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

Click here no to buy your conference tickets online today.

Advertisements

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.

IF YOU HAVE EXPERTISE IN REDUCING VIOLENCE THEN COME AND JOIN US AT THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE FOR MEN AND BOYS. BUY YOUR TICKET HERE NOW.

If men really do have problems, who or what causes them?

One of the aims of the 3rd National Conference for Men and Boys is to highlight the problems that men and boys face and bring together people who have solutions to some of those problems—as our short promotional video above highlights.

When we first came up with the idea of bringing people who think differently about men and boys together , we had to ask ourselves —what is the common thread that will unite all of these people.

We knew we couldn’t unite people around the causes of men’s problems, because there were too many conflicting views on what those causes are.

And we knew we would struggle to unite people around solutions, because the solutions people favour tend to differ depending on how they define the problem.

And so we simply decided to unite people around the facts that men had clear, measurable, undeniable  problems in terms of men’s health, male suicide rates, boys’ educational outcomes, fathers’ involvement in their children’s lives  and the amount of crime and violence involving men as victims and perpetrators.

And if people were concerned about those problems and interested in addressing them then, then we wanted them to come along to the National Conference for Men and Boys and start talking with other people about these important issues. This basic principle still underpins this year’s event and we’d love to see you there so do please click here to buy your tickets today if you want to get involved with this year’s conference.

As hosts of the conference it isn’t our role to enforce an opinion on what causes men’s problems and what the solutions are — what we attempt to do is ensure a mix of views are represented so all delegates can benefit from hearing a range of different perspectives. In doing this we encounter two dominant voices of dissent:

  • The pro-feminist voice that says the conference is too anti-feminist and doesn’t focus on the problems men and masculinity and the patriarchy causes
  • The anti-feminist voice that says the conference is too pro-feminist and doesn’t  focus on the problems that women, feminism and the matriarchal women’s movement causes

It is said that nobody is smart enough to be wrong all of the time so there is probably some truth in the fact that men, women, masculinity, feminism, the patriarchy and the women’s movement do play some role in the problems that men and boys face.

There are no doubt other causes too — pro-feminism and anti-feminism are far from the only perspectives in town — there are a whole host of other non-feminist perspectives that we welcome to the conference too.

One thing that is certain is this—when we start to look at all men and boys’ problems as a whole there is a clear domino effect between these problems.

If a father is not involved in his son’s life—whatever the cause of that fatherlessness—research suggests that his son will be more likely to struggle at school—if he gets poor results in school he is more likely to suffer poor health and live a shorter life—if he is excluded from school then he is at greater risk of offending and more likely to commit suicide—fatherless boys are also more likely to grow up in poverty, which increase their risk of premature death, suicide, poor education, crime and violence.

In fact you can take just about any issue that men and boys face and start to join the dots in this way and when you start to see the bigger picture you begin to gain new insights that go beyond your normal way of thinking about the problems that men and boys face.

So if you want to think differently about these problems, it doesn’t matter what your perspective is—if you are committed to making a difference for men and boys then you are very welcome to come along to the Third National Conference for Men and Boys this year.

To make get you book your place and come along to conference then please  click here to buy your tickets now.

Let Men Critique Feminism Says University Lecturer

Feminist CritiqueWe need to make it okay for men to critique feminism without feeling scared of the reaction they might get, according to Dr Phil Goss, a Senior lecturer in counselling & psychotherapy at the University of Central Lancashire.

Writing in a letter in the Guardian in response to Jack O Sullivan’s article on misandry and matriarchy, Goss says that feminism has “opened up new ways of being a man”, but it has also left men facing a “psychological quandary”.

Many men in relationships with women are “still caught by the tensions inherent in mother-son relationships” he says, with “part of them yearning for relationship” while another part strives to define a male identity that is separate from her.

While there are similarities in the way that boys and girls develop, Goss says “male development, and attachment patterns, from infancy onwards is not the same as that of females” and that we need to face the reality of how this impacts our adult lives, particularly in the home.

According to Goss: “we need a narrative about male development that helps us to make sense of the problems boys and men face in the same way as feminism provided a narrative for women.”

“This also needs to be a narrative that makes it OK for men to critique feminism without feeling scared of the reaction they might get,” he concludes.

For more perspectives on how to address the problems that men and boys face buy your ticket today for the Third National Conference for Men and Boys.

—Photo Credit: geishaboy500/Flickr

We don’t need women’s permission – we can just go ahead and talk

March13#7-crop1This focus on women’s misandry and matriarchy just keeps us focused on women when we need to be talking about our stuff, says Dr David Bloodwood, from “bloodwood: beyond trousers“.

Diane Abbott’s announcement of a “crisis in masculinity” certainly got the issue of men into mainstream media.  Many of the responses have been critical: Abbott is circumscribing the debate with a feminist frame; her view of men is negative and even perjorative; she shouldn’t be criticising men – a man criticising women like that would be canned; there’s no crisis – men are doing well; there’s no crisis among men – the problem is feminism; there’s no crisis except in Abbott’s mind; and Abbott hasn’t asked men what they want.

While I agree that Abbott’s desired future masculinity of “earning, providing and belonging” is questionable, her speech is the first time ever that a sitting politician from a major UK political party has bothered to make a serious statement about the situation of men overall, rather than single issues, and has argued that our society collectively must address men’s issues.

