#HeForShe and the pointless battle to be recognised

I am really torn with this HeForShe campaign. It’s great that a young woman such as Emma Watson has spoken up, identified herself as a feminist and, in doing so, will introduce a whole generation of other young women to the feminist movement. It’s also good news that sexism, misogyny and inequality is being discussed at UN level. There are many issues that blight women’s lives every single day and we are long overdue for a sea change in male attitudes. It’s exhausting battling this shit every day and our voices are hoarse from shouting about it.
My problem is that I don’t believe that the involvement of the United Nations will do anything to change societal attitudes towards women. The problems are far too entrenched for men to willingly surrender their power. When you have as much privilege as men do, the process of unpacking and examining that privilege is far too much like hard work. Retweeting Everyday Sexism is easy. Adding your name to a petition against domestic abuse takes about five minutes. Adding your voice to a campaign such as HeForShe takes approximately five seconds. Anyone can do that, and proudly pat themselves on the back for being a ‘good’ man.
The real work is in challenging sexism and misogyny. When your mates tell a rape joke, when your work colleagues tell a domestic violence joke, when you witness street harassment, when your women friends are sexually assaulted in pubs and clubs. That’s the real work; challenging other men.
And men don’t see what we see. They understand the, “get your tits out” sexism because it’s blatant and they can hear and see it. What they don’t see is the implicit sexism. The comments that can be dismissed as “just a joke”, the man who talks to your chest, the man who speaks over you, the man who runs the University Feminist society because he wants to ‘help’ women become empowered. They don’t notice when they switch on the radio and it’s predominantly male voices. They don’t notice that the majority of newspaper editors, managers, CEO’s and politicians are men. They don’t think anything when they watch Question Time and see a panel of white, male faces. They don’t understand why you get frustrated when the head of your STEM panel is male, or when you disengage from politics because the ‘greater good’ argument has yet again made women invisible and silenced.
For HeForShe to actually work, we need men to shut up and listen. We need them to WANT to change and I don’t see any evidence that they do.
The sexism in society is not just about the obvious objectification of reducing women to body parts. It’s implicit, it’s quiet, and it’s subtle.
When we have to beg men to imagine that the women experiencing abuse is their daughter, mother or sister then we have a problem. If men can’t support women because, y’know, we’re women then frankly, I don’t want your support.
Read below the line of any article written by a woman and you will see what we experience. You will see what men really think of us. You will see the hatred, the abuse and the dismissive sneering that accompanies any one of us that dares to speak. Go on Facebook and join a discussion about feminism and women’s rights, see the men falling over themselves to explain how we’re getting it wrong, we are campaigning on the wrong issue, there are more important things to worry about. Join Twitter and tweet about feminism. Sit back and wait for the replies.
Essentially, there are a lot of men who can just about manage feminism if it’s done ‘right.’ If the campaigning women are young, white, pretty and slim then you have a chance of men supporting your issue. If you’re old, a woman of colour and fat then forget it. You have pretty much zero chance of any man wanting to be involved in your campaign. The comments come thick and fast;
“who’d rape her?”
“why are feminists so fucking ugly?”
“she deserves a smack in the mouth, fat ugly bitch.”
And we get angry. We get really fucking angry and this means that we are irrational, emotional, and erratic.
“You need to calm down”
“Why are you so angry all the time? It doesn’t solve anything”
“You won’t get anyone to listen if you’re angry”

So we quieten down. We lower our voices, we ask nicely instead of demanding angrily. Does anything change? No.
So, forgive me if I’m not thrilling with excitement about yet another campaign. Forgive me if I sound negative and weary. It’s because I’ve been here so many times before and we are in a worse situation than we ever were.
All power to Emma Watson. Truly. But don’t be surprised when this campaign fades away into obscurity.

Men aren’t giving up their power any time soon.

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7 thoughts on “#HeForShe and the pointless battle to be recognised

  1. Maybe you should have broken it down a bit more and taken in account some of the successes of gender equality and feminism in particular if socialism is a bad word for you. That is to say you should have profiled a bit more who the enemy is today, now, here. I do not think this ‘us the female victims’ and ‘them the men abusers of power’ approach does quite hold water anymore… Just as well a timely change may be needed in ‘feminist’ attitudes in (re)stating more clearly who ‘the enemy’ is.

    Apparently ‘them’ is still all of us who are called or call ourselves men. You make sure of that even in details such as trying to chat a girl up in a pub apparently; as men we could all go down a guilty mind boggling trip by asking if we are traumatising the girl or is it OK or are we seen as potential rapists??… Well that may be a prevailing ‘feminist’ attitude in the UK but it is not quite the same in France or Spain where a girl apparently can be less anal and can say yes or a no or simply have a chat and a lot of men understand that. You would say you refer to worst cases than ‘innocent chat’ but the reality is in the UK you ‘preach’ a lot about boundaries when it comes to relationships in public spaces – and you do it too if not directly at least implicitly. So aparenlty the boundaries are not where they should be and men enjoy more ‘power’…

    As a ‘migrant’ I can probably offer you a different framing of the UK – one I know most migrants alike do share and it is largely ignored by what is usually a very self-concerned host. In a few words we find ‘the English’ all men and women alike and with no difference in pursuit of power and its trappings and that in a very single minded way. You mention power too a lot in your article and you shy away as expected from dealing with real or more humane issues say less power driven. This society is in need of a change at many levels and change should permeate many layers yet that remains off your table. Unfortunately any man – a misogyn or NOT – knows that feminism won’t provide more that a white wash, since this is ultimately all about power and who gets it – and you sound very white too in this respect! Fair enough my best bosses in this country were women but still I can’t see how a Hilary Clinton type of hypocrite would be a victory for the ‘multi-culti” majority or at least for ALL women – so I think a victory is something else that what we are offered by the currently declared feminists!

