Tag Archives: feminism

The Sinister Backlash To #MeToo

Over the past year, the outing of serial sexual abusers Roger Ailes, the former and now deceased CEO of the Fox News network, Bill O’Reilly, the most popular Fox News host until his firing in April 2017, and most prominently, Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood film producer sacked from his own company in October 2017, inspired a revolution. Women stood up in unison and said enough is enough. No longer would men get away with using their physiques or positions of power in the workplace to sexually assault women without consequence.

In a sane and moral universe the only response to this would be relief and celebration. Unfortunately, something darker and more sinister has emerged. Something that in many ways seems to have already increased the distrust of men on the part of women, and that has the power to justify many of our worst fears; is this not just the bad guys? Are in fact a majority of men in some way complicit in this repulsive mess?

In the era of social media it was inevitable that this would be the arena for the revolt, and so it is that women across the world have been sharing their experiences and uniting around the hashtags #MeToo and #TimesUp. But almost immediately the rot set in. To begin with, the protests and excuses came from unsurprising sources such as Rod Liddle and Douglas Murray. We could probably have anticipated this without it shaking our confidence in humanity.

However, we have since had to endure the letter denouncing the #MeToo movement from French actress Catherine Deneuve, which was signed by 100 women and unbelievably claimed to want to defend men’s “freedom to pester.” This sickening piece was loudly endorsed on Twitter by none other than world famous physicist Lawrence Krauss, who has almost half a million followers. Hot on its track was an article in New York magazine by the most moderate of conservative commentators, Andrew Sullivan, entitled ‘It’s Time to Resist the Excesses of #MeToo.’ Then Condoleezza Rice begged us in an interview to “be careful” because we don’t men to stop wanting women around. Patriarchy it seems requires a new name.

Needless to say, these comments have been shared by various sympathetic public figures with large social media followings, and of course many of their fans have roundly applauded the backlash. So what the hell is going on?

I have neither the time nor the will to pick apart the articles individually, but there are common themes that run through all of them which must be discredited and exposed for the illogic and unforgiveable apologism that they are.

Firstly is the claim that placing a hand on a female colleague’s knee or thigh uninvited is just ‘clumsy flirting.’ The easiest way to dispel this is to entertain how likely it is that a man would do it to a woman far stronger and physically more capable than them – Ronda Rousey for example – or a male apprentice doing it to a female board member . Even the boldest of abusers would resist in these circumstances because they’d know that they’d likely be physically restrained in an embarrassing and painful manner, or they’d be immediately fired. The threat of these outcomes would bring into sharp focus the fact that they have not received anything close to a green light for such intimate behaviour. Thus they would act in accordance with what they know to a moral certainty to be true – that to touch would be wrong. Given these truths, we can say that there is nothing stopping men from always behaving appropriately – nothing except their consciences.

The corollary of this kind of behaviour is that, having abused a position of power, whether physical or within the workplace hierarchy, the sex abuser has also belittled and intimidated the victim. The abuser is knowingly bullying through the conduit of sex. This must never be forgotten and it is one of the reasons why the aforementioned articles are so toxic.

The groper is another type of sex attacker who those rallying against the #MeToo movement strangely wish to defend. This is the man who grabs women’s bottoms or breasts at social gatherings and then disappears into the night without further contact. It differs from workplace attacks in that there is usually no prior relationship between the victim and the perpetrator. Remarkably, this too has been dismissed as merely poor judgement or ‘men just being men,’ and outrage has instead been reserved for the resulting resignations that the perpetrators have been pressured into.

I want you to imagine a few things. Roughly speaking, men are 20% heavier and 10% taller than women on average. So if you’re six foot and 90 kilos, imagine someone who’s 6’7” and weighing 108 kilos manoeuvring you about against your will, with their hands on intimate parts of your body. Just imagine how violated you would feel. Imagine how your agency as an adult human being would be corroded in that moment. Imagine how threatened and undermined you would feel. Sadly, although obviously entirely unnecessarily, these attacks also often result in feelings of shame in the victims mind for not having lashed out because they were too frightened or felt socially constrained. To make another person feel this way is to truly be the scum of the earth.

Those who insist that reputations do not deserve to be seriously compromised or careers derailed off the back of assaults like this have simply not grappled hard enough with the physical and psychological dynamics. Also, it goes without saying that if someone did these things to you or a loved one, the perpetrator would lose all of your trust and respect. By extension, it’s actually perfectly logical that everyone should feel this way towards them, which is why it is right that public servants should lose their jobs after committing these crimes.

