Disclaimer: I wrote these blogs a long time ago! I'm leaving them up as I don't want to delete my journey and I think showing growth is important. But it means that some of my views, and some language I use, is now different. Please be mindful of this, and that the content might be triggering, if you choose to read on.
Warning: contains triggering subjects
There have been a few serious attacks in the news recently. It’s hard doing the ‘normal’ adult thing at the moment, just getting up and going to work like it never happened. It’s a strange world we’ve built for ourselves. My thoughts are with the victims and their families and friends, and I’m eternally grateful to our NHS. I appreciate people not wanting to give the attackers airtime, but we need to notice something happening here – most terrorists are men. Need a statistic? Here you go:
“Overwhelmingly, the majority of people arrested for terrorism related offences are male: of the 3,157 people arrested between 11 September 2001 and 31 December 2015, 92% were male.”
- From ‘Terrorism in Great Britain: the statistics - Parliament UK’
I think we need to talk about this, but it’s a hard one to tackle without instantly having to do the who #notallmen thing.
Happy now? MOST terrorists are men. MOST MOST MOST. This is what we see. This is what we know. I am not placing blame, it’s merely an observation and I’m just asking how we can help because somehow we’re failing men.
Recently, one of my favourite comedians got a whole lot of bother on social media for this:
Again – MOST, not all. If you know you’re not one of the men we’re talking about, there’s no need to cause a fuss.
After the attack in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert, some people said it was purposely targeted at young women. From what I can gather, extremists don’t seem to like empowered young women taking control of their own bodies, so I could understand the logic. Extremists generally seem to want to incite fear and hatred, and want to feel powerful and in control to the point of killing innocent people and often even themselves too.
Then there was the Portland stabbing but that was a white guy so he isn’t called a terrorist of course. He is a white supremacist who doesn’t seem to show any remorse for killing two men (and injuring one) who were standing up for two women on a train.
‘Famous’ Men’s Rights Activist Paul Elam was quick to start the victim blaming after the incident:
If you’re unfamiliar with Men’s Right’s Activists (MRA’s), they’re mostly men (#notallmen) and they’re mostly not doing much for men’s rights (#notallMRAs) but instead are mostly trying to take down feminists (how many more times can I use the word ‘mostly’?) The thing is, I agree with some of the things they’re supposedly concerned about – father’s rights, domestic violence against men, high male suicide rates, to name a few. It’s just unfortunate that so many of them seem to be horribly racist, sexist and homophobic. They seem to dislike anyone who isn’t a straight white man. This is only based on my short ventures into the ‘manosphere’ (a general name for the men’s rights online community), so I realise it’s from my limited perspective. If you are an MRA and you have a campaign you’d like us to join to legitimately help men’s rights, then do come forward. Many women might be happy to help you out.
I have to protect myself from going too far down the terrifying rabbit hole known as the manosphere. There’s so much hatred there. But I’ve been trying to understand masculinity and how men are becoming so angry they’ll stab people on trains, blow themselves up or drive vans into crowds. Not forgetting, killing themselves too. The male suicide rate in the UK is three times the female rate.
Maybe gender expectations are one of the roots of the problem. I might be seen as too compassionate but I’d rather try to understand why these men have such a lot of anger. In my experience of Men’s Rights Activists online, they seem bitter and hurt and are looking to provoke people, especially feminists, into saying something horrible to them. When people retaliate, it then proves their point. It proves their ‘free speech’ argument right, validating their view that they’re the real victims, hence making them even more pissed off about it all.
However, maybe they are the victims. Maybe they’re victims of a society that tells men not to show emotion. We tell boys not to cry. We tell them to be strong and tough. We teach them that anger is the only acceptable emotion. They have to play with boy toys which are often more violent than girls toys (but girls have equally damaging gender role expectations in a different way). They’re taught to ‘man up’ to deal with their problems. They’re taught that asking for help is a weakness, and that kindness and compassion are girly and weak traits.
Men need gender equality just as much as women, sometimes I think even more so. ‘Feminism’ is a tricky word now because MRA’s see feminists as being cruel and angry, which some of them are. They’re pissed off from a lifetime of living by the rules of the patriarchy so I can see why, but it’s no excuse to be hateful. However, there are a lot of feminists, like me, who think feminism means the same as gender equality. It’s just a word anyway, what matters is the intention behind it.
These men, so unhappy with the imbalance of the world, are affected by the same patriarchal society that feminists are so unhappy about too. If there was just a way for there to be a compassionate, understanding dialogue between the two groups, we might find a way forward. But both sides are firmly in their opposing online worlds, having their own little bickering sessions amongst themselves. Feminists are arguing over who can be the best feminist (and over what the word actually means for that matter) and MRA’s are too busy having competitions about how masculine they can be (they have a whole Alpha/Beta thing going on).
And through just literally typing that last sentence, I realise how ironic that is.
It seems like gender equality is treated as a luxury, but it’s really becoming a necessity now. People are dying, and that’s not solely the fault of toxic masculinity of course, but surely there’s no harm in giving it a go. Gender roles aren’t helping anyone now and it’s time we moved on. We need to break the rules around conforming to be a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’. Just whatever you like. You don’t have to name it and you don’t have to justify yourself to anyone.
We need an injection of empathy and compassion now. We need to try to stop placing blame and focus on what we can do, as individuals, to be kinder. Blaming Muslims or immigrants isn’t getting us anywhere. Terrorist attacks happen in the name of religion only in the minds of the attackers, but the basis of most religions is to be kind, forgiving and generally just don’t kill each other. It’s the person that kills people, not the religion. Often terrorists are quite young men who have been susceptible to radicalisation. We need to think about why they’re drawn into that in the first place and why they decided to become violent, unlike all the millions of other Muslims who don’t.
Thinking about it, they might not be too different from the Men’s Rights Activists or white supremacists who attack innocent people on trains, or storm into schools with guns. Despite being the opposite type of extremists, both are angry at the world. Angry at people for treating them badly maybe? Angry for not having the power and control they think they deserve. I doubt whether these men had been shown another way to channel that anger.
The man who stabbed people on a train in Portland was said to have mental health problems. I’ve personally never seen this same consideration for Muslim terrorists. We need more provision for mental health services, but we also need to help break down the stigma around asking for help. If there is more acceptance around men showing emotion, there could be a chance of helping men who may want to hurt themselves or others.
Kindness and be learned in the same way hatred can be. Our brains can always adapt, it just takes that initial push to start trying to see another perspective. We’re not going to solve the problems in society quickly, or indeed at all, but we can try to make a kinder, non-judgmental, equal world for the generations to come.
Stay safe. Be kind.