‘What Do Men Have To Do To Stop Women Accusing Them Of Rape?’

Woman shielding herself.

The headline of this post was prompted by a question my son asked me during one of our many conversations about feminism. And as we’re currently watching The Morning Show (known as Morning Wars here in Australia) – the main storyline of which is the Me Too movement – it prompted me to write about the topic.

The obvious answer to his question is stop raping women.

However, the majority of us are aware that the problem is not as clearcut as that and many men are still confused by what they see as new, complicated rules around dating and their interactions with women.

For those of you who haven’t watched the television series, it is about a successful American breakfast show hosted by two anchors, a man and woman. When the popular male anchor is called out for sexual harassment and abuse and promptly sacked, the station is left in shock and potentially a commercial mess.

The other anchor, a woman in her fifties, (who has sensed the precariousness of her position for some time), reacts impulsively in her attempt to take control of her future (for the first time) by filling the position with an inexperienced female presenter who values the truth above ratings, and who inevitably goes on to shake up the show’s comfortability.

However, it is the general fallout in the aftermath of the firing, triggered by the ongoing seedy behaviour and lack of repentance of the abuser, as well as the remorse of other members of the team – some of whom turned a blind eye to the abuse – that creates the real tension in the show.

Sadly, one thing this pandemic has highlighted is that the sexual abuse and murder of women hasn’t gone away

You might find it entertaining to know that my son is potentially a young Donald Trump in the making – although, I like to think that his rumination about the ways of the world – an in particular, the differences between the sexes – is a healthy part of growing up, that I try not to hold against him.

Much.

And, understandably, these types of conversation are never comfortable. There was an inevitability, I suppose, that with such an opinionated mother and his cohabitation with two staunch feminists during his formative teenage years and the Me Too movement, he would have questions as he starts dating in a society where the rules for men are changing.

Which is why I commend him for asking them, because when I was twenty-three, the only thing I was interested in was the bottom of a beer glass.

Nevertheless…

As anyone who celebrates Christmas with family, a close emotional connection can blur the lines around the rules of battle, and discussions have a tendency to get more personal.

Kanye West and Ben Shapiro have a lot to answer for when it comes to my son’s confusion about feminism, and in particular, the Me Too movement – which he sees as a witch hunt, For no matter how many times I point out that that only certain radical feminists hate men, his response is to cite weak examples of the behaviour of a small percentage of women murderers and abusers as his defence.

He will not accept my argument that every movement needs its share of radicals – albeit, that I’m not one – because, often, it takes their self-sacrifice and idealism to get the job done. I will accept that some take their idealism too far – and belong to a different category we call nutters – although I defy anyone who equates a group of women (and some men) pushing forward equality to groups such as ISIS or white supremacists.

Let me reiterate: I am a feminist, but I do not hate men, nor do I believe that all men are rapists or, indeed, would ever hurt a woman

However…

What I do believe is that more men violate the rights of women than many realise or choose to believe, and many men choose not to be educated about what that violation means exactly. Wherein the real problem lies. That, and the self-indulgent, victimised response that certain men demonstrate in the line of fire.

Suffice it to say, I am also fully aware of how difficult some situations are to resolve when there are no witnesses and cases end up as a “his word against hers” scenario in court – see Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. That said, I will not capitulate on my beliefs simply to keep the peace at home.

Parenting never stops, and I have a responsibility for the way my son thinks about and treats women

Like I said, I wish we didn’t have to have these conversations. Of course, I wish my son could try and see things from my perspective and, in particular, from the perspective of the women who have opened the discussion. One day, I hope that these women (like the Suffragettes before them) are honoured for their bravery in coming forward. The Suffragettes were a group of radical women who got us the vote, so let’s hope that these modern women who are waging war against more than just the office creep, i.e. against racial discrimination, child molestation, domestic violence, marital rape, gang rape, and murder, effect the same changes.

Thirty women have already been murdered in Australia this year (Destroy The Joint)

That’s why I’m glad my son is asking questions. It is one step for him, but potentially a giant step for womankind, and if every man of his generation did the same, maybe those statistics will change. One day, I hope he believes me when I tell him that I don’t believe that all men are rapists. However, as long as society allows our system of patriarchy to prevail, his male sense of entitlement will be difficult to extinguish.

