There’s yet another post about street harassment doing the rounds on Facebook. While, of course, this kind of thing is deplorable and upsetting I never stop at virtue signalling with a quick thumbs up or reblog. I can’t help but start thinking about the why’s and wherefores, the context in which this occurs. I can’t help but compare it to the situation men face and to ask myself whether the panic over this is justified and why things are so gendered around this stuff.
Let’s drop a few facts first to contextualise things then.
- A random street rape is the least likely scenario for women to be sexually assaulted. Most such attacks are by people the victim knows.
- Catcalls are unpleasant, but there’s plenty in life that’s unpleasant.
- Men are roughly twice as likely as women (3.8 vs 2.1%) to suffer violence of any kind (Crime Survey for England and Wales) and when it comes to random street violence are half-again as likely as women (150%) as likely to suffer random street violence.
- In those incidents, men are far more likely to end up dead or injured than women.
- Men also suffer street abuse, it just doesn’t tend to be sexual. Just more like ‘Wanker!’, road rage, random, nasty insults, challenges and attempts at violence.
In our society men suffer worse and more frequent random violence, yet this only concerns us in very general terms about the level of crime overall. We do not consider that a gendered issue, even though it far outweighs violence against women. We obsess and concern ourselves with ‘Hey beautiful!’ but not so much about fifty year old men given a fatal shoeing for challenging teenagers smoking pot in their driveway.
So me, being me – and believe me, this causes me more pain than it should and I don’t recommend it – I have to ask why? Why do we care more about women’s momentary discomfort than men’s deaths and injuries? Why is it that when you bring this up, seemingly because it involves men, it’s instantly dismissed and mocked?
I ask myself why women have what appears – from a male perspective – to be an irrational and phobic, disproportionate sense of fear and why men do not have that same fear. Should women be this afraid? Should men be more afraid? The statistics would seem to suggest at the very least that women should be less afraid (but then again, maybe their actions through fear are WHY there’s such a divide in incidence).
Are we really going to waste time and money criminalising people for saying ‘Hey baby!’ especially when this will end up being heavily concentrated in poor and ethnic communities where such actions are more common? Worse, are we going to let this spread to the internet with loose and poorly worded ‘anti-harassment’ regulations and even laws? That’s what people seem to want.
There is sexism here, but it’s in our disproportionately big and one-sided response to women’s problems, however trivial they are (or seem) and our minimal response to men’s issues, which after 50+ years of political concern over women’s issues have been left unaddressed and allowed to fester.
A particularly stark example of this dichotomy relates to another arena, with reference more directly to sexual violence. Men and women suffer almost the same amount of domestic violence (60% of victims are women, 40% are men – Parity, and other studies) yet while there’s thousands upon thousands of places of shelter and aid for women, there are less than 100, nationwide, for men and men’s charities dealing with male victims have been defunded (Mankind Initiative).
Our compulsion as a society and as individuals to help women is commendable. However, it also infantalises women, treats them as weak and incapable. It is a sexism of its own. The ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ and it also hangs our society’s men out to dry.
Pointing this out, however calmly, however accurately, no matter the amount of data you present will only – ironically – get you abuse, wild, dismissing nonsense about ‘patriarchy’ conspiracy theories or the semantic atrocity that is the Orwellian misuse of the word ‘privilege’.
Unwanted attention is (or at least can be) bad, but if we have limited resources we have to practice some form of triage. What is more pressing, the much higher amount of violence and abuse that men face, or someone’s discomfort at being drunkenly asked for a blowjob?
Really. Honestly. Think. Put the same effort into thinking about this, contextually, as I have before you comment or answer.
I mean, seriously for once. What ABOUT the men?