    Finally I agree – I do not think Emma will make a dent… but the dent of grabbing the spotlight; and that ultimately is what feminism has become in the UK and USA, from a male distance at least!… That is to say, it is more and more a populist device for the 1% to appease the rest and funnily enough a little device for men to learn how to fake support and concern and feel they’ve done their thing, until it goes away, to come back again!

    1. I actually don’t really know what your point is. I haven’t shied away from anything and I don’t think socialism is a dirty word. I do think that there is a problem with the socialist movement as it tends to focus on the greater good whilst ignoring what’s going on here and now for women. I don’t think that’s a particularly controversial statement of truth.
      The post is a response to Emma Watson’s speech which appeals to men’s better nature. I don’t see much evidence that they (you?) have one. I don’t want men to be encouraged to look after women better. That just reinforces patriarchal paternalism.
      We are human beings who experience significant levels of oppression and abuse. If you cant challenge that without wanting to ‘care’ for us, then please don’t bother.

      1. In your article like in an Orwellian Animal Farm, men=bad women=good forever – so I see where the power grab is but where’s the humanity in that?… Probably your feminism will come to accept eventually that women are running an increased in size part of this world too and in many respect they are so becoming (if they weren’t already) complicit to oppression, corruption, violence i.e. what you may call ‘patriarchal benefits’. There may be progress if not in resetting the debate at least in not excusing so often the LadyMacBeths and stars in power as a victory against suffering for all sisters and humanity and the way to go!

        So yes you got me there I believe so much in my better nature as put forward by Emma the starlet – as much as you may be excited about cooking dinner to a potential boyf and mates on a Friday night… but probably I can be ‘coerced’ by circumstances to fake interest.

        Closer to home, some of us represent generations who haven’t quite ‘enjoyed’ many and more likely any ‘patriarchal benefits’ so we do not have a true sense of guilt nor a sense that we owe you something more than you are prepared to share too – which I think it is a fresher attitude in regard to ‘caring’ in 2014 ! From what I know the men and women in Emma’s generation come from a background very much like that – where sexuality is also more ambiguous and boys can be girls and girls are more often boys. Splitting things along the ‘anatomical divide’ in the name of ‘patriarchy’ creates in the present probably a wider disconnect from suffering in rich-for-some, corrupt and violent for many, societies.

  2. ““who’d rape her?”
    “why are feminists so fucking ugly?”
    “she deserves a smack in the mouth, fat ugly bitch.”

    Your post highlights why this campaign along with #allmencan are very important. At the moment, the only men who are speaking up about gender issues are trolls and mra’s like the men you are referring to. That’s a problem. The rules of patriarchal masculinity prevent decent (if unaware) men from engaging in discussions surrounding gender in a non-adversarial or demeaning way, and as a result only the most most adversarial voices speak up, and so women like yourself see a lot of verbal abuse. That’s precisely why we need to really examine the effects of patriarchy on male behavior. How it shapes us men and drives what we say and do. There has to be a more substantive and dare I say, compassionate analysis of this because it is the root of everything women are forced to endure. I know that may seem unfair because of the very real disadvantages that women face. If it’s any conciliation, it’s rarely any picnic over on this side either. It’s really not. If it were the suicide rates for men wouldn’t be so astronomical. It’s not men that are the enemy. It’s the system of patriarchy that is the enemy of humanity. This system was forced on all of us, and If we don’t fight it together it will weigh us all down forever.

    Another thing to think about, in my experience once people are really made aware of the unfair advantages they have. They don’t want them. Usually. So that’s something.

    1. I don’t doubt that patriarchy harms men too. But it’s not harm at the hands of women, and that’s the difference. Compassion and understanding are approaches that women know only too well. Men rely on our conforming to stereotype which is why so many women believe that their violent partners can change.

    2. Yeah, I guess I’m more inclined to see the system of patriarchy as the problem, because men aren’t born being abusive or feeling entitled. Men receive a lot of messaging from society and the ppl around us that makes us who we are. I get the sense that you are more inclined to view men themselves as the problem, which I think is the type of feminism that gets branded (and rightfully so) as anti-male. You may have your own reasons for this.

      However, That’s why I’m so pleased to see Emma Watson using her voice to put the focus back on equality for women and the harmful effects of patriarchal masculinity on women and men. (As opposed to feeding into the mutually destructive gender war) She seems to really understand that our destinies are interrelated.

      “”It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny.
      Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.” -MLK

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