Finally, I want to talk about the so-called ‘bad date.’ For the type of scenario that I’m going to write about this is an understatement of significant proportions, to the extent that the term is not fit for purpose and shouldn’t even be used. But again, depressingly, these are the very words that are regularly deployed to dismiss such assaults. I’m speaking of course about crimes along the lines of that allegedly committed by Aziz Ansari, which have been in the headlines this week. A seemingly non-threatening man invites a woman back to his apartment after a first date, and once the door is closed behind them he embarks upon a relentless campaign to gain sexual favours, regardless of the woman’s expressed wishes.

When these circumstances unfold, a woman is immediately faced with a multitude of questions and challenges. Presumably, she may initially wonder if perhaps she did mistakenly give off a wrong signal and so seek to get the evening back within her comfort zone. These efforts usually fail because sexual predators, once locked in on their prey, can rarely think of anything other than manipulating events to get what they want. The woman is no longer thought of as a sentient being worthy of concern.

For her part, the woman knows that after the initial attempts to repel a man’s advances are unsuccessful, there is no chance of having the evening that she desires and so she must escape, but this is never easy. Some are just crippled by social constraints and embarrassment – even wanting to avoid embarrassment for the man. The predator, of course, uses this commitment to good will to his advantage. Some physically and mentally freeze, purely out of shock at what is happening. More serious is the concern for women that to anger or frustrate a man at this point may result in a far more violent attack and rape.

Another obstacle is the physical presence of the man, who typically stalks the woman to every corner of the room as she seeks to put distance between herself and her assailant in order to temporarily cease the unwelcome sexual activity so that she can devise an exit strategy. Ultimately though, her options are limited. To end the assault the woman must become more assertive than the man, with the aim of shaking him out of his apparent trance so that she can leave peacefully – a terrifying prospect when faced with someone much bigger who is behaving aggressively. From this moment the evening can take many different turns, some far worse than others, but there is no mending the damage that has been done. A sexual assault has already occurred.

Whether the Aziz Ansari case happened as reported or not, we can be sure that many women do endure such a scenario. Make no mistake – these are life changing events. To be physically and psychologically manipulated in this manner, to be violated sexually, and to have had to experience that moment of raw panic, however fleeting, of being trapped with someone who seems unable to control themselves, is thank goodness, beyond my comprehension.

At the very least I can say it sounds like a nightmare come true, yet my Twitter timeline appears to inform me that perhaps as many as 50% believe that the Aziz Ansari depicted in the reports did nothing wrong. They say the victim shouldn’t have been there if she didn’t want sexual activity to occur (apparently denying her the option, among other things, of changing her mind), that she should have left sooner, that ‘bad sex’ doesn’t constitute assault or most troubling, that once turned on, men can’t possibly be expected to stop and so calling it assault essentially means that men will in future have to carry around consent forms. Some people have even declared the end of dating and eroticism altogether. Pure insanity, obviously.

One thing that I have already alluded to must be reiterated. Men know when they really do have consent. Evolution has actually equipped us with pretty good instincts for the feelings of others and this is evidenced in the description of the alleged assault by Aziz Ansari when he agrees to ‘chill’ before immediately continuing to molest and pressure as soon as he can get close enough. This does not describe a good guy who is unsure of his ground. They are the actions of a sexual predator.

Many people have been commenting that coercion is not consent. This is true of course, but men know this. We mustn’t be tempted to treat men like babies. If they proceed via coercive methods then there is no belief that they actually have permission – the act of coercing wouldn’t be required if they did. They are choosing to sexually assault at this point. This is the reality that we must face. The situation is not, as some would have you believe, that it’s so difficult to know when it’s ok that men deserve a get out of jail card. No, we must not allow this to be the narrative. The issue is that far too many men either don’t wait for clear signals of consent or won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

It’s hard to know what explains the level of offence that the #MeToo movement seems to have inspired. It’s just too awful to contemplate a world where so many men want the right to sexually abuse women. One might hope it’s just political partisanship playing out rhetorically, and I think this does explain some of it, but many liberal leaning people also seem to believe that anything short of rape should be swept under the carpet. What has become obvious if it wasn’t already, is that the fight for women’s liberation, far from being over, is still in its infancy, and it may in the end turn out to be our greatest struggle.

