Today, November 25th, is recognized by the United Nations as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The fact that this topic need be made into a day should suggest one thing: there is so much work to be done to eradicate a pandemic of violence which has existed for almost as long as humans have existed. Writing as a male who finds the subject of violence against women deeply disturbing and disgusting, it is important to recognize the role which men play in eradicating this ancient, persisting pandemic. Hopefully, this article can open some eyes as to what many women are victim of and what we, as men, can do to end the pandemic of violence.
International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
The Male Role
Make no mistake: men have the biggest role to play in ending violence against women. For centuries, patriarchal societies have allowed violence against women by men to persist with little to no punishment. Throughout history, men have often acted in terribly possessive ways towards their partners and spouses; stripping away their freedom, controlling their finances and, more often than many would admit, acting violently towards them – in many cases leading to permanent physical and mental damage and, in extreme cases, premature death. Often, authorities would look the other way – not intervening to help the victim escape the torment. This is both the fault of the individual men and the patriarchal society which allowed this sexist, dystopian culture to persist without repercussion. Additionally, it goes far beyond partner abuse.
In the UK, where this writer is based, around 20% of women have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16, “equivalent to 3.4 million females” (per Rape Crisis). The act of rape can be committed by either partner or non-partner. If you think this abuse has gone away with history, however, you’d be gravely mistaken. Per the World Health Organization (WHO), about “1 in 3 (30%) of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.” The subject of sexual harassment, which in many ways normalizes the culture which allows sexual assault to exist within, is frightening; 97% of women in the UK are believed to have faced sexual harassment at some point in their lives (Open Access Government). Sexual harassment can leave women with emotional damage; feeling small, shamed, lacking in confidence and dehumanized. The culture which allows sexual assault and harassment to persist is precisely why so many men feel they can be violent towards women – whether sexually or no. If these staggering statistics don’t make male readers feel a wave of disgust, shame, sympathy or empathy, then shame on you.
What Can We Do As Men
As mentioned earlier, men have the biggest role to play in ending the culture of violence towards women. Ultimately, it is really easy to achieve – stop treating women as objects. Stop sexually harassing women on the street. Stop feeling the need to sexually assault women. End the “lad culture” of joining up with a group of friends to talk about women in degrading, dehumanizing manner. It should be that simple but generations of patriarchy have shaped many men to be this way and it will, sadly and likely, take generations of deconstructing the patriarchy to undo it. With the internet has come many problems, one of the most noteworthy being the birth of what is referred to as “incels” – a term for single, heterosexual men (shortened from “involuntarily celibate”) unable to achieve any kind of relationship with women and therefore joining in groups of similarly-minded men (usually in the dark corners of the web) to discuss women in the most derogatory, misogynistic ways imaginable.
In extreme cases, self-proclaimed “incels” have gone on mass-murder sprees – with women often being the choice of victim, or at least the initial target of their terror. The culture which has allowed “incels” to exist without being labelled a terrorist group is part of the problem – this all stems back to the same patriarchal society which has traditionally existed and still does today, if in a slightly lesser form. Now that some (and we mean only some) of the patriarchal traditions have been evaporated with modernization, some of those same men who previously benefited from it now feel hard done-by and in-turn feel the need to commit atrocities. It is a direct result of “victim playing” – “the fabrication or exaggeration of victimhood for a variety of reasons such as to justify abuse of others, to manipulate others, a coping strategy, attention seeking or diffusion of responsibility.”
This “victim playing” isn’t solely confined to incel circles, either – many men have this problem. It is a regular everyday occurrence on Twitter when, where there has been a news story on a crime where a woman has been subjected to abuse/harm, there are flocks of men coming to victim-blame the woman. Always the same arguments of “she was dressed provocatively” or “she’s lying for attention”. First of all, a woman’s choice of dress is not invitation for sexual abuse, assault or violence. Secondly, accusing a victim of lying without having any evidence is as incredibly insensitive as it is stupid.
Lastly, there is the issue of innocent men who feel the need to protest their innocence – often with shouts of “well, I haven’t done anything wrong” or “not all men are like that” on social media posts by women discussing the very topics discussed throughout this article. It is very easy for men to make this mistake, but no one cares whether you are innocent – it is only those who guilty which need to be dealt with and your role should be to support women instead of making it about you. This practice needs to end for, as long as it exists, it will continue to fuel many of the things which ultimately lead to violence towards women. Hopefully any male readers who took the time to read this article consider what role they have to play in ending violence against women: ensure that you treat women with the same respect you would wish to be treated and raise your children with this same mentality so that, once and for all, the elimination of violence against women may be achieved.
This is just one article containing some of the things one man thinks need to be done to eliminate violence against women. However, I am no expert on the subject. For more information on what needs to be done, check out WHO for more statistics and the United Nations for more on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Additionally, there will no doubt be dozens of articles published by women sharing their thoughts and views today – many of whom will have experienced some of what has been discussed throughout this article. Take the time today to read their words and understand their views. Education is what will, ultimately, make the difference.
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