Not All Men: Dismantling The Pyramid

In the wake of the harrowing news about kidnapping and murder of Sarah Everard this week, the responses on social media have been predictably and undeniably grim. Woman after woman recounting their terrible experiences of abusive behaviour at the hands of men, from inappropriate, sexually aggressive comments, to unwanted physical advances, to the heart-pounding fear of walking anywhere alone, all the way through to violent sexual assault and rape. Literally every woman you know has experienced one or more of these abuses on multiple occasions during their lives.

Our response, as men, to that outpouring of truth, was for #NotAllMen to be trending on Twitter for the best part of a day. How we railed at the implication that we may bear some collective responsibility for the perpetual fear women face just going about their daily lives. How we demanded that those speaking out about their experiences give us, the ‘good guys’, a pat on the head for managing not to rape them. How we persisted, so bravely, to once again make women’s trauma all about us.

I watched in horror as, even after Me Too, and all the subsequent revelations about how this kind of behaviour is allowed to take hold, so many of us failed (refused, perhaps?) to recognise the impact our own behaviour can have, searching desperately for anything that would give us a ‘get out’, to preserve our precious self-image as one of the good ‘uns. I saw posts from at least two gay men who were extremely upset that they were being ‘lumped in’ with the comments about male behaviour, when everyone knows it was the straight guys wot done it.

I tweeted the following this morning, and the responses to it were so revealing:

“It is All Men, actually.

All Men have the ability to cause harm to women.

All Men need to examine whether their own behaviour might be responsible for making women feel afraid or uncomfortable.

All Men could do more to bring about an end to violence against women.

All Men.”

Of course, there were the inevitable replies from men who were righteously aggrieved at this unconscionable attack on their impeccable character, but the thing that really stood out for me was the number of women expressing their gratitude that I’d tweeted it at all. Why? For what?

I did the absolute fucking bare minimum any of us should be doing. I don’t need thanks for that. Shit, I don’t deserve thanks for that, but it does serve to underline how much more we could all be doing to create a situation where the bare minimum is no longer considered cause for gratitude.

It is helpful, and often accurate, to think of any system of violence or oppression as a kind of pyramid. At its base rest the majority who, whilst perhaps not actively involved in the violence or oppression, provide the foundation for those who are. At each level above that, fewer and fewer individuals reside, until we reach the apex, where the most appalling atrocities are committed.

Taking homophobia as a brief example, the base might consist of those who don’t really think much about gay people at all, or how they can help to create a safer environment for us. Next up might be those who turn a blind eye when their friends or colleagues make homophobic jokes or comments. Next might be those who actually make those jokes or comments, or who use the word ‘gay’ as an insult. Above that might be those who say things like, “I don’t mind gay people existing, but I don’t think they should be allowed to have children, be spoken about in schools etc.” You get the picture: the individuals who reside at the top, the ones who beat and murder gay people just for being gay, are but a tiny minority of the overall structure, but they are held in place by those below, supporting them, providing the framework for their existence.

The same analogy can be applied to violence against women. Yes, guys, most of us are not rapists or murderers of women, but how many of us can truly, genuinely, say we’re doing everything in our power to dismantle patriarchal power structures, to call out borderline (or even more obvious) behaviour in our friendship groups and families, to examine our own behaviour and consider whether it might be contributing to the climate of fear in which women permanently abide? 

We’re the fucking base, lads. We’re the foundation upon which the ‘nice tits, luv’ layer, the walking behind a woman on a dark street layer, the sexually coercive boss layer, the stalker layer and the rape/murder layer rest. Without us, the rest of the pyramid starts to look decidedly precarious. We can actively strive to take away that support, and bring the whole thing crashing down.

To labour the analogy just a little further, if I may, a pyramid is a huge structure, and of course no man can dismantle it alone. What we can do is to chip away at our own little corner, and encourage others to do likewise. We can create instability around us, even if there are those who refuse to join in. We can resolve, when women justifiably complain that it’s not coming down quick enough, not to respond with anger because we’re chipping as fast as we can, but to look for more efficient and effective ways of toppling those upper layers.

If we’re the ‘good guys’ we claim to be, it shouldn’t be a burden to adopt a position of hyper-vigilance in this matter. Hyper-vigilance is second nature to women. In the stock cupboard at work, in a car park after dark, in a quiet park, walking down the street, and all too often, in their own homes. They are conditioned to it from a very young age, and it’s time for us to join them.

Talk to your friends, your brothers, your sons and nephews. Refuse to join in with the sexist jokes and ‘banter’. Call out inappropriate behaviour when you see it. Think about the effect on a woman if you jog past her shoulder from behind, or walk behind her after dark. Yes, even if you’re gay. Unless you’re wearing glitter and rainbows and singing a Judy Garland medley, it might not be immediately obvious to a woman who has walked this road so many times that you do not present a threat. Recognise that what you see as ‘harmless flirtation’ can, if not reciprocated, be deeply unsettling to the woman concerned. These are only a few examples, but I’m sure those of us who really are ‘good guys’, will take it upon themselves to find more.

The easiest way of doing this, of course, is to listen to women. Read their tweets, their Facebook posts and their articles, and consider – really consider – what changes you can make to help dismantle the pyramid of male violence they have to circumnavigate every day of their lives. Because, however uncomfortable it may be to hear, we all sit somewhere within its structure.

