Online abuse, is it a man thing or woman thing?

imagesThere’s been a lot of talk about online misogyny in the past week after Twitter made a public apology to women who have been subjected to rape threats. So is online abuse a gender problem? Is this another area of life where “women have problems and men are problems”? And if misogyny is a problem, what about online misandry?

We don’t pretend to have all the answers but you can rely on the National Conference for Men and Boys to always try and offer a broad range of perspectives—which is another good reason to buy your conference tickets online today.

In the meantime, here are some of the most interesting voices talking about online abuse from a gender perspective relevant to men and boys in the UK that we’ve heard so far:

It’s not misogyny it’s just plain bad manners

“What is problematic is that the organisers of Trolliday do not see this as a question of manners, but of misogyny – hate crime, in other words. The women-hating trolls do not show that society has a problem with misogyny……the most pleasant places to live are those where…..men in particular have an incentive to be viewed as gentlemen – a word sadly missing from this debate about the treatment of women.”

Ed West, The Spectator, Why do people write abuse on the internet?

This is a man-made problem and women are the victims

“This is a men-on-women issue. Guys are pretty much doing it to the girls. Which, thankfully, is where our good friend socialism steps forward. Because this will not stand for those of us who are socialists. We are all equal.”

John Niven, Daily Record, Trolls who abuse

It’s not a gender issue 

“I don’t think it’s a gender thing at all….I couldn’t say whether it happens more to women or to men but it’s quite clear that men and women will both abuse people online and be the recipients of that abuse.”

Professor Mark Griffiths, BBC, Why cyberbullies are targetting women

Women don’t troll

“There are very few female trolls because women are more virtuous than men….. women of any age will never hate men as much as teenage boys hate women.”

Jennifer Wright, The Gloss, Where are all the female internet trolls?

Women do abuse men online

“A female tweeter I didn’t follow…tweeted that I was a **** – an interesting word for a self-confessed feminist to use. I replied to the profanity….My words were immediately re-tweeted. For the next 24 hours I was subjected to abuse and threats of violence from many of this writer’s 70,000-odd followers….Despite a reporter’s thick skin, I’ll confess to a sleepless few nights. I’d never received such constant abuse and it certainly affected me emotionally.”

Niall Paterson, Sky News, What About Male Victims?

Women abuse other women

“Abuse also happens online by women against women. This includes  harassment, cyber-bullying, Gaslighting, mobbing, verbal abuse. It also happens within feminism. And yet…..feminism is deathly quiet on the issue. The anger & volume that we collectively use to denounce male violence is noticeably absent when it comes to women that abuse.”

Portia Smart, Feminist Blogger, We need to talk about women

People who live in glass houses….

“Caitlin Moran might well fall foul of a new, improved “report abuse” button. She’s been quite vociferous in her condemnation of the attacks on Caroline Criado-Perez, even proposing a 24-hour boycott of Twitter to protest about the site’s failure to deal with the abuse problem. She appears to have forgotten that, three years ago, she was pretty abusive towards me. Here are a couple of things she tweeted while I was debating Germaine Greer on BBC2’s Late Review:

“God, the reliability of Toby Young to be a total C*** could be used to power the atomic clock.”

“Oh, Germaine Greer. You’re still F***ING MAGNIFICENT. Please end this brilliant monologue by running a sword through Toby Young’s face.”

Toby Young, Daily Telegraph, Most twitter trolls are harmless attention seekers

Most trolls are boys (and so are most victims)

“I was really surprised to find the level of boys admitting that they got involved in cyber bullying and the number of boys who have been victim of cyber bullying. Sixteen percent of males said someone had sent them a threatening message online, compared with 7 percent of females. And 11 percent of males said that they had sent threatening messages online.”

Sarah Pedersen, Huffington Post, Cyber-bullying, are boys worse than girls

I’m a man and I love to troll 

“I come from a cohort and culture of males in which a cheap jibe or insulting comment is part of everyday interaction, held under the banner of ‘crack’ and ‘banter’. I am not condoning abuse of any sort, I realise that it occurs amongst peers causing a great degree of harm. In combating fascism we tread the fine lines of freedom of expression, but we must be sure in distinguishing the difference between what is actually offensive and what is an impulsive comment towards people enjoying their 15 minutes of fame.”

Daniel Swanson, TEDx Salford, What to do about trolling

Kill All Men? Ignore it, it’ll go away

“It can be very tempting, when one’s human sub-group is challenged, to respond in kind…..we tend to react strongly when our “team” is called out. That’s why the recent Twitter trend of appending the #killallmen hashtag to various female grievance-oriented posts is such a frustrating phenomenon: It’s a direct provocation, and something of a mass movement, but it’s also too crazy to pay much attention to.”

