Male Silence and Male Violence: A Marriage of Complicity
On 5th June 2019, feminist campaigner, activist, journalist and author Julie Bindel was attacked after appearing and speaking at a panel at Edinburgh University on women’s rights and protections.
As she was leaving the event, a transactivist who goes by the Twitter handle “TownTattle” (I won’t link to either the account nor reference by the assumed name, more on that later) attempted to push through security to presumably physically attack Bindel for her daring to talk about women’s sex-based rights as a biological class; as opposed to advocating for the absolutely facile, redundant and offensive argument that “woman” is just an identity that can be embraced or disregarded on a whim.
He was shouting and ranting and raving, ‘you’re a fucking cunt, you’re a fucking bitch, a fucking Terf” and the rest of it. We were trying to walk to the cab to take us to the airport, and then he just lunged at me and almost punched me in the face, but a security guard pulled him away.
I got my phone out to film him to get evidence and he went for me again. It took three security guys at the stage to deal with him.
Some background on Julie Bindel for those of you who might only know her as some kind of feminist “bogey(wo)man”, or may not have heard of her at all. (This will be a whistlestop tour, so by no means take this as a comprehensive biography of her extensive accomplishments.)
She began campaigning for the rights of women at the age of 17 after moving to Leeds and joining the Leeds Revolutionary Feminist Group. Following the horrific spate of murders committed by Peter Sutcliffe, she was driven to campaign further for an end to male violence against women. Following this, a few years later, she and her partner (immensely respected human rights lawyer and equally fantastic, it should be said) Harriet Wistrich set up Justice for Women, which went on to help numerous women who had been disregarded, failed, punished and effectively left to rot in prison by the State.
In the years following, she has been at the coalface of the battle to protect women’s rights, consistently standing up for the most downtrodden and vulnerable in society. I know this because I have been fortunate enough to be able to work alongside her on some of these projects, and she is tireless. Case in point, she was recently abroad on a “holiday”, and she had to sneak in phonecalls to me about various projects we were working on. The, albeit tongue-in-cheek, cloak-and-dagger antics were necessary because she didn’t want anybody she was with to know she wasn’t actually using the opportunity to relax (sorry, Julie). Instead, she was working on yet more opportunities to shed light on the global pandemic of male violence against women.
Let’s fast forward to the present day. The debate around gender has become a toxic sludge of vitriol, with women who dare to even consider questioning their right to organise separately from men threatened with violence, and sometimes even being on the receiving end of it.
Women who want to discuss the oppression and violence they face day in, day out, simply for being female are now no longer allowed to without, at the very least, the condemnation of their meeting by organisations that exist solely to represent the marginalised and to promote equality.
But, this is nothing new. I have written before about the rancid misogyny and male entitlement that underpins current gender discourse, here and here. Women have been doing it for years before me. So, frankly, I don’t really want to talk about that again. So, what do I want to talk about? At the risk of sounding like a Men’s Rights Activist…
Where are all the fucking men? Women are losing their jobs and having their livelihoods threatened because they dare to speak out against the increasingly and relentlessly oppressive mantra of “trans women are women”, journalists are being attacked for not conforming to a rigid gender ideology, and human rights lawyers who have dedicated their professional and academic lives to helping the most vulnerable in society are being threatened in their place of work. These women have more to lose than most simply by virtue of being women in a society that is set up by and catered to men; but in challenging an ideology that fundamentally affects their rights, they are taking conscientious steps to protect themselves and others in the long term, risks be damned. Why are men not recognising this for what it is, and raising their voices?
I know the answer of course. I am not (depressingly, it must be said) expecting this to be the issue where men who have ignored women’s persecution their entire lives suddenly change tack and embrace the abolition of the patriarchy. The thing is, this extends far beyond feminism and debates about gender. There is a very real, very chilling sign of an insidious authoritarianism, that will very quickly move beyond whether women can organise, into a cultural norm where things such as the rights of universities to hold certain panels will be threatened; where women are punched for expressing a certain viewpoint (despite this happening at a place literally created to facilitate debate and a plurality of opinions) that a vocal minority vehemently disagree with; where tax-payer money is wasted on funding vexatious litigation because somebody didn’t use the “preferred pronoun” of a “transgender child”, which in and of itself is an immensely troubling concept. Sorry, my mistake, all of that is already happening.
Of course, women being able to organise without receiving bomb threats should be enough of a reason on its own to object to the ideology that propagates that behaviour. Alas, I am not as bright eyed and bushy tailed as I once was, and I know there needs to be another reason for men to finally start speaking up about this, as historically we only feel the need to really get involved with objecting to social movements when it affects us directly. But this is the thing. It makes no sense for men not to object to this form of male entitlement and violence, and it certainly doesn’t make any sense for us to keep supporting it. But again, at the risk of sounding like an MRA, does my curiosity about the lack of vocal objection apply to all men?
Many men on the left constantly, and unbearably, stumble over themselves to show how “Woke” they are, whether it be through supporting a woman’s right to be trafficked and abused, or by graciously deciding to choke them during sex, even if they don’t want it. But apparently, the line is drawn at condemning a man attacking a woman.
The entire ideology of the third-wave, “Woke Left” is based around appearing progressive, regardless of whether they actually are progressive. It is an incoherent ideology, where men never have to actually look at their actions or challenge their beliefs; rather, they can mould and shape an ideology around what they’re already doing and then just slap a progressive label on it.
Want to call a woman a cunt but scared of sounding like a misogynist? Don’t worry, call her a TERF instead!
Want to pretend to care about male violence without actually having to do anything about it? Just say the woman on the receiving end deserved it because of “karma”.
When I mooted the point about men not being vocal, I am decidedly not talking about the men from Woko Haram.