In defence of the true victims of Me Too: I will not desert you

The news that women have finally achieved true equality could hardly be more welcome. Who could fail to be uplifted by the realisation that fifty percent of the world’s population are now, without exception, paid what they are worth, able to express ideas without being shouted down by the other fifty percent, and free to go about their business without the threat of being leered at, groped or physically assaulted by some grubby, entitled piece of shit who devotes an unfathomable proportion of his depressingly limited brainpower to remaining stubbornly unaware of the very basic concept of sexual consent?

The exhilarating joy women must now experience as a result of their new-found freedom to safely go for a run in the park at dusk is matched only by the liberation conferred by the knowledge that they may decide for themselves whether or not they wish to bear children, without interference from people whose business it is fucking none of.

But has anyone actually stopped to think about the devastating human costs incurred as a result of this most gratifying of developments? Sure, it’s great that you’re now able to wear whatever clothes you feel comfortable in without being told you should show more cleavage, or less cleavage, or that you are now entitled to be a normal, regular face-owner without hearing that you should smile more, or smile less, but have any of you paused, even for a minute, to consider the victims in this selfish insistence that your abilities, your character and your right to make it through one fucking day without fending off the unwelcome advances of some pocket-wanking creep should be given greater consideration than the prominence of your tits?

The fact is, the collateral damage of the Me Too movement now lies scattered across the world like so many fractured and inutile penises. Men, who were previously able to enjoy a guilt-free squeeze of their secretary’s arse without such disproportionate interventions as ‘industrial tribunals’ and ‘the sack’, are now being forced to adhere to arbitrary and, frankly, unreasonable standards of behaviour, all so you can make it through to bedtime without the familiar exhaustion that inevitably arises as a result of perpetual fear for your own personal wellbeing.

The plaintive cries of these poor, broken beasts echo across the internet like the post-midnight reverberations of a haunted orphanage. 

“We can’t compliment women.” 

“We can’t flirt with women.”

“We can’t even SPEAK to women.”

Yes, you’ve finally done it, ladies. The entire male population will henceforth reside cowering in damp, badly-lit corners lest the glare of your torch of intolerance illuminates their inability to behave like reasonable human beings.

It was surprising, then, to hear that only last week, prolific and unrepentant sex offender, Harvey Weinstein, was seen enjoying cocktails at an exclusive members’ club, while fellow patrons complimented him on his professional achievements and clapped him on the back.

Equally surprising was the news this week that the Welsh Secretary was having to step down following the revelation that he was aware of the actions of an aide in sabotaging a rape trial in 2018 by making lurid claims about the victim’s previous sexual conduct.

And it was utterly fucking astonishing that a man who had previously suggested that women should ‘keep their knickers on’ to avoid rape, and that they were at least partially responsible for sexual violence perpetrated against them, was to be parachuted into one of the Conservative Party’s safest seats for the forthcoming election.

The surprises kept coming, though, as we were regaled with the charming tale of US rapper, TI, taking his daughter to visit a gynaecologist once a year that he may check her hymen is still intact. This quite nauseating level of coercive bullying was compounded by the knowledge that he forces her to sign a waiver allowing the doctor to discuss the results of the totally unnecessary and ultimately useless examination with him. And we did not learn that this fucking subhuman shitstain of a man violates his daughter’s body and her privacy in this most egregious way as the result of some elaborate sting operation, or by the woman in question speaking out, but by way of him openly and proudly bragging about it on a podcast recording.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. These men are all in positions of power. They’re rich or famous or influential, and as such are not cowed or emasculated in the same way as normal men, who live in terror that their perfectly innocent comments and actions will be taken out of context and twisted by rabid feminists intent on grinding them into the dirt just so they can enjoy an evening out with their friends without being drugged and raped by some abject bastard who should be de-cocked and fired into the fucking chromosphere. And you’re perfectly right, of course.

Which is why it came as a complete shock this morning that BBC Breakfast presenter, Naga Munchetty, should face a barrage of inappropriate sexual comments about her appearance during an interview with a World War Two veteran, and that such comments should have come from these perfectly normal and not at all famous men. Even the one who stated that he would ‘pay a fortune to see her slam dunked into that coffee table’ did not, to the best of my knowledge, have a recording contract, movie deal or television show of any description.

I’m at a loss to explain how any of these completely unexpected and entirely unusual developments might have occurred at all in this febrile and punitive post-Me-Too environment, much less how they could all have occurred within a single fucking week.

I suppose one possible explanation is that women are still not widely regarded as anything more than objects, placed upon this Earth by the gods of toxic masculinity for men to use as they see fit, before being cast aside like an empty Pot Noodle carton on the DNA-rich carpet of an incel’s bedsit. We might deduce that men still act largely with impunity when it comes to violating a woman’s right to simply fucking exist without being harassed, intimidated or belittled, and that such abstract concepts as ‘consequences’ and ‘accountability’ are only applicable in a dispiritingly low percentage of cases. I guess it’s even feasible that the Me Too movement was a tiny and important baby step forward, but that gigantic fucking olympic-triple-jump-sized steps have yet to be made before we can say that anything like true equality has been achieved.

It’s probably not that, though. Maybe it was just a bad week.