The Alt-Right: Meet The Deplorables

hitler-salutes

I’ve began to feel as though I left a few things unsaid in my previous article, so consider this piece an addendum of sorts, albeit I fear, a slightly angry and unpolished one…

Hillary nailed it; the alt-right is deplorable. Though its adherents deny it one and all, they are white supremacists trying to fly under the radar with a quirkier sounding name. They insist that their detractors are simply too easily offended and don’t like free speech, or when this ruse fails, claim that they are only joking. But there’s never anything much to laugh at, and aside from the childishness of this defence, it reveals that they know very well just how sinister they are. Alas, all that appears to matter to them is their desire to push the boundaries of insult further and wider.

So who are the alt-righters? Well, they were the ones shouting ‘build the wall’ and beating up dark skinned people at Trump’s rallies. They’re the ones who want to stop all Muslim immigration and to ban the building of mosques. They’re the ones who do not wish to see a single refugee set foot in the developed world, especially if they look like they might be a day over 16 or aren’t close enough to death for their liking. They were the ones who insisted that Trump’s boast of sexual assault was just’ locker room talk’. They were the ones who spread malicious rumours about Barack Obama’s American citizenship, a barely concealed racist attack if ever there was one. They’re the ones who scream ‘femi-nazi’ at any woman who dares to have an opinion opposed to their own. They were the ones who scare mongered for years about the impact of immigrants on British society. They were the ones who deceived the electorate about the cost of EU membership and lied about where these make believe savings could be spent, for the sole reason of stopping foreigners coming to Britain. And last Saturday (19th November), in Washington DC, they were the ones shouting ‘Heil victory’ and throwing Nazi salutes back at Richard B. Spencer, the man who coined the term ‘alt-right’, while he told them that America was “a white country that belongs to us.”

Here is a taste of how some of the alt-right’s favourite spokespeople behave:

Katie Hopkins – Former ‘The Apprentice’ contestant and loudmouth columnist for The Mail Online.  If you thought the headline below was bad enough, her first paragraph reads: “NO, I don’t care. Show me pictures of coffins, show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad.  I still don’t care.”

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Milo Yiannopoulos – The alt-right poster boy.  Previously exposed as a plagiarist, he now writes a column for Breitbart News.  He thinks feminism is worse than cancer, and apparently at least 11,678 of his fans agree:

milo

Nigel Farage – Former commodity broker, one has to remind themselves that he has never been elected as a member of parliament, given his overbearing, unceasing presence.  He’s currently the acting leader of UKIP, the populist far-right party in the UK, and a favourite of Donald Trump.  Here he is fear-mongering about Britain being invaded by refugees:

nigel-farage-refugees

Raheem Kassam – He is the editor-in-chief of Breitbart News in London, the favoured news feed of the alt-right.  He’s also regularly obnoxious on Twitter.  Here he displays the misogyny and the disdain for disabled people that has become so characteristic of the alt-right world view:

raheem-kassam

These people are the dregs of society. Doubtless you’ll be familiar with the calls to hear them out and to try to understand the grievances of this mob. If there ever was a time to indulge such a menace in an unnecessarily generous nod to civility, that time has long since passed. These people now have what they wanted. They have effectively won the Presidency in America and they have thrown Britain into a political, economic and diplomatic crisis by dragging it out of the European Union. If we are to prevent them from destroying everything that we have come to cherish – the freedom, the tolerance and the diversity, then all there is left to do is mobilise and to fight back – peacefully and democratically of course, but most importantly everyone must resist the urge to merely hope everything will turn out alright, or worse, simply assume that enough other people will make a stand. Those who cheer on the Donald Trumps of this world are counting on this. They are banking on liberals continuing to sleep walk into obscurity. It was the naivety of liberals in the first place that enabled all of this because the threat has always been there – it never goes away. However, recently too many liberals have forgotten to check their privilege and have taken too much for granted. 2016 must act as the wakeup call, before it’s too late. There’s so much at stake – we can’t afford to lose anymore elections.

Veil Of Confusion

The Home Office Minister, Jeremy Browne, has said today (17th September, 2013) that we should have an open debate about whether the niqab, which is the face covering portion of the Burqa (the all encompassing garment often seen covering Muslim women from head to toe), can be worn in public places.

Absolutely!  By all means let’s have a debate.  But what are those in favour of allowing the niqab to be worn in public likely to say?  They will reliably argue that it is a matter of religious freedom, freedom of expression, and tolerance.  They will tell us that Muslim women who wear the veil do so out of choice.  And they will say that it does more harm to ban it because doing so will be a hindrance to cross cultural relations (in fact the ever feeble Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has already offered this defence of the niqab).

