Men who hate women are a problem for us all – Karyn McCluskey

From everyday sexism to sexual assault and murder, the attitude of some men towards women must be challenged, writes Karyn McCluskey.

Monday, 7th September 2020, 12:30 pm
We all have a duty to take a stand against hatred and violence towards women (Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)
We all have a duty to take a stand against hatred and violence towards women (Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)

My kid is moving to Manchester soon to go back to college, she’s both nervous and excited. So am I. I know during her absence I won’t mistake discarded false eyelashes for spiders, and scream, only to be humiliated by my mistake. I will worry.

During her first year, a man put his arms around her and tried to kiss her in the street. A month later, she was dropped by a taxi in a dark area, only to have a driver follow her first insisting, then shouting to get in the car. She was on the phone to me whilst running, and I am not sure who was more panicked – she is a great runner. She was also robbed of her phone and only reported it at my insistence. It seems she expects this, normalises it and so do her friends.

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If I’m completely honest, I’ve also minimised acts of misogyny and sexual harassment. Despite my policing background, I too have internalised the approach that women are expected to take when men direct their unwanted and sometimes criminal attention upon you; disregard, distract, disarm and smile, smile, smile.

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It’s not only in the physical world where women must modify their behaviour to try to avoid the threatening, intimidating, and the violent – it’s also online. I’ve a modest social media following and a niche position in public life – and yet angry men seek me out using the most insulting and degrading language. I refer to them as ‘the pants people’, sitting behind the keyboard in their underwear.

My small role in football often inspires this tirade, I don’t know how those – both female and male – with prominent roles in football cope. It still shocks, but as with everything, you learn to avert your eyes, ignore and keep moving. Social media breaks are the treatment for this malady.

Laura Bates, founder of everyday sexism, was interviewed recently about her new book ‘Men who hate Women’; her own experience of receiving rape and murder threats; and the prevalence of toxic views about women on the internet and beyond. From Incels to Men Who Go Their Own Way (MGTOWs), Bates found a ‘manosphere’ teeming with hundreds of thousands of participants, millions of views and countless forums and websites.

It’s reassuring to think they are an extreme minority – but what Bates found was uncomfortably large and active. She also found an echo of these angry voices in the students she was meeting in schools. Not just the views, but the same inaccurate statistics and misinformation had filtered down to teenage boys, still learning about their place in the world.

Last week the BBC broadcast a heartrending programme about the murder of Moira Jones in Glasgow’s Queens Park. After parking her car, Moira was snatched off the street by a stranger. Before abducting and subjecting her to a terrible ordeal, he’d spent the evening drinking heavily and watching pornography. We are not done yet. No one is safe until everyone is safe.

So what’s the point in yet another woman complaining about the unfairness of it all? Well, the more the merrier – or at least louder.

However, the point is half the human race carry so much of this hatred, but it’s for all of us to call it out. This isn’t a problem for women to fix – it is all our responsibility. Teach your children and lead by example; challenge friends who share hateful views; support people being publically harassed – this can be as simple as asking if they’re ok, standing beside them or offering to accompany them to a safer place.

These are uncomfortable actions to take and I know it’s much easier to turn a blind eye. But it must be less uncomfortable than always worrying about our daughters and the people they will meet.

Karyn McCluskey is chief executive of Community Justice Scotland

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