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Rape Is About More Than Sex

bd9b3e929d2b7e3fb6ef4f0af3bad8e5I took myself on a beautiful winter’s walk yesterday morning. Many locals think that autumn and winter are the most beautiful seasons in Sydney with their blue skies and lower temperatures, and although I hate the cold, the beauty of this time of year has grown on me – after all, keeping warm is only a matter of layering.

The dog was by my side as I pounded the cliff tops – a vain attempt to pre-work off lunch that afternoon – and exhilarated by the cool kisses of the winter breeze on my face and the sense of freedom at finding myself alone on the streets, I didn’t notice the stranger ahead of me, until he was a few metres away. A boy of about eighteen, I would guess, he was also on his own. I watched him as he mounted the hill and felt the hairs on the back of my neck rise as, subconsciously, I did what every woman does in that situation – I did a personal risk assessment.

The boy was of average height, wearing slightly too-short trousers, old-fashioned trainers, and a cap. His hair was at that in-between stage that can only be described as unkempt ie. not surfer-long, yet too long for school. Pale, underweight, and with a twisted smile on his face (that I realized later was because he was listening to music), I tightened my grip on the dog’s lead and looked around me, briefly comforted by the fact that it was daylight and that I was within shouting distance of several houses to either side of me. Reassuring myself that I was being stupid, I felt myself relax as he walked past, his eyes focused firmly on the ground.

I breathed again.

I know what you’re thinking. I stereotyped that poor kid as some mentally-ill delinquent who may have picked that moment to do something out of character or opportunistic. And the biggest irony of that judgment is that I am the mother of a kid like him, of roughly the same age, who I am certain will be stereotyped in the same way by another woman.

That’s what women have to do, to survive.

Since the murder of Eurydice Dixon, I have listened to the furor on social media from women about the need to educate men, (as opposed to curtailing the freedom of women), to stop the increasing number of murders and rapes. I have also listened to the argument of men that #NOTALLMEN rape and murder. I will ignore the argument that women need to be ‘situationally aware’ and take responsibility for their own safety (which is blatantly sexist), but I understand the frustration felt on both sides, even though I can’t help thinking that now is not an appropriate time for men to become defensive with such fresh, awful evidence staring us in the face. We have driving laws because of the few that refuse to drive safely; we need better laws for the protection of women against men that abuse.

I can’t see what’s not to understand about a sensible and long-term approach to enforce change? This issue is not about men – for once – it is about saving the lives of women.

I know that most men will not abuse women, but no man can tell a woman how she feels when she walks home alone late at night, nor can they pretend to understand the preventative (and often costly) planning measures those journeys require. On many occasions when I have voiced my own nervousness about taking public transport late at night, men have laughed off my qualms, in a way that I can only interpret as ‘who would want to rape you?’ – the inference, I can only assume, that they believe that rapists and murderers are selective, with a  preference for younger women.

If only.

That belief implies that rape and murder are pre-meditated, calculated acts, or acts of violence committed by normal people – which of course they can be. Sadly, however, it is not true that only young women are victims. Rape is rarely about sexual attraction or prowess, it is about power, control and the need to dominate – behaviors linked to entitlement in some men.

Eurydice’s memorial was vandalized last night, and the only explanation I can find for such behavior is an innate and gross disrespect for women – even the dead. Some men feel threatened by women, and there are many reasons why they rape,  many of which have nothing to do with seeing women as an object of desire – it’s just that it is easy. It is a sense of entitlement that we need to stop for the sake of our daughters and for every young woman like Eurydice Dixon, with their futures ahead of them and the world at their feet, so that they can feel safe.

 

3 Reasons Why I Am Angry About Mia’s Rape Debate

Drunk Girls
Drunk Girls (Photo credit: This Is A Wake Up Call)

There’s been so much vitriol on Twitter this week relating to that article (here) by Mia Freedman on the subject of rape.

So I thought I may as well hop on the bandwagon too.

To be honest, I was disappointed at the universal condemnation Mia seemed to receive for her piece.

For these three reasons:

1. Because us women should be sticking together and closing ranks, not pulling each other apart in areas where we are working towards a common goal, such as equal rights or preventing rape.

