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Open Letter: To the men we represent

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An open letter to the men we represent

CONTENT WARNING: mentions of gender-based violence, assault and harassment


This week has been very emotionally taxing for women and minority genders in our community. Starting with International Women’s Day on Monday, where social media was covered in pictures from individuals, brands and organisations telling us about the women who lift them up and contribute to their successes. Then for us in the SU, on Tuesday we announced the result of our election where every executive position which was contested by a woman was won by a woman – which is fantastic in terms of representation and such a great step forward.

However, the news this week has been just impossible to ‘switch off’ from. Everything that happened with Meghan Markle in the news, Sarah Everard’s murder, followed by the report that concluded 97% of women have experienced harassment or assault. We’ve seen the vast majority of women and people of minority genders posting on social media about the very real and painful experiences we’ve suffered at the hands of male violence. We could all be Sarah Everard, many of us have almost been Sarah Everard, and there is a very real sense of collective grief and ongoing fear. Some of us are far more at risk of something like this happening to us due to our class, race, religion, sexual orientation and this is something we cannot ignore.

Throughout all of this, what has made us most angry is the silence from the majority of men. Scrolling through social media saying ‘where is their outrage, their anger and dismay?’  and most importantly ‘why aren’t they helping?’ Talking to men in our lives who say things like ‘I don’t feel it’s my place to comment’ an attitude that we have to change if we want to solve this. We’re seeing men taking a step back here, when what we need you to do in order to progress this conversation, is take a step forward. So to the men that we represent, we say this:

If you’re not angry, then you’re not listening to us. It absolutely has to be your place to comment on the discrimination, misogyny and culture which leads to violence against women and minority genders. It shouldn’t have to happen to your mother, daughter or sister for it to matter. I know that it may seem overwhelming and it’s hard to know where to start or how to help – but you cannot continue to be silent on this issue. We’re asking you to talk to your friends, colleagues, team mates, you family even – wherever it is you hold power in your life. Donate your time or money to organisations that protect and support victim-survivors if you can, organise/attend a by-stander training to learn how to intervene, learn to walk a mile in our shoes (at night), stand up for us when your friends use derogatory language, research what all these phrases mean and how misogyny operates - then help us to stamp it out. When we tell you about something that has happened to us, believe us. As hard as it is for many of us to admit, we can’t tackle this without you. So it’s time you stepped up and started taking action.

Signed,

Amy Smith, Union President
Lexi Ehresmann, Vice-President Education
Sam Davis, Health and Wellbeing Officer

Tash Miller, Sports Participation Officer

Juliette Oliveras, Sports Communication Officer

Nela Cadinanos Gonzalez, Union President Elect
Caitlin Turner, Sustainability Officer Elect
Esme Foxworthy-Bowers, Health and Wellbeing Officer Elect
Sophie Charlton, Sports President Elect

We would also like to note that we completely understand there are several others who have not had the capacity to engage with this topic just now and sign the letter - but nevertheless support the aims.
 
If you have been affected by this issue please know there is support available for you
here


 

