Is violence against black men sexist as well as racist?

gun_violence_alg_stop_sign1On Monday we published an opinion piece on violence against men and boys highlighting how our tolerance of violence against men puts black men and gay men at greater risk of racist and homophobic attacks.

We have subsequently come across an excellent article by  a writer called Noah Berlatsky which takes a deeper look at how misandry (hatred of men) was at play in the murder of the black teenager, Trayvon Martin. Here we highlight some of Berlatsky’s key points and  recommend you find time to read the full article linked at the bottom of this post.

According to Berlatsky, the Trayvon Martin case “justly, focused on race—on the ‘black’ part of ‘black men’.” But it’s worth considering how his killer’s  “anxiety, hostility, and eventually his violence were directed not only against Martin as a black person, but against him as a man—or, in this case, as a boy.”

“There’s every reason to believe that if Martin had been white, he wouldn’t have been pursued and shot, and that, if he were shot, his killer would not have gone free. But there’s also every reason to believe that Zimmerman would have reacted much differently to a woman, of whatever race, walking nearby,” he argues.

Berlatsky says that ‘misandry’ can be a useful concept. “In particular, I think it can help explain the experience of how men, and particularly men from minority communities, are targeted for violence—most often not by women, but by other men,” he says.

“Closer to home, in the U.S. men are more likely than women to be victims of assault, robbery, and homicide,” adds the writer. “Misandry helps to see these disparate incidents and statistics as related, as part of a system. Men, across cultures, are seen as dangerous and violent…..men, by their simple presence, are an excuse for violence. Because of misandry, violence against men is necessary and justified by the fact that men are men, which can help explain why men are more often the victims of homicide and assault.”

Berlatsky concludes by saying that: “Violence against black men is justified on the grounds that blackness and maleness are biologically dangerous categories that must be confronted with genocidal force. We need to re-think all those categories if we want to stop giving ourselves excuses to kill,” he says.

To see Berlatsky’s full article go and read Misandry and the Trayvon Martin Case at Splice Today

See also: Why is the G20 killing not violence against men?

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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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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