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Male violence towards women+ comes down to the toxic misogynistic patriarchy that is so indoctrinated in our society that a man thought it was okay to stand up in parliament and argue that “men have had their turn, and it is women’s turn now.”
South Yorkshire MP Nick Fletcher, who has previously been accused of faking a visit to his own constituency three times with an old selfie, led a debate about International Men’s Day. Focused on statistics regarding poor male outcomes in school attainment, suicide, rough sleeping, and employment, Fletcher concluded that men need better role models.
Although valid with male suicide rates standing at 10 per 100,000 in 2020, the use of these statistics severely discredit a number of national movements fighting to end systemic male violence against women+ and begs the question of why Fletcher thought it appropriate to drag one good cause down for another.
Like many misogynists, Fletcher doesn’t really care about the statistics for men’s suicides; if he did, one would assume he wouldn’t incorporate them in a debate about women’s safety. One would assume he might even suggest feasible solutions instead of using these statistics to argue that women don’t have it “that bad.”
Adding that parliament “operates like a pendulum, swinging from left to right as it continually struggles to correct wrongs and injustices,” Fletcher argued that it has gone too far by blaming men.
Side note: for any women and non-binary people who are aware of how little parliament have done to hold men accountable, feel free to laugh…I am.
“Some may say that men have had their turn, and it is women’s turn now,” he went on, ignorant to the last few millennia of women’s turns. While describing some of the “awful events over the past year in which the victims have been women,” Fletcher whined that the national focus on ridding society of toxic masculinity was too much.
“Yet again we have to ask ourselves: ‘Who does this help?’”
…women, non-binary people, and men when they are allowed to engage with their emotions and permitted to seek out help for their mental health in a safe and welcoming environment.
In 2019, I remember having a very heated screaming match with one of my male housemates about toxic masculinity. He tried to explain that he felt attacked by it because “it’s always masculine qualities that are called toxic.”
Seems we need to clarify what we mean when we talk about toxic masculinity.
Defined by Oxford Languages, toxic masculinity refers to “a set of attitudes and ways of behaving stereotypically associated with or expected of men, regarded as having a negative impact on men and on society as a whole.”
This includes the prejudice that men should not cry, men should be strong, men should wear leather, smell of Lynx body spray and be the financial provider in their heterosexual relationship. If men don’t meet these expectations, they aren’t “man enough” or need to “man up.”
This victimising phenomenon is pedalled by harmful social patriarchy, reinforced each time someone makes a joke or stray comment about manliness. It’s the culprit behind the damaging impacts of colonialism on societies that don’t believe in our gender roles as well as our own society.
It is dehumanising to all men and is emerging in increasingly toxic ways.
On that note, let us move onto Fletcher’s next argument: how the 13th Doctor is turning boys to crime.
“There seems to be a call from a tiny yet very vocal minority that every male character or good role model must have a female replacement. One only needs to consider the discussions over who will play the next James Bond to see that. And it is not just James Bond: in recent years we have seen Doctor Who, the Ghostbusters, Luke Skywalker, and The Equalizer all replaced by women, and men are left with the Krays and Tommy Shelby…
…is it any wonder that so many young men are committing crimes? Such programmes make crime look cool.”
Now, we’re going to dissect this slowly to make sure we cover every ignorance.
First, a “tiny” minority? Really, Nick? I hardly think size jokes are doing you any favours.
Second, let us talk about “good role models.”
If you are a woman or non-binary person living in any society, or even if you are a man who has eyes and common sense, I don’t doubt that you will have noticed there is a glaring gender disparity in media. One woman for every 2.24 men? Women, especially POC, disabled, LGBTQ+ and minority women, often grow up with very few good women role models.
Shall we alert the press? Shall we tell Nick?
Men have a list of good role models longer than my exasperation with the Conservative government so what’s stopping them from having women as good role models?
The 13th Doctor is constantly fighting for inclusivity and the rights of others, Rey from Star Wars is resilient but compassionate, the 2016 Ghostbusters team are funny and work together.
By telling boys and young men that these women are not worthy of being good role models, Fletcher is telling girls and young women that they are not worthy of being good people.
We all need someone who looks like us on the screen to show that with our skin colour, our gender, our sexuality, our religion, our disability, we can still be strong and do good things. But we need a diverse range of role models.
The generations who grew up with only cis straight able-bodied white men for role models are often the same generations who struggle with inclusivity and open-mindedness.
Also, why is Fletcher trying to convince us the issue is with male role models in TV and film driving boys to crime when his own government has recently been under fire for its OWN crimes.
Not only has Downing Street been under investigation for flaunting Covid-19 regulations and breaking the law in 2020 but the investigator of the case last week resigned after it was outed that two of these incidents were held in his own office.
The hypocrisy is ridiculous and, quite frankly, exhausting.
Scottish National Party MP Gavin Newlands commented that he thought the reboot of The Equaliser, now casting Queen Latifah, is “positive.”
He even criticised the concept of International Men’s Day altogether, labelling it: “a rather cruel joke concocted in response to feminism, women’s rights and International Women’s Day”. He continued, “We need men in general to take responsibility for what men have done and continue to do” – including misogynistic comments and jokes or committing violence against women+.
Fletcher, missing the point entirely, argued that men needed to be “proud to be men.”
Finally, to suggest that “such programmes make crime look cool” as an excuse for men committing crimes makes me want to scream. Men are not the only ones watching The Krays or Peaky Blinders or any other programme about crime; women and non-binary people consume that media just as much and yet, the statistics are not adding up.
This line of argument was in relation to the murder of Sarah Everard and how the subsequent protests opened a national call out for the thousands upon thousands of names of women and non-binary people who have been murdered, raped, attacked, and systematically abused by men then forced out of mainstream coverage.
To even suggest that this is because James Bond may or may not be cast as a woman is repulsive.
Male violence towards women+ is the result of the toxic misogynistic patriarchy that is so indoctrinated in our society that a man thought it was okay to stand up in parliament and argue that “men have had their turn, and it is women’s turn now.”
Women earning a place on the screen is hardly the reason for men committing crime, for not attaining as well in school or for their suicide rates.
Maybe it’s the national lack of funding in low-income areas, toxicity towards men sharing emotions and being allowed to cry, a gender disparity and prejudice in mental health diagnoses, the consensus that consistently rewards men over women for equal work that leads to an endemic plateau of male effort, society demanding less of men than women so they are not as challenged in school and their career…oh and outdated and harmful views that men must be masculine and provide financially for their family.
But who knows? Maybe the sight of Jodie Whittaker just brings out an urge to commit arson and theft.
Nick Fletcher has since tweeted that his comments in parliament were “misconstrued.” To listen to him say the exact words he denies saying, you can watch the clip here