Get it, girrrrrl. We were just having a *slightly* similar discussion the other night having to deal with how doctors/physicians are more increasingly uncomfortable with nurses becoming doctors and infringing on their territory. While more women are becoming physicians, it’s still a predominantly male field. So I can’t help but feel that more nurses, a predominantly female field, becoming doctors is really why they’re pissed off.

Jem

I too have felt fearful due to unwanted advances, it began when I was 12 or so – I was tall for my age and an early bloomer. Stares didn’t bother me too much, but the lewd language and accidental touches that came my way annoyed me intensely – unfortunately I ended up in the minority of having things take a more sinister turn when I hit 15, not something I’d broadcast on the internet in language more specific than that! My opinions on the issue are probably a little skewed as a result – but I cannot agree strongly enough with most of your points here. Men (in general) simply are NOT objectified in the same way as women have been for decades – it leaves a weirdly confusing legacy of inequality – I think this is partly what leads to threatening situations and sexual harassment.

Just my two penneth and no more valid than anyone else’s!

I’ll now waltz back to my extremely off topic blog and be quiet πŸ˜›

Jem xXx

Charlie

This sums up exactly how I feel, thank you so much for expressing it better than I can. A few months ago I walked into my home and found 4 men robbing the place. Despite them trying to catch me I managed to escape to safety. As much as my boyfriend tried to comfort me (and did, don’t get me wrong!) our conversation turned to the fact that as a woman I was inherently more vulnerable than he would have been if he was in that situation. He admitted that he couldn’t understand that as a woman I always have to watch my back, always be alert, and always get ready to run if necessary. It only struck home with him this weekend when I turned up at his flat out of breath and close to tears as I’d had to sprint away from a man who decided to follow me, at 3pm in the afternoon – bright daylight and in a heavily housed area.

I know for a fact that every woman I know would agree with every point you’ve made. Whether it’s a wolf whistle or beep of the horn as your walk down the road, somebody sitting next to you on the tube and proceeding to stare at you for the whole journey, or grabbing your arse as you walk down the street (all of these have happened to me), it is all harassment. It is NOT a compliment, I do NOT ask for it, and it needs to be realised that it is NOT acceptable in any form.

Sorry for the ranty comment, but it is so refreshing to read a blog post that really resonates with me this much. Thank you!
Cx

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