As anyone who follows my blog will know, I wrote an opinion piece on the social media conversations which were publicised during the Belfast Rape Trial last week. The number of views was totally unprecedented and I was overwhelmed by the amount of support and correspondence I received throughout the Bank Holiday weekend. This included positive feedback on the blog article, stories from women who have been impacted by sexual abuse and rape and calls to action. Some agreed with the verdict and some didn’t. My article only addressed the WhatsApp group texts and decline in chivalry among certain groups in society.
Obviously, there were those who vehemently disagreed with my opinions and I am always happy to publish their comments too because we are all entitled to our say. (Well, as long as we don’t say anything about someone who has the means to sue us. Woe betides anyone who dares to undermine the status quo). However, there was a common theme among the male members of the opposition. (Most of my opposition were male which is kind of understandable). I was repeatedly accused of being a man hater, as were many of the ladies writing positive reviews on the piece or organising protests. It’s regrettable that in this day and age, women can’t seem to voice their concern on an issue which directly impacts them and their families without being branded a man hater.
For the record, I am a generally a big fan of men. No one who has witnessed me watching Mr Darcy’s lake scene in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice could accuse me of hating men! (Odd how 21st Century women keep returning to Jane Austen’s interpretation of early 19th century society for their fix of chivalrous, respectful and worthy heroes).
However, just because I don’t agree with women being objectified and desire equal rights for every gender, race, creed and ethnicity does not mean I’m a man hater. Those who were involved in public protests during the weekend were not protesting the existence of a male race. I’m sure they are just as concerned about how this impacts their sons as much as their daughters. In my opinion, they were acknowledging any woman who feels she has been let down or ignored by the judicial system (not necessarily the woman at the heart of the case in Belfast). They were campaigning for respect for themselves and their loved ones. They were opposing both the objectification of women and the wide availability of violent pornography which is clearly normalizing sexual violence and desensitizing young males.
As a former support worker and therapist with teenage boys, I have been privy to countless group conversations. The boys I worked with were very vocal about what they expect in their sex lives and some of their requirements could only be described as delusional. Perhaps it is unfair that a handful of men are being held accountable for a culture which exists among many of their generation but as heroes amongst so many young males, the two lads at the centre of the Belfast Rape Case make a great point of reference for parents educating their children on safe and respectful use of social media apps, decency, etiquette and the paramount importance of consent.
I adore my own son, my nephew and all the boys I’ve had the pleasure of working with. I also appreciate all of the emails I received from the genuinely lovely men who were appalled by some of the rugby players’ WhatsApp content discussed in court over the last 6 weeks and felt it misrepresented Irish men. We have historically had some wonderful ambassadors. I can’t for the life of me imagine Seamus Heaney and John B discussing spit roasting or sluts in their correspondence.
I don’t think that campaigning for better role models makes me or any other female a man hater. This isn’t radical feminism. It’s activism. There is a significant difference.