Comments

Liina Muhlmann
7:58pm on 25 Mar 21 Dear people, Sadly human can do horrible things to another human; it is not a gender issue, but it is a human violence issue. We invade other countries, and the population is okay because they are bad people, or so our mass media tells us. We torture other people and call it enhanced interrogation, in essence same, but it is okay as our president or prime minister sanction that. All in the name of delivering democracy and safety. War and torture are severe overreactions, but we get it too late, and then what? We have a little march 100 years later, or we stop before we overreact and do harm that cannot be repaired by marching years later? Sadly some people have experienced violence, some have been murdered, and we are sad because those are mindless acts, and often young lives are cut short. But with all this sadness, let us not villainise every male; they are as much guilty as nations we invade are guilty of one of their citizen acts. We have plenty of examples of overreaction, blaming all nation for one person mindless act, let as once respond accordingly, some people do horrible things to other people, let punish those individuals and them only according to the law. Once we had the war on communism, at any cost, Now we have the war on terrorism; we invade, we sell weapons, we kill, we torture, all name of safety, What is next? The war between genders? The conflict between religions? University is one place that must uphold freedom of speech that we debate, hear different opinions, discuss, open our minds to other possibilities, viewpoints, understandings. Let's debate, not demonise; let's find common grounds, not seek and punish differences, because one day we are professionals in our field and our opinion counts. If we are single-minded, we spread it, and society becomes more intolerant, and with military capacity, it is a deadly combination. For World Peace. This is so overused but so undermined saying. Let us listen and discuss, find what any of us can do, small steps every day for every issue, see what underlying issues are, and we all will have a better, safer, and more accepting world. People need to be accountable for their acts, not for others from the same race, gender, religion, nation, etc. Please could we listen to each other; even then, I am not saying what you want to hear. Yours sincerely, Liina Muhlmann
Robb Talbot
11:54am on 19 Mar 21 Keiran, your response is both incredibly short sighted and incredibly misplaced. Much in the same way that last year the murder of George Floyd lead to a much larger movement (along with many other notable murders of poc, especially women), this also shines a light on an often overlooked oppression of a large minority in society, namely women (and people perceived as such). It's not just one terrible incident, it's the undercurrent of constantly worse treatment and life quality that women have been expected to simply internalise and not make a fuss about. It is only so, so very recently that women have even had equal legal rights to men, and that is still not the case in most of the world, much in the same way as other minorities like BAME, trans people, gay and bi people - centuries of oppression doesn't go away just because people have decided it does. Butting into a discussion about women and their harassment to go "but what about men??" contributes nothing to anyone.
Bertille Gamichon
8:10am on 18 Mar 21 thank you for this very needed open letter! i believe this is important to give tools for men to help us out, sometimes, it can just be listening and believing us and it makes a huge difference . Also, concerning Kieran's comments, this is not the space to talk about that. Nobody is saying that all men have done/ are capable of such acts. Nobody is denying that men too are assaulted and abused. Only, right now, right here, we're talking about girls and women's struggle and what can be done to help. So please, feel free to talk about men's struggle somewhere else and we will support, but don't come here and take away one of the very few spaces we have to talk about it.
Amy Walker
11:40pm on 17 Mar 21 I want to start by saying that anyone using the term 'witch hunt' (which represents a horrific time in history when thousands of people, the overwhelming majority being women, across western societies were brutally tortured and murdered by men) to refer to women holding men accountable for the way they, as a group, perpetuate and benefit from a culture of sexism and misogyny that directly harms women, is tone deaf to say the least. I also want to highlight that yes, men are undeniably the victims of a number of violent crimes, overwhelmingly perpetrated against them by other men, and drawing attention to violence against women is in no way trying to diminish the seriousness of this issue. Mens victimisation deserves to be discussed in it's own right without being sprinkled on every discussion about violence against women in the hopes of invalidating the gendered nature of sexual and other violent victimisation, and frankly, male victims of sexual, and other violent crime deserve more respect than that. Firstly, there's some misrepresenting of statistics going on, as according to the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice 2019, while non-sexual crime has significantly decreased in Scotland over the past decade as well as mens rates of violent victimisation, women's rates of violent victimisation have remained stable, resulting in men and women's violent victimisation rates now being roughly equal with a difference of 0.4%. And trust that if this was an isolated incident of a horrendous murder of one unsuspecting women walking home at night, perpetrated by one individual man, women as a group would not be as emotionally affected by this tragic case as they have been. This is one of countless cases UK and world wide over the decades, and is what every woman fears in the public sphere in general, but specifically when walking any street at night. The constant threat of male violence reinforced by catcalling, sexual harassment, and sexual assault, all overwhelmingly perpetrated by men, also serves as a reminder that as women, we are not safe and this is not our space, specifically because we are women. It's also important to