Michael McKenna, Ask Men. Why #KillAllMen is a thing that exists

Autistic men need better protection from online bullies

“Because of my autism I can’t do social things like go to the pub or go to nightclubs. Ninety per cent of my life is spent online. The entire social aspect of my life is online. But every time I go online I get abuse. Current laws against cyberbullying just don’t work at all. They haven’t worked for me.”

Kevin Healy, Autism Campaign speaking to BBC,  Why cyberbullies are targetting women

Men get bullied by girls

“There’s something about a bully that really annoys me. They’ll say something online that they’d never dare to say to your face.”

Comedian and self-professed “troll slayer” Dom Joly who discovered that one of those who’d threatened him was a 14-year-old girl with nine different online identities. BBC: Trolling who does it and why?

There’s more misandry  than misogyny 

“There is ten times more misandry expessed in the west than there is misogyny, but people have been trained not to notice this…..Blocking men’s voices on the grounds of ‘misogyny’ is common on internet forums, websites and social media such as Facebook – even when these voices are clearly not misogynistic at all. The upshot is that misogyny is going to continue to increase until men get a fairer deal and until they can express their views without being continually blocked by the overly politically-corrected and feminist-dominated. Of course, those rape threats were, in my view, completely unacceptable. But I can assure you that men have been on the receiving end of similar threats ever since the internet became a place where men and women have been in verbal conflict.”

Angry Harry, Blogger, commenting on Why do people write abuse on the internet?

When it’s a male victim we ignore the gender

“Women’s groups have been very adept at ‘genderising’ any and all problems that affect females, and are able to exploit the media’s obsession with women-specific issues. As the current Twitter abuse issue shows, they have asserted that it is almost always women that receive these kinds of comments. On the other hand, abuse aimed at men is assumed to be non-gendered, receives no attention, and is usually considered fair game. Complain, and you’ll never be far from a ‘man up’ style dismissal. As is so often the case, there are double standards in play here.”

Tim Reed, commenting on Why do people write abuse on the internet?

Online abuse is not limited by gender

“If you cast a wide enough net you soon discover that online abuse is not limited by gender. If we want to live in a less sexist society it does mean finding ways to tackle misogyny. It also means taking time to understand and address the experience of male victims of violence and abuse too.”

Glen Poole, National Conference for Men and Boys, writing in The Guardian Comment Is Free section

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Why is the G20 Killing not Violence Against Men?

article-2385185-0B6382D100000578-583_634x513Glen Poole of the National Conference for Men and Boys organising committee offers a personal opinion on our collective tolerance of violence against men and boys.

This week, the Metropolitan Police Service has apologised “unreservedly” for the “excessive and unlawful force” that killed a man at the G20 protests in London in 2009.

Ian Tomlinson, a 47-year-old newspaper seller, was caught up in the demonstrations in the City of London as he walked home in April 2009. He was attacked with a baton from behind by Police Constable Simon Harwood, collapsed minutes later and died of internal bleeding.

Harwood was found not guilty of manslaughter but was later sacked by the Met Police for gross misconduct.

An inquest jury found Ian Tomlinson was the victim of an unlawful killing, but what nobody seems to be saying is that Mr Tomlinson was also the victim of violence against men and boys.

Every year, all over the world, men and boys are four times more likely to die a violent death. According to the World Health Organisation, men and boys account for 81% of the people who die violently each year. In total nearly half a million (455,000) men are boys are killed violently every year at a rate of one man dying of violence every minute of every day.

We are, it seems, more tolerant of violence against men—that’s all of us, men and women, together we have a greater collective tolerance of violence against men.

For every woman who is killed violently, four men are killed and there are no global campaigns to end violence against men and boys, yet there are global UN-sponsored campaigns to end violence against women and girls.

Women account for 19% of violent deaths and the international community has decided we need a global campaign to end violence against women and girls, but no campaign to help men and boys—and this is symptomatic of the fact that all over the world men and women are more tolerant of violence against men.

Can we say without doubt that the tragic death of Ian Tomlinson was because he was a man?

Tomlinson was a separated father who had struggled with alcoholism and was living in a homeless shelter. He was working casually selling the Evening Standard newspaper and got caught up in the G20 riots while trying to take his normal route home from work—by all accounts he just wanted to get back to his homeless shelter and his way home was blocked by police—and as the film footage clearly shows, one of them attacked him from behind.

Did this happen because he was a man?

As a man we can certainly say he was at far more likely to be separated from his children, have alcohol problems and be homeless—as a man we can also say he was far more likely to be the victim of violence on the street and it seems reasonable to speculate that if the police had attacked and killed a female passer-by that day, that our reaction would have been different because we are collectively more tolerant of violence against men and boys.

