Personal Opinion Piece: We Need To Talk About Men.

This morning, a full eight days after New Years Eve, I finally felt ready to engage with what happened in Cologne. In the past week I have felt guilt, shame, anger and most of all sadness as I scrolled past each post in my feed, refusing to open a link. I haven’t had a PTSD episode in over a month. I didn't want to trigger one. Still I felt guilty for not engaging.

What changed my mind was a headline pointing out that feminists are shrinking away from writing about what happened. The piece can be found here. The Guardian posted a piece along similar lines and both of these pieces got me thinking about the intricacies of discussing what happened.

No situation is ever black and white, as a cultural studies student I know this well. But part of me, a part that is both victim and survivor, knows that the common thread here is men. Five years ago I would have been hard pressed to make a statement like that. But in the past year alone two men that I trusted and who would class themselves as feminists have done things that confirmed for me that male privilege is alive and well and is merely lurking below the surface. Two is a small percentage of the men I know, and is not representative of masculinity or men in general, I know this. And despite my lived experience I still believe that a group shouldn't be held responsible for the actions of some of their members. My feelings on this are very much grey and vary depending on how angry or exhausted I am. I am only human after all.

The one thing we know for sure about the perpetrators of the organised attacks in Cologne on New Years Eve is that they were men. Of course their nationality matters, it is indicative of their culture and therefore their views on many things, including how they view women. But what many people, especially right wing anti-immigration spokespeople will ignore is that men of any nationality are capable of attacking, assaulting and raping women. All too often we hide behind the trope of us and them, blaming their foreignness for the actions they took, distancing ourselves from the darkness humans are all capable of. Rape and assault happen in every country, at all levels of society. This isn't a foreign problem, it’s a worldwide problem. Clouding it in issues of immigration is merely diluting and avoiding the reality that women everywhere are under attack from men.

We need to talk about what happened in Cologne and all the myriad of factors that played into what took place. We need to talk about immigration and how we treat the human beings fleeing from war. We need to talk about how to best educate and integrate people into societies that may be vastly different to theirs. We need to talk about what our society teaches in the first place. We need to talk about rape, sexual assault and violence against all people. We need to talk about the role men and masculinity plays in this. We need to talk about men.

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