These men and their comrades are so wrapped up in their own egotistical version of being progressive, that they end up having to stretch themselves in ways that would make an Olympic gymnastic applaud. Imagine if somebody was attacked, and then instead of acknowledging it for what it is (which is male violence against women), you instead try to concoct an utterly bizarre what-if scenario where the man wasn’t actually attacking the woman, but was instead somebody who was “being aspergers”, and was trying to greet you “with their fists”. Having a hard time imagining somebody going to such lengths to avoid responsibility? Don’t worry, it actually happened!
These men and their obsession with maintaining male supremacy are visible a mile off, and frankly my kitchen window is less transparent. We see you.
But what about the other men? In a vain attempt to make men seem slightly less monolithic (and slightly more interesting), I’ll invoke Whitman; we contain multitudes. Not all men (sorry) are “of the left”, so where are their voices in all of this? Sure, they also have a vested interest in upholding male supremacy, but as I mentioned above, this particular type of male entitlement and violence spreads far beyond “just” protecting a woman’s right to organise.
Men on the right are quickly latching on to a self-awarded reputation of being “defenders of free speech”, whether it be trying to justify utterly revolting statements about raping a woman being a “joke”, or by crowdfunding a legal defence for a man that should be in jail for being criminally unfunny, regardless of whether teaching your dog to do a Nazi salute is a crime or not. So where are their voices?
These men should have a vested interest in condemning this behaviour, and publicly as well. Their right to speak, organise and even think (I’m not making this up!) will undoubtedly eventually meet the unstoppable force of 2019’s version of transactivism; where big money lobbying organisations threaten legal action for using certain words, and violence is only ever a wrong pronoun away.
Undoubtedly, aligning with somebody on the other end of the political spectrum might make some feel uncomfortable, even if it is purely an alignment borne out of convenience as opposed to an active choice. But objecting to this specific form of male violence and entitlement should not be predicated on falling within a specific part of the political compass.
As I write this I am feeling particularly cynical and depressed about the state of political discourse, so I may look back on this unkindly, but; I understand why people across the political spectrum might disagree with other analyses of different aspects of male violence. For instance, take prostitution. I argue and advocate for its abolition as a form of commercialised male violence, but clearly not everybody agrees with that analysis. I won’t get into the endless discussion of why that’s the case, but suffice to say there are many different justifications for not agreeing with that take; whether you think prostitution is a “choice”, or if you think it’s “empowering”, or that it’s a “job like any other”. I can acknowledge the differing political thought process behind these justifications, even if I vehemently disagree with it and don’t think they hold up under scrutiny.
But this particular type of male violence, where a man lunges at a woman for a perceived political difference of opinion, who is so incited by the idea of women organising and discussing their right to do so, that he feels the need to attack a woman…there is no political ideology that should be comfortable with that. Whether you happen to be on the very right of the political compass, but also believe in upholding free speech, you should object; if you are a silent centrist with no horse in the race, so to speak, but acknowledge that male violence is at least a thing, you should object to this very obvious instance of it; if you are on the actual left (as opposed to the Woke-ing Class Left), you should object to this for obvious reasons.
The only group that seem to have an interest in not condemning this are the Woke Bloke crowd. You could write a thesis on why that’s the case, but perhaps it can be boiled down to their existence as a microcosm of political discourse. They live like political shut-ins, where an ideology is revered with cult-like status, and any deviation from total submission results in excommunication. Don’t think porn and prostitution are empowering? SWERF. Don’t think “trans women are women”? TERF. Don’t think gender is a fluid spectrum, that is also innate but also a social construct? Bigot. The men are happy to go along with it because it results in Feminist Cookies, and the women are sold the lie that it makes them empowered and autonomous, despite it not affecting the social power dynamic in any perceivable way.
A final thought about the perpetrator that sparked this whole thing. There will be some who read this and say “Of course I disagree with male violence, but what does this have to do with it?”. Well, I will leave you with this. The man who attempted the attack in Edinburgh has a history of making violent threats. Any whiff of deviation from the party line is met with cries for violence and retribution.
In an extended moment of pure, unadulterated misogyny, the perpetrator intentionally used the name of a lesbian feminist activist to taunt and harass her, which then resulted in said activist having to clarify that she, a lesbian feminist activist had not actually attacked another lesbian feminist activist.
Of course, TownTattle isn’t the only one behaving like this, and it would certainly be unfair to the other individuals that live on a diet of misogyny and social-media validation not to have their fair share of blame apportioned. This individual just happened to be in the right place at the right time, at least for the purposes of this article.
Women are losing their jobs when they speak out about this Greek mythology-level narcissism and abuse. This isn’t to say that men don’t have anything to lose if they do voice their concerns. I am currently in the middle of a career change into law. Will publishing this prejudice my career goals? Maybe, I don’t know. Of course, anybody that challenges any kind of social hegemony, which, let’s face it, this virulent strand of transactivism is, has something to lose. Nobody likes their privilege being challenged. But I can count the number of men that have voiced concerns about this on one hand.
What I do know is that for those with political and social integrity, and for those who object to any form of male violence against women, not raising your voice to object to this is a failure on all levels. Men wield enormous amounts of power in society, and as sad as it is that this is the case, people often only take notice when men start talking. It will continue to thrive and grow unless it is challenged and faced down for what it is .For men who remain silent about this type of male violence, it is tantamount to complicity. It is as simple as that.
You can find out more about and donate to ‘Justice for Women’ here. The ‘Centre for Women’s Justice’ also does fantastic work for women in prison, and front-line charity ‘nia Ending Violence’ provide incredibly important and necessary services for women who have been subjected to male violence.