I saw this collective tolerance in action whilst watching a video of an anti-fracking protest in a nearby village in Sussex this week. Men and women joined arms to form a barricade put the police broke it up by inflicting pain on two of the protestors—it was a level of pain that would  no doubt be deemed as “reasonable force”, but it is notable that the pain wasn’t inflicted on two women, or even a man or woman, but on two men.

Why as men, if we go on a demonstration, are we more likely to have pain inflicted on us than any women we go with? Why as men are we more likely to be hit by a baton and die? Why as men are we more likely to be killed in the street by a stranger? Why as men are we four times more likely to die a violent death.

Is it simply because of our gender? Did being a man make Ian Tomlinson more likely to be killed when he got mixed up in the G20 protests. Is it because we tolerate violence against men more than we tolerate violence against women?

We certainly seem to tolerate men’s disposability more—whether it’s male soldiers dying in combat, male suicide, men dying at work, men like Ian Tomlinson being separated from his children, becoming homeless, becoming alcoholic, being killed by the police.

Readers in the UK and USA will be familiar with the names of Stephen Lawrence and Trayvon Martin—young black teenagers killed probably because they were black and definitely because they were men.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission in the UK tells us that black men are twice as likely as black women to be the victims of race hate crimes and gay men are twice as likely to be the victims of homophobic hate crimes. Because they are men—because we are more tolerant of violence against men —gay men and black men are at greater risk of violence than their female counterparts.

I grew up not in the Seventies and Eighties when it was deemed acceptable for male and female teachers—even the terrifying dinner ladies who paraded the playgrounds—to physically assault children. Though in reality it was the boys who took the bulk of the physical punishment. The last assault I was on the receiving end of personally was from a male teacher in 1985 — he grabbed me by the hair and shook me shortly before I took one of my O Levels—not the best preparation for an exam!

I often saw boys pulled about by the hair by adults in school—but never girls—because we are more tolerant of violence against men and boys.

Why when the Home Office tells us that six out of 10 people killed by someone they know and nine out of 10 people killed by a stranger are men and boys do we have a national strategy to end violence against women and girls, but no strategy to help men and boys?

Who is looking out for the boys around the world who are beaten and bullied at school, the men and boys sent to war, the men and boys subjected to rape and sexual abuse and domestic violence who find it far harder than their female equivalents to access help and support?

Why on earth is there no law to stop people cutting off parts of a boy’s genitals without an anaesthetic for no medical reason, when there are laws to prevent lesser procedures on girls (like piercing or nicking). When it happens to girls we call it violence against women and girls. When we hear that a baby boy bleeds to death from the end of his penis in the UK in the 21st Century there not a single MP prepared to stand up in parliament and say this must end—and no-one dares to call it violence against men and boys.

So where are the feminists who claim to be fighting for gender equality in all of this? If women were four times more likely to die a violent death than men it would be a gender equality matter—so why not when it’s men?

Maybe that isn’t feminism’s job. If not, then where are the men’s rights activists? Why haven’t they created a global campaign to help the men and boys of the world be free from violence and abuse?

Part of the challenge is that to acknowledge our collective tolerance of violence against men and boys, men’s rights’ activists would also have to acknowledge that the majority of (not all) violence against men is perpetrated by men—they couldn’t credibly blame feminism or women for the majority of violence against men and boys—though some would try.

And because of this—because of the tendency of men’s rights advocates to see the world through the filter “men have problems and women and feminism are the problem”—focussing on stopping all violence against men and boys detracts from highlighting cases where men are victims of women’s bad behaviour.

As a result, it is currently pro-feminists who seem to be more likely to highlight the issue—or at least part of the issue of our collective tolerance of violence against men and boys. There is a growing “patriarchy hurts men too” narrative evolving that is mostly pro-feminist and is shifting the narrative on violence from “women have problems, men are problems” to “women and some men have problems and it’s men and patriarchy who are the problem”.

What pro-feminists struggle with is acknowledging that men are far more likely to be victims of violence than women —because this takes focus away from female victims— and they also struggle to acknowledge the violence that women do to men and boys—the mothers who beat and abuse their children, the women who beat their partners and husbands, the women involved in elder abuse.

And so between them, between the men’s rights activists and the feminists who all proclaim to be for “true equality”—no group is standing up to end our collective tolerance of violence against men and boys.

Only when we take a gender inclusive approach that acknowledges men and women as both perpetrators and victims will we ever create a world free from violence and abuse for everyone.