So is this just about freedom and civil rights?  We must first un-muddy some waters.  Liberty and tolerance do not require one to turn a blind eye to everything.  If they did, we wouldn’t require a police force.  Freedom of speech is a wonderful and precious cornerstone of our culture, worthy of vigorous defence, but we do not allow people to say literally anything, and for good reason.  One cannot incite or threaten violence.  One cannot even incite hate without some constraint.  Would we, for example, allow a media campaign recommending the boycott of all Jewish stores, as was done by the Nazis in the early 1930’s?  Of course not.  We do however allow campaigns for the boycott of certain stores if, for example, it is discovered that their suppliers use child labour abroad or test their products on animals.  The distinction should be clear; the latter is aimed at a faceless corporation that can immediately adapt its ethical behaviour (i.e. switch suppliers), whereas the former targets human beings distinguished only by that which they cannot change and did not choose, such as race, ethnicity or sexuality.

Further to this, we can easily see that we do not allow religion ‘carte blanche’ either.  Liberal societies are all broadly in agreement on the need to resist the imposition of Shari’a – Islamic religious law that often condemns criminals to brutal, medieval punishments and prejudices against woman, putting them at a distinct disadvantage in legal matters, particularly where sex crimes, divorce, domestic violence, child custody or inheritance are concerned.  We do not allow apostates to be murdered, as is demanded by most interpretations of Islamic doctrine.  We certainly do not allow people to be killed for working on Sundays, as the Bible recommends.  Both Yahweh and Allah are clearly for slavery and against homosexuality, but thankfully our laws reflect the opposite view.  So we must do some more thinking – to simply cry (religious) freedom doesn’t cut it.

Is this a feminist issue?  Yes it certainly is, but the other way about to how the argument is often formed.  Make no mistake, the niqab is a garment promoted by men, in the name of Islam, to protect their honour:

“Tell your wives and your daughters, and believing women, to draw their veils over their bodies. It will be better that they should be known as respectable woman.” (Quran 33:59)

Many Muslim men (not all) feel their honour is dependent on how submissive the women in their lives are because they believe, on the basis of religious scripture, that women are essentially their property – objects that can be bought and sold (think dowry – selling their daughters to other men in arranged, forced marriages), objects that must represent and serve the men who own them before themselves, and of course objects used for breeding.  To protect such misogyny beneath a cloak of feminism is an obnoxious insult to the extremely vital cause of real sexual equality.  It is also a form of cultural snobbery, as it suggests that western feminists believe freedom and equality to be indispensable for themselves but not necessarily for Muslim women – the soft bigotry of low expectations.

It is true that some Muslim women defend their right to wear the niqab, but then sadly it is also true that some Muslim women also defend and participate in the forced marriages, honour killings and genital mutilations of their own daughters.  No one of sound moral judgement argues that these are feminist issues.  It’s therefore impossible not to conclude that these women are just scared.  Scared of the men in their lives or scared of Allah – a fictional character whose lines were written by men, all too often with the express purpose of subjugating women.  In this regard, we may also wish to ask ourselves whether our real responsibilities lie with women who yearn for freedom or with those who are glad of their chains.

We also often hear western feminists explain to us that not every woman wants to present the image of herself that the more revealing end of western style clothing can generate.  This is perfectly reasonable of course, but it is remarkably easy not to conform to western ideals, or to otherwise remain inconspicuous, without wearing a cloth bag, with only a thin slit for seeing through, for the whole of your adult life.  Millions of women manage it every day.  However, only Muslim women dress as shown in the photo at the start of this article.  It is the urgent responsibility of all of us to wake up and realise why.  Quite frankly, I find it remarkable that the fact that no one else, anywhere in the world, with a genuine free choice dresses in this manner doesn’t raise more alarm bells.

Is banning the niqab worth the consequence of creating more tension in our relationship with Muslims here in the West?  We need only ask if it was worth upsetting slave masters by releasing slaves from their chains.  It is difficult to think of a more selfish and lethargic approach to social reform than to effectively say “scenario A is really bad for them, but scenario B isn’t great for me, so let’s keep scenario A.”  The journey we must actually embark upon is a far grander and more ambitious one than that.  With freedom comes great responsibility.

It should be clear to all moral, thinking people that the effacing of women via the niqab (as opposed to the covering of their hair and bodies in the form of the hijab) is a form of violence and oppression against women, and as such has no place in any society, anywhere.

 

“Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity.  The grave will supply plenty of time for silence”

Christopher Hitchens