Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (mostly) on Sundays. Enjoy!
The Trouble with Women
Once again this week the news is full of a shocking story that ended with the needless and horrific death of a woman who was doing nothing more than walking back from her friend’s house. While this latest case is undoubtedly shocking, statistics make it clear that it is the thin end of a very large wedge.
One in three women will experience some form of domestic abuse in their lifetime. In England and Wales alone, 2 women every week are killed by a current or future partner. 20% of women have experienced sexual assault in their adult lives.
Shocking numbers. Whenever the news is full of the last moments of a murdered woman, the cry is raised ‘It’s not all men’. But with numbers like those quoted above, it might not be all men, but it’s not a tiny minority either.
In the midst of the media furore, politicians, as is their wont, make new laws further criminalising certain acts or making misogyny an aggravating factor in an offence. But this is not enough, it’s not even an answer really.
No, what we need to do is not just punish offenders harder, or teach women to hail buses more effectively. What we need to do is to change the way that we, as men, relate to the women in our society.
Whether it be a so-called incel venting their fury when they are denied the sex (not relationships) they believe they’re entitled to, or the predator roaming the streets there is a common thread. That common thread is one that sees women as a commodity to be used at our convenience and thrown away.
Once again, the cry will be ‘not all men are like this’ but again, the numbers say that a lot of us are.
What can we do then? I think it comes back to our old friend ‘toxic masculinity’. The same set of twisted values that stops us from talking about our thoughts and feelings and means that the most common way for us to die before 40 is by our own hand is the one that twists our view of women into a mixture of servant, chattel and sexual caricature.
We are born and immediately put our mums on a pedestal. They’re our caregivers, providing food, affection, care, and guidance. As we grow and become men our interest in women starts to extend past band-aids and lullabies but, without someone to guide us, we never get past fulfilling those teenage needs.
We might get older but our psyche stays fixed in that of a teenage boy in regard to women. We embrace a culture that encourages us to disengage from emotional connections and laud each other on our so-called rationality.
Like those teenage boys, if we’re denied our desires for sex or servitude we react violently.
In the world of our fathers and grandfathers, where we kept a tight rein on the aspirations of women, this may have been a workable approach, but in the modern-day, where women expect a life and sense of equality, it won’t wash.
So how do we solve this one? What do we teach our sons? If the root issue is toxic masculinity then the solution is the same. Real masculinity. We don’t have to become women or pretend that we experience life in the same way, but we do have to acknowledge that, like women, we experience life through the lens of emotion, not the fake objectivity we cling to.
We teach our sons that our emotional lives are normal and their discussions ubiquitous. We do this by setting that example and being unafraid of what our sons will think of us if we admit the truth of our reality. Sometimes we’re sad, sometimes happy, sometimes afraid, all of this is normal.
By starting this dialogue when they are boys we build a foundation that we can continue as they become men. In doing so we break down the stereotypes of emotional women and distant men and expose the truth that we are all beings experiencing life, men, and women.
You might think I say this as the father of a daughter but it’s not that. It’s actually crazy that I would have to be concerned about any of my children being the target of predation. But no, as much as I would like my daughter to live a long and happy life, it’s because I also have 2 sons.
I want my sons to grow up knowing that all people, regardless of gender (or race, or sexual orientation, or anything for that matter) have an equal place in this world. For them to relate to women as people, not commodities or sex objects and I want this because unless they’re capable of doing that, and becoming true men, I will have failed in my duty as their father.