Men are four times more likely to die a violent death than women. The Met Police didn’t kill a genderless passer-by in 2009, they killed a man—our collective tolerance of violence against men and boys makes it more likely that there will be more deaths like his in future.

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Sexually explicit novel about female sex offender divides critics

k-bigpicA controversial new American novel about a paedophile teacher who preys on prepubescent boys has divided critics, been shortlisted for an award and banned from some bookstores.

Described as a modern day Lolita, the book Tampa by author and professor Alissa Nutting exposes our double standards towards female perpetrators and  male victims.

Nutting told Lifestyle Mirror: “Our culture isn’t accustomed to viewing males (even underage teen ones) as the sexual victims of women, and I find that very problematic.”

The novel centres on Celeste Price, a 26-year-old sexual predator and high school teacher who abuses a 14-year-old boy. Nutting was inspired to write the book after a woman she went to school with was exposed as a female paedophile.

According to Daily Life in Australia, Nutting began to keep an eye out for the stories of female predators that kept cropping up and started to notice discrepancies in the way they were reported saying:

“I was really interested by the disparate reaction when the offender is a woman and when the offender is a male. I wanted to write a book that drew attention to the ways that we seem to give female sexual predators a pass. We live in a society that has a really hard time seeing women as being able to sexually victimise men at all. There’s this widespread view that men always want sex so there’s no way they can be sexually victimised. And also we tend to look upon the offenders with our very adult gaze and judge their behaviour that way when it’s women. I think a lot of times heterosexual adult men will look at the women and think, ‘Well, I’d want to sleep with her – where’s the crime?’ in a way that we don’t when it’s a male offender with a 14-year-old girl.”

Despite the controversy around the book, Nutting says that she’s received many messages from male victims who have thanked her for telling their story and spoken of the negative impact the abuse has had on their lives.

According to an interview with Jezebel, Nutting says:

“I want to draw attention to the ways we view predatory female sexual behavior, and to the limitations of sexual discussion in our culture.”

She says  one of the reasons that we don’t view female sex offenders in the same way as male sex offenders is because sex is often  “packaged as something for men to enjoy”.

“ There’s a sense of, ‘adult men would want to have sex with this woman, so she’s incapable of committing a sexual crime.’ This perpetuates the harmful patriarchal stereotype that female sexuality can’t be violent—that it’s simply there for male use with no agency of its own, that it doesn’t hold power,” she told Jezebel

“Once caught, the main character Celeste is ultimately treated very differently than I think a male offender would be. For readers I think the reversal is somewhat of a challenge, because there are conflicting messages about how to respond to female sexual predators in our society. This is something the book engages: do we condemn her? Idolize her? Become aroused by her? And what cultural messages inform our reaction?”

The book has been compared by some with Fifty Shades Of Grey, a comparison Nutting dismisses:

“Tampa is sexually explicit, so I understand a dialogue surrounding the two of them. But I think the fact that Tampa is about an illegal predatory relationship, with an abuser and a victim, instead of about two consenting adults, negates any sort of direct parallel.

“I’m interested in the ways that these cases are often portrayed in the media. When it’s a female teacher and an underage male student, there’s often a discussion surrounding the case that implies it’s a victimless crime. I’m also interested in the ways that, for women, our culture tends to prioritize beauty and maintaining a youthful appearance above all else.

So what have critics made of the book? Well, Publishers Weekly says, “Nutting’s work creates a solid impression of Celeste’s psychopathic nature but, unlike the much richer Lolita, leaves the reader feeling empty”, while Entertainment Weekly says “the writing is often excellent, hilariously dark, and mean”.

The issue of male victims of rape and sexual abuse is a topic covered at the National Conference for Men and Boys. You can buy your tickets online today.

10 Reasons Men Need a Gender Equality Movement

65088584-equalityThere’s an interesting comment piece in the Boston Globe by Cathy Young, a Russian American writer whose books include Ceasefire!: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality.

Young picks up the recent public debate on the need for a men’s movement and says what men and boys really need is a gender equality movement.

“To many, the very notion of “men’s issues” or men’s rights seems laughable” says Young but  “men’s advocacy raises important and worthy issues that often draw unfair ridicule”.

“Unfortunately,” adds Young the men’s rights movement “is also prone to toxic rhetoric that subverts its valid points and alienates potential supporters.”

“Perhaps what the 21st century needs is not a women’s movement  or a men’s movement, but a gender equality movement,” she concludes.

