I am dedicated to advancing men’s rights (and in fact human rights). But not male privilege.
The angry defensiveness from some men in response to women’s demands for their rights to safety and equality being universally respected, sounds like in reality, they are aware of, and feel guilty about having special status in our society; or in some cases, that they feel like victims who are discriminated against and feel powerless to change things, taking their anger out against the women they imagine are to blame. They give the impression of wanting to retreat to a fantasy world where women will only ever be nice to them, and where equality is fine as long as it’s on their terms.
One of the most common complaints from such men is that women’s experience of violence is taken much more seriously than men’s; suggesting that, because men do get raped and sexually abused by women (as well as by other men), we should stop focussing so much on male violence and how to end it because “women do it too;” They are similarly upset that FGM attracts a lot more concern than male circumcision, when the true male equivalent would not just be cutting of a foreskin, but would involve amputating most of the penis!
Many of the men who fill the bulletin boards of “men’s issues” websites have undoubtedly had painful experiences, and feel they’ve suffered at the hands of women, or the laws which have been set up to support and protect them. I don’t want to in any way to dilute or devalue their feelings and experiences. Violence, oppression and injustice of any kind are unacceptable, no matter who is on the receiving end. But the numbers speak for themselves; many more women suffer at the hands of men than the other way around. To suggest differently gives a distorted and unhelpful view.
Statistics can always be manipulated, of course.
Suffice to say, that every women I have known has described being on the receiving end of some kind of male abuse at some point in her life, often on several occasions, ranging from shouting and unwanted physical attention to assaults and rape. I’ve yet to meet a man who has had, or admits to, a similar experience.
But I don’t want to get sidetracked into a pointless and false competition about whether men or women suffer more, or who needs to take more responsibility for change; that kind of defensive blame game can only lead to the same place as any argument, standoff and stalemate. Much more important to argue for is that all men and women must take any kind of violence and abuse seriously, no matter what the gender or the perpetrator of victim. And they must work together to try to eliminate it.
Men can take an important step by reassuring women of our commitment to this process by speaking out more clearly against male violence whenever we can, rather than responding to women’s criticisms with an attack, as so often seems to be the case.
If we listen to each other across the gender divide, and strive to understand and empathise our different experiences, we can work together to make it clear that violence of any kind is unacceptable. Becoming allies, rather than enemies, in this common cause, is the only way we can start to make real progress in creating a world in which all women and all men can live in safety, and be free to be themselves.
It sounds utopian, but this is one dream we can make into a reality together.
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