Responsibility for rape is for men to think about

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Responsibility for rape is for men to think about

by Matthew Vickery


Creative protest (Devon Buchanan under a Creative Commons Licence)

I am a feminist – and I am a male. Thankfully, there are some men like me. But the idea of a ‘male feminist’ still seems to confuse many men. I wrote a blog post last month which talked about a sexist pub quiz and hundreds of people read it. I received many tweets and comments from men. They seemed confused and also angry about a man saying he is a feminist.

Our society thinks that men are more important than women. Sexual harassment, violence and rape are seen as normal and so there are more crimes like this. Women fight against women-haters and the idea that men are more important and to stop violence against women. I think that all men need to understand that they have a responsibility to help women change society.

From an early age, boys are given mixed messages about what is OK and what is not OK. Teachers, for example, are more likely to accept boys’ bad behaviour than girls’ bad behaviour. They say, ‘boys will be boys’. The boys may be punished, but their behaviour is still seen as OK for boys. This idea continues through childhood. Bad behaviour becomes a way of making boys feel good.

This is how sexism, hating women, and jokes about sexual violence appear as the boys grow up. Male friendships are easier if they can behave badly to females. Females are seen as purely sexual. When a woman questions this, the result is more sexism, rape threats, and even bomb threats.

When women are seen as objects there only to please men, men are more likely to accept sexual harassment and everyday sexism against women. The National Union of Students (NUS) has published two independent reports (2010, 2012). The reports show how sexism and jokes and the idea that rape is normal in British universities have encouraged sexual violence against women.

A man who tells a sexist joke to his male friends may not want to encourage sexual violence, but he is helping to make a society which encourages sexual violence.

Longer time in prison and more convictions for men who are violent against women are important. But these alone will not solve the problem. All of us must say something about the way men behave towards women and speak about women. Some men do this, but most do not. Saying nothing means we agree with sexist behaviour.

When women are attacked every day because of the behaviour of men, arguments about free speech are not right. No-one would, or should, argue that racism in the southern states of the US after the American Civil War was about free speech. Today’s sexism is not about free speech.

This is about everyone taking responsibility. And all men are responsible for stopping these crimes.

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