Here are ten of the key men’s issues Young thinks a gender equality movement would need to address:

  1. If women were dying in 90 percent of workplace fatalities and three out of four suicides, would we not see such numbers as troubling—and as legitimate women’s issues? Yet, reversed, the disparities go unnoticed
  2. Unlike racial profiling of minorities, the disproportionate targeting of males by law enforcement gets no attention
  3. Women account for more than a third of illegal drug use but fewer than 15 percent of arrests
  4. While men are often presumed dangerous to children, actual female molesters tend to get lenient treatment.
  5. There is virtually no recognition of ways in which current policies treat paternity as a public resource. Men coerced into unwilling fatherhood  must still pay child support. On the flip side, divorced fathers often feel they are treated more as wallets than as parents.
  6. When imbalances that disadvantage men or boys — such as male academic underachievement — become the subject of concern, such concerns are often viewed with suspicion as potential attacks on women.
  7. With a few exceptions, feminists have balked at any pro-equality advocacy that would support men in male-female disputes, acknowledge that women can mistreat men, or undermine female advantage.
  8. While the push for gender-neutral laws in the 1970s helped dismantle the formal presumption of maternal custody, actual efforts by fathers to get sole or joint custody brought on a swift backlash from the women’s movement.
  9. When the campaign for tough domestic violence policies netted more female perpetrators, women’s groups pressed for anti-male double standards, promoting the myth that nearly all female violence is in self-defense.
  10. Laudable feminist efforts to secure justice for rape victims have often turned into calls for a presumption of male guilt.

To read more on the current debate on whether the world needs a men’s movement see the following articles:

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Why do we blame male victims of rape?

distress-1

Do we blame male victims of rape and sexual assault?

Abigail Rine writing in The Atlantic says we do. Rine who teaches gender studies at George Fox University in Oregon in The US explores why we seem to be more likely to blame male victims of sexual violence.

Supporting male victims of sexual violence is a topic that gets raised each year at the National Conference for Men and Boys. To take part in this year’s event  BUY YOUR TICKET ONLINE TODAY.

While I’m not going to dispute the pervasiveness of misogyny in most cultures, this standard narrative doesn’t fully account for what happened in Norwood, where there was a similar epidemic of victim-blaming, but no female victim. In fact,

According to Rine, victim blaming in rape cases is often put down to the hatred of women. But Rine says that research into sexual violence suggests that male victims of rape elicit comparable or even more blame for their attacks than female victims. The roots victim-blaming attitudes are not in misogyny (or misandry), but in perceived violations of traditional gender roles, she argues.

Rine observes that the study of male rape has been comparatively neglected with some saying that research and resources for male victims lags behind female  by a good 20 years. In recent years, she says, women’s advocates have focused on debunking myths about female rape that they say contribute to victim-blaming.

According to Rine:

“Distinct but corresponding myths about men likewise fuel victim-blaming, as burgeoning research on male rape demonstrates. A 2009 study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence surveys a number of these false beliefs, including the perception that males, as the physically powerful sexual instigators, can’t be raped, or are not as traumatized if they are assaulted.

“These rape myths spring from deeply entrenched gender norms about permissible and idealized behavior for men and women, and rape victims of both sexes are blamed when they openly transgress the social expectations of their gender. A woman who goes out alone at night, for example, is prone to blame, as is a woman who is slut-shamed for having had prior sexual partners. A man who fails to physically overcome his attacker is likewise seen as contributing to his own victimization; he must have secretly wanted it.”

For male victims, coming forward and speaking out about his assault can further transgressed the gendered expectation to “man up,” and remaining stoic and invulnerable in the face of violence.

According to Rine, while all victims are susceptible to blame the groups most susceptible to blame for being raped are gay men raped by men and straight men raped by women. This she says is consistent with the gender role expectation hypothesis, as victims in those scenarios “fall prey to the pervasive ideal of the hyper-sexed, insatiable male who invites and enjoys any sexual encounter.”

Rine states that men will generally judge rape victims more harshly than women, but that recent research indicates that the tendency to blame victims has more to do with an individual’s belief about gender roles . In other words, she says, “men blame at higher rates not because they are more susceptible to misogyny or misandry, but because they are more likely to endorse traditional views of masculinity and femininity. On the flip side, both men and women are equally inclined toward “benevolent sexism” says Rine, which means reserving your sympathy for those who fulfill gender ideals.

Rine concludes by pointing to a recent study of attitudes in Sweden published in the Journal of Sexual Aggression where victim-blaming amongst men and women is said to be scarce. “If we want to get at the underlying cause of victim-blaming attitudes”, she says, “we can’t afford to focus only on female victims or misogyny, lest we risk misdiagnosing the root problem. This is not simply a woman-hating world; it’s a world that polices the boundaries of gender to the detriment of all.”

Read the full article, No Rape Victim, Male or Female, Deserves to be Blamed

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