Certainly, there are gaps in her proposals, just as there are gaps in her understanding of men’s experience of gender.  But this is precisely because of her main point: men don’t talk about gender.  Because we don’t talk about it, most of us have limited language to describe our experiences.  And because men don’t talk about our experiences, women don’t understand men’s experience of gender either.

Sure, there are a very small number of men to whom men’s issues are central to their life and their work (I am one such).  But between us we have not yet been able to frame men’s gender issues so as to engage millions of men in conversation about them.  Instead, as Jack O’Sullivan says, “smart men play safe and stay out of it.”

O’Sullivan says feminism reinforces matriarchy and shuts down men when they speak about gender.  To remedy this he calls for “democratic personal, private and domestic spaces where men feel comfortable to speak… [which] might generate a more open, less condemning public space”.  Such spaces already exist, and have done for 40 years in the form of men’s groups.  The first men’s group in the UK was held in 1971 in Brighton, which plays host to the  3rd UK Conference for Men and Boys in September.

It is crucial that men do have comfortable spaces where we can explore things which are difficult to speak about, and to explore together what our shared experience of gender is.  But despite the well-known existence of men’s groups, very few men have engaged with them.  And so far, men’s groups have not had a noticeable impact on the quality or atmosphere of gender debate.

Nor are they likely to, precisely because they are not public.  In order to engage in public debate about gender we simply need to claim the space to do so on the basis that we are gendered and therefore we have a right to participate.  Like O’Sullivan, I have had my share of personal attacks when I have stood up and spoken.  This is part and parcel of public debate.  Witness the response to Abbott, which is overwhelmingly critical.  But criticism need not put us off, as it hasn’t put off feminists.

Feminists pioneered the fight to get gender onto the table as a major category of social and political organisation.  Because feminists were gender pioneers they have a head start in terms of thinking gender and examining gender in their own lives.  And it is understandable that feminists easily fall into the “pioneer fallacy” that women’s views of gender are all there is to gender. This history can look like matriarchy, and to a limited extent that’s true.

But men don’t need to attack matriarchy to engage publicly about gender issues.  We can accept the benefits of this history: because gender is now being examined, we can now examine how we ourselves are gendered.  We can acknowledge women’s extensive knowledge about gender from their point of view.  We can accept the human failing of women falling into the “pioneer fallacy”.  And we can stand firm on the basis that gender is never going to be understood by women or by men until men’s perspective on gender is incorporated into the foundations of gender theory.  From this point of view men bring a vital and much-needed viewpoint to the gender debate.

Abbott says many things which need to be said.  And her view clearly is that things can be better for men, and that society collectively has a responsibility to ensure this happens.  I will say again: no national politician has ever made such a statement.  The content of her vision is certainly thin, but she deserves credit for the step she has taken.  The vast majority of men do not talk about gender.  For those men who feel we are already talking about this stuff – we need to build on the space Abbott has created in the public arena.

Sure, by all means tackle misandry and work towards dismantling matriarchy.  But such a focus is mostly on what women are saying and doing – which easily recycles the view that gender is about women, and means women continue to set the agenda. So it perpetuates the view that men can’t talk about gender until women let us.

We do not need women’s permission – we can simply go ahead and talk.  Above all, the small number of men for whom gender IS a major issue need to keep experimenting with how to give language to men’s side of gender so that all of us men can get talking about it.

Get talking at the 3rd UK Conference for Men and Boys.   See the Program here.   Get your  Tickets here.

Dr David Bloodwood is a member of the Conference Team. His clothing label, “bloodwood: beyond trousers“, offers new clothes for new forms of men’s participation in social life.

Time to Tackle Misandry and Dismantle the Matriarchy?

thinking men version 2We often hear about Misogyny and Patriarchy in gender debates – but not so much about Misandry and Matriarchy – so it was surprising to see Jack O Sullivan tackling the subject in today’s Guardian.

Jack is an occasional commentator on men’s issues – notably fatherhood – and has been around the debate since the nineties when he co-founded Fathers Direct (now the Fatherhood Institute).

According to Jack:

“Feminism has reinforced rather than challenged – or even acknowledged – matriarchy. It is an environment in which male spokesmen for change are unlikely to be nurtured. When they do articulate their views or concerns, they are often ridiculed or ignored by women. Misandry can be as nasty as misogyny and is as widespread (just check the internet). Smart men play safe and stay out of it. We’re so conditioned, we don’t even talk to each other.

“Why are we ridiculed when we talk about ourselves? Perhaps because men are assumed to be inherently powerful, with nothing to complain about. It’s a mistake. We urgently require an updated theory of gender that acknowledges there are, and always have been, discrete areas of female power and male powerlessness, not simply female powerlessness. Patriarchy did not rule alone. There was also matriarchy – and there still is.

“A revolution is taking place in masculinity, but much of it is below the radar and denied, even when well-documented. This transformation is about much more than “helping” women and addressing their complaints. If we want to hear about it, then we need democratic personal, private and domestic spaces where men feel comfortable to speak. That might generate a more open, less condemning public space. Until then, women will continue to find themselves shouting into the silence about issues that we need to confront together.”

For those who want space to talk about men’s issues then a great place to start is The Thinking Men event during this year’s conference on Thursday 26th September.

FURTHER READING:

To find out more about the Thinking Men event click here now.

To read Jack’s full article see The Guardian.

To read more about Misandry read Ally Fogg’s blog post here.

—Photo Credit: geishaboy500/Flickr