Because it was only a short time ago that I came to the conclusion that I had always been a feminist (here) and now I’m confused again. You see, it took me a while to get there because I had always associated feminism with extremism and it scared me, even though I believed in equal rights.

Some of the negative comments and misinterpretation of Mia’s piece this week reminded me of exactly why I felt that way for so long. Much of the venom launched at her had much of those same bra-burning undertones that had kept me away, and they were directed at a subject that is not just about feminism.

Rape is bigger than feminism.

They were right about some things, though – rape doesn’t just happen to young women, it happens to women of all ages and boys and men too.

But in her defence, Mia made it quite clear that her article was addressed to people related to young girls, who have not yet been exposed to some of the more frightening realities of growing up in our society.

2. Because I felt threatened on Mia’s behalf as a writer, because I had seen writing as a form of freedom of expression and one that we should celebrate – because we live in a society where we are free to voice our opinions; unlike in many countries where women are still not at liberty to do so.

We live in a society where our opinion counts and can be the catalyst for change.

So while my opinions may differ to those of other writers, it nevertheless takes more balls for me to put my viewpoint out there, (especially about a sensitive subject), than to heckle anonymously on social media.

So although Mia’s critics may have felt the need to challenge her opinion and may have got their knickers in a twist about her stats and her quotes, is it really too much to ask for some professionalism in their responses? Was it necessary to shoot her down in such a disrespectful way?

We are adults, after all.

Recently I wrote a post for my magazine, Cowface, on the subject of marijuana (here). It is a subject close to my heart with an ADHD son who is drawn to self-medication. I researched the topic and wrote what I considered to be a fair opinion piece, not about the dangers or medical benefits of marijuana but why kids now seem to think that marijuana is safer than tobacco.

I received an aggressive comment back from a reader who thought I was against the use of marijuana, under any conditions. It was my first aggressive comment and it shook my confidence. I asked myself if maybe he was right and questioned if I was in a position to express my opinion and make it so public?

Social media has wielded a lot of power to people who abuse it.

I may not be a qualified journalist, but that does not mean that I can’t share my opinions. I don’t force people to read them, and if they do and make a comment, I enjoy that feedback and I will often look at the argument and think, yeah, they’ve got a good point. We are learning all the time – it’s part of our development.

But surely, sharing my opinions shouldn’t give my readers the power to attack me like some bully in the playground.

3. And finally, because the misinterpretation of Mia’s piece and the reaction it created camouflaged what is a good, well-intentioned message that needs to be heard. In my opinion, there was no ‘victim-blaming’ and Mia was not saying that anyone other than the rapist is guilty of rape.

Call me a fence sitter if you will, but while I agree that short skirts, alcohol and sexual provocation do not cause rape, I also agree that alcohol can make people vulnerable.

And we need to focus on the changes that will prevent rape.

Like Mia, I too have a daughter and have experienced that fear as I’ve watched her leave the house, knowing that I won’t sleep until I hear her key turn in the door.

I am also guilty of being that mother who pleaded with her daughter not to drink too much at parties; not because I believe that her being drunk would give some guy a license to rape her, but because it might lead to situations where she or her partner ended up making the wrong choices and getting hurt.

I warn my son that alcohol can lead to poor judgment calls too.

Alcohol doesn’t turn someone into a victim or a rapist, but it can blur the lines when it comes to the issue of consent.

Many of us will have experienced a one-night stand that we’ve regretted the next morning, not because we were raped but because without the influence of alcohol, we may not have made the same choices. One of our responsibilities as parents is to pass on our acquired wisdom in the hope that our kids won’t make the same mistakes as us.

They will, of course, because kids tend to ignore what their parents say, but we still have a responsibility to try and warn them about things that can hurt them.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world where no-one makes mistakes. There are many issues that are frustratingly slow to change, because it is attitudes that need to evolve in terms of education and at the grass roots level.

Are rapists born to be rapists or, (in some cases), is their lack of the right nurture responsible?

Victim blaming’ and ‘slut shaming’ are heinously wrong attitudes but our main goal must be to prevent rape from happening. If warning young women and men that alcohol can inhibit their judgment, and that knowledge changes a small percentage of the rape statistics, then I don’t care if that is seen as anti-feminist.

No-one should suffer at the hands of idealism.