illuminate that, as supported by research and statistics, the type of violence perpetrated against women by men is highly gendered, from sexual harassment, to rape, to sexually motivated murder, there's an element of dehumanisation and misogyny attached to female victimisation that is often exempt from male on male victimisation, and such dehumanisation is a perpetuated by seemingly harmless misogyny like 'locker room talk' or degrading comments about women that normalise their objectification and thus dehumanisation, and yes, man or woman, if you do not challenge such discourse, you are part of the wider problem of violence against women. And yes, of course some women also objectify men, this is just as dehumanising and concerning, but as 'locker room talk' is an intrinsic aspect of men 'doing' gender, and is reinforced through the false concept that men are hyper-sexual, it's a significantly more present and rewarded aspect of 'being a man'. Women deserve to feel safe, and, unintended or not, men are the biggest daily threat to our safety. Unfortunately, we cannot tell which one of you pose a threat to us, so until we stop putting our keys between our knuckles on our walk home alone, until we stop being hyper aware of any man walking behind us and speeding up our pace because we think he might be following us, until we don't need to be wary or scared of every. single. man. in our proximity when we're alone in public, and the many other 'prevention' tactics that are beaten into us by other women's experiences of male violence, we will continue to generalise. We know its not 'all men', but it's so many that 97% of women have experienced sexual harassment and 1/3 women have experienced sexual assault. Disappointingly, it seems that select men are more indignant and angry about being generalised than at the worldwide, male perpetrated, violence against women. I know it's uncomfortable to confront, but men as a gender have for centuries been the perpetrators of violence against women in a number of covert and overt ways, and frankly if you're not doing anything to counteract the damage, even by just acknowledging it as an issue serving to directly threaten women's human rights, which some are so clearly reluctant to do, then you're part of the problem- and women are entitled to be angry at you. In the hopes of enlightening the curious and educating the ignorant, here's a list of academic literature about the subject at hand. Please read and form educated opinions :) -Batchelor, Susan A.; Armstrong, Sarah; MacLellan, Donna (2019) ‘Taking Stock of Violence in Scotland’, Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research. -Connell, R.W (1987) ‘Gender and Power’, Cambridge: Policy Press. -Hester, M. (1990) 'The Dynamics of Male Domination', Women's Studies International Forum, 13, 1/2: 9-19 -Hooks, Bell (2014) ‘Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center’, New York: Routledge -Walby, Sylvia (1990) ‘Theorizing Patriarchy’, Oxford: Blackwell. -Ades, Veronica (2020) ‘Sexual and Gender-Based Violence’, Switzerland: Springer Nature. -Davies, Pamela (2017) 'Feminist Voices, Gender and Victimisation, Handbook on Victims and Victimology', Taylor & Francis.
Anita Cornelli
9:04pm on 17 Mar 21 I couldn't agree more Kieran! Articulate and balanced arguments, such as the one you have outlined, are much needed to address the increasing derangement regarding postmodernism and gender politics.
Kieran Foley
1:25pm on 17 Mar 21 I am sorry that you feel this way that men are being silent on an issue that involves a singular male attacking a young woman. Yes it is a problem but blaming all men for the actions of singular bad actor I am sorry is a little bit absurd. Where is the support for men who are nearly twice as likely to be a victim of a violent offence that women, make up nearly three quarters of robbery victims and two thirds of murder victims. Is that acceptable because the majority of these men were either attacked, robbed or killed by other men. Where was the feminist support when that occurs or the vigils or the social media outrage. I do not feel the need to express my dismay or disgust because any decent human being who has watched the news and heard about the tragic death of Sarah Everard I belief that disgust and outrage is a self-evident reaction. However, I will not be part of a witch hunt against men because of the actions of an individual, I believe it is right to angry but at his actions not the actions of the entirety of the British Male population, what happened to individual responsibility or has that also been replaces by identity politics. As a decent human being and man I believe that any gentleman placed in a situation where a woman is being verbally harassed or physically assaulted by men would intervene and challenge and stop any type of harassment or assault. The fact that I have heard this is not the case is troubling to me however, once again the demonisation of the entire male population is not the right way to achieve help. As if i was placed in that situation I would intervene and help any man/women from being a victim of an assault, verbal or physical. However, it has become a 21st century acceptance that it is alright to bash men why has it become accepted and excused when French feminist Pauline Hermange wrote a book titled I Hate Men, this book was not lambasted as being anti-men or too far but celebrated by respected newspaper's like The Guardian and the New York Times but replace the word "men" with a given race, sexual minority or the term "women" and this book would be labelled bigoted rubbish, and they would be correct. Or the acceptability in an advanced 21st century society that #killallmen was a trending topic in 2020 and where was the outrage at the verbal harassment of men through this vulgar hashtag, from the feminist community or women in general I did not see outrage in liberal media outlets or from women. I agree, that protection for women has to be increased but blaming all men for the actions of individuals is not the right way to achieve this. I would also appreciate a little bit of support from women and feminists a like when men get verbally attacked or abused for nothing more than the crime of being a male in the 21st century.
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