Monday July 1st 2013

It’s not easy, being hated

woman

First published here for Bea Magazine in June 2013.

I’m sorry to be slightly emotional about this, but I’ve had a very busy and stressful couple of weeks, and frankly, I’m really struggling to deal with rampant and violent misogyny.

Trigger warning regarding the page I’m about to tell you about. Violence, domestic violence, rape.

One day last week I had the misfortune to click on a link to this page here. It’s a few weeks old, and if, like me, you are following any of the Facebook groups dedicated to getting rid of this stuff, you’ll have seen images like these; but when so many are collected together, it’s pretty shocking.

I’d already seen most of those images, but seeing them all laid out together, it hit me harder. And I have to confess, it provoked a couple of tears. Because of my sex, I am hated. And what’s more, I have a little girl to send out into the world, one who doesn’t yet know that she’s hated, one who is full of life and positivity. I have to send her out there. I have a ten year old step daughter, and I worry that she’s already absorbing the kind of messages that will prove deleterious to her self esteem. How do I tell them? How do I reveal the preposterous truth of what so many men think of women, and the harmful, violent things so many of them are prepared to do to them?

I’m not stupid, of course, and I’m not completely self centred. I know that there are lots and lots of men that don’t think that way about women. They are, I hope, the vast majority. And I know that there are plenty of men who view women as their equals – I know lots of them, thankfully – and they are certainly not about to start venting violent angry rhetoric at me.

I also know that women aren’t the only ones who feel threatened by hatred. People harbour irrational hatred for others because of their race, their sexuality, their disability, their social status… I could go on.

But I think I feel so strongly about this because women are part of every race, every social status… They can be a member of pretty much any disadvantaged group. They are half the population (possibly a little more?) of the world, and yet they are, in so many quarters, by so many people, seemingly considered less than human. And the people who ‘joke’ about being violent towards them, or are openly hostile to them, seem to take such a visceral delight in the idea of really hurting them. Really damaging them. And they so often seem to have an air of self-righteousness, as though they feel that they are entirely justified about wanting to put womankind in her place, either by inflicting violence (and that includes rape) or by threatening us with the same violence, albeit dressed up as ‘joke’ on Facebook.

It’s in the interests of all sexes and genders to take a stand against this sort of disgusting, unacceptable behaviour. I am not pro-censorship, especially, but most of us are happy, in fact, to censor hate speech, against minorities, races. As a society (certainly on social media) we seem overly inclined to just live with hate speech when it’s directed at women. It’s certainly been the case with Facebook, an organisation which has tolerated images of violence towards women (though the campaign against this tolerance has met with some success), and will allow near pornographic images of women, but deems images of women breast feeding to be obscene. And it’s come to this: you get censored for portraying a woman with pubic hair, but it’s not offensive to show the same woman without it. So… Unless your naked body conforms to certain porn-induced standards, it’s also obscene…?

In any case, we need to take a stand, we need to call out this kind of stuff wherever and whenever we see it . We’re creating a world where our young men are going to grow up hating our young women, because their elders and peers taught them to. It’s a world where those same young women end up accepting and endorsing the idea that it’s okay for them to be hated. A world where a man can abuse a woman in public, and then think it’s socially acceptable to claim that he was grabbing her by the neck just to “emphasise a point”, while others fall over themselves to urge us not to judge him for what was very clearly an act of violence.

Two women are killed a week, in this country, by men who were their partners or ex partners, and countless more suffer varying degrees of violence at the hands of the men who are supposed to love them. The statistics on sexual violence against women are horrendous – this article uses the word ‘epidemic’, for heaven’s sake. The perpetrators, in my opinion, are silently given permission by society to attack women, and the preponderance of woman-hating material on the internet can only be perpetuating those attitudes.

When I first looked at that long collection of nasty images, I cried. I felt hated. And then I felt cross that I cried, not because I felt they’d won, succeeded in getting me down, but because I felt as though I was being pathetic. Then I thought about it some more, and decided that I’m not pathetic. I’m human, and a woman, of course the thought that some men hate us so much they’d like to eviscerate us is disturbing. It’s okay to be upset.

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net