• Alison Tennent

Calling All Women Writers

Engage men emotionally and back up your claims

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Another day, another complaint by a man that women are vilifying his sex. Rather than focusing on the horrible murder of a woman by a police officer and the genuinely terrifying implications of that for women, he's furious at the way a woman writing about another woman being murdered hurt his feelings.


Is this fair? Of course not. Does it negatively impact the struggle for women's sex based rights? Well, it just might.


To be honest that particular chap was probably already irredeemably lost to all logical discussion, as he was also making false claims about sexual violence statistics. When they've gone out of the way to try to prove something that they know isn't true, that's generally a rather large hint that person is unreachable.


But women can still reach a lot of men, even those who seem closed off to our plight, if we think about how we approach them.


On a recent comment section I added "women need your help" to my factual statements. A few men came back with "well, you feminazis have been saying a) b) and c) so why should we have sympathy for you now?" But I didn't rise to that. I said instead I couldn't speak for all women, but I know I never said a) b) or c). I said I was desperate, I said women need men's help to overcome misogyny. The result was no more trolling, a lot of likes and some positive interactions.


That won't work on a lot of comment sections, of course. Incels abound online. But on this one, a major media outlet where the readers are generally at least of average IQ, I hoped I had a chance to be heard. And it turns out I did.


Justifiable Rage

I get it, it can be really cathartic to shout YES ALL MEN. It can feel like yet more tone policing to have someone point out that this isn't helping. I too have been that angry ranter.


But this is important. So, please, please listen.


Women as a sex have made some strides. #Metoo was an incredible eye-opener for many men. Many who had been genuinely unaware of the depth of the problem realised it's not just the occasional female who experiences male abuse: it's nearly all of us. And it isn't rare: it's throughout our lifespan.


Many women who had accepted our own abuse and rarely even bothered discussing it online (me for example!) spoke up for the first time. A dialogue was opened. There are plenty of #Metoo denialists of course, but some people you can just never reach.


In the end, #Metoo - according to some men - did start to sound more like a diatribe than an outpouring. But overall, it did a lot of good. It opened men's eyes and ears.


No man can ever know what it is to be a woman. Just as no woman can ever know what it is to be a man. But at this crucial point, men - as a sex - are no longer automatically disbelieving every word we say.


A New Zeitgeist: A New Approach

Men - as a sex - telling us to shut up, shouting us down and #notallmenning women is no longer automatically accepted. When men do this, they paint themselves clearly as either misogynists, denialists or simply unacquainted with the facts.


Many people are now at least aware that women - as a sex - feel under siege from male behaviour. Many are aware that the lives of women are fraught with peril, and every single day we engage in behaviours men never even consider, just to try to keep ourselves safe.


We have language now to describe the tactics some men have used to great effect to silence us for decades, centuries even. Mansplaining, gaslighting, derailing, minimising - and more.


Language is so important. How can you discuss a problem if you cannot name it? These words did not exist to me as a young woman. I knew that "Calm down" was bullshit. I just didn't know why.


Believe it or not, we have made progress towards men understanding and not automatically dismissing our fears. Despite serious pushback from the misogynistic (but vocal) minority, women are in a position, finally, where a lot of men are listening, and some are taking us seriously.


At the very least men as a sex are not systemically, automatically and effectively silencing Western women every time we speak.


That's not something I expected to see in my lifetime.


We have a chance to engage. Let's not blow it.

If you want to trade that chance for material, positive change, you're going to have to write in a way that emotionally engages men - or at least does not hand them on a silver platter a pretext to be offended and stomp off.


Practise what you preach

I haven't always practised what I'm now preaching. I've stated in the past that I wasn't trying to engage with anyone, sometimes I was just ranting because it made me feel better. Having been assaulted, abused, harassed and threatened by various men since childhood and being fearful of men - as a sex - throughout my whole life, it occasionally felt good to simply scream about it.


But, by continuing to simply scream I'm helping no woman, and I could even be harming our fight for women's sex-based rights. And that's just not on.


Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings

People of both sexes are emotional decision makers. As I've said elsewhere:


Never forget that we are all highly emotional naked apes, who one day learned how to think. We make decisions based on feelings, rarely facts, and once we’re persuaded to emotionally bond to a concept or a person, it’s really difficult to shift us. Certainly, logic alone will rarely do it. Confirmation bias and emotional thinking accounts for some of that. We often use emotional reasoning to defend a conclusion we’ve already reached, based upon our feelings.

Vilifying entire groups of people tends to have the opposite effect to making them listen.


And guess what? Men as a sex hold the power and the keys to the kingdom.


You cannot force people to acquiesce to you without power over them. The only power women as a sex have over men as a sex is persuasion and an appeal to their decency. Women do not hold the majority of power economically, legally, societally, politically or within the media. We do not even hold half the power.


So what can we do?


Words Matter

We already know that most men are not murderers or rapists, even if they turn a blind eye to behaviours that act as a springboard for full blown misogyny.


I have mentioned in various comments that screaming at me that all white people are racists has still not turned me into a racist, and shouting wokeology at me has not made me phobic about anyone.


However, it has encouraged me to stop caring about their content and stop reading it.


As I've said before:

A person does not become a misogynist, racist or phobic because they read articles that anger them, even 100s of articles. I still stand by that. However, what I have realised in the last couple of years is that you CAN make people simply not care."

Now, though I would certainly still step in to assist someone in real life if they genuinely needed it, I avoid at all costs any hint of wokeology online. And since for the most part wokeology only flourishes online, I haven't had to walk away from it in real life, yet. But online I turn away actively from any discussions by The Wokerati. I read nothing they write, I mute and block them.


I have turned my face away.


Although sometimes when the algorithm bizarrely chucks An Okey Dokey Wokey Blokey at me, I migrate quickly to the comment section without reading the article to clap the fuck out of any opposing views, for a bit of sport.


The interminable howling about racism and phobia aimed at someone who is neither racist nor phobic has given me a better understanding of how men must feel when they read repeated posts by women castigating their sex.


Even though (unlike with the Woke Stasi) women as a sex often have the facts on our side, it cannot be denied that nobody likes to be yelled at. Particularly if we are not, ourselves, guilty of the crime we're accused of.


And most of us will not tolerate being screamed at for long, whether innocent or otherwise.


If you can't engage emotionally with men, if you can't find a way to make your point in such a manner that he can read it without feeling attacked, you will certainly encourage him to totally ignore you.


So unless your goal is just to shut him up and make him leave or simply get something off your chest, writing articles just to yell at men is generally a fail.


"To Reach a Port We Must Set Sail"

I've been keeping a weather eye on media-fuelled misogyny for years. Lately, with the Maya Forstater judgement saying women's views are worthy of respect in a democratic society, and the Daily Telegraph employing Suzanne Moore, after she was bullied into leaving a previous news outlet, there's been a slight media shift towards not simply discounting women.


I feel like we might have a window. But we have to engage those men who are willing to listen to make our point.


Browbeating won't do it. Being rational, approachable and backing up your claims just might.


And fellow female writers please believe me that you must - must - back up your claims about sexual violence, male violence, male patterns. To make your argument plausible, to coax, convince and persuade.


Approachable plus verifiable is a winning combination.


Don't be lazy, don't rely on your feelpinions when it comes to the hugely important topic of women's sex-based human rights and equalities. You don't have to write fluff pieces. The stats, the evidence, the truth is all there and verifiable.


Fellow Female Writers - I am not suggesting you pander, or lie about the depth of the problem.


I’m saying perhaps consider your language carefully. Consider whether you sound like you want a fight or a discussion. Consider your phrasing — would it piss you off to read that sentence? Is pissing him off what you’re aiming for? If it’s useful, you could contemplate mentioning that you have a husband, brothers, a son (as I do) who you know are good, decent men — reminding the man on the other side of the screen you’re a human being.

Or maybe try saying men as a sex, or perhaps “some men” rather than just men, or otherwise making it clear that you’re not “allmenning” him. When I read your article I already know you don’t mean all men. Some men, in good faith, might actually think you do.


And even if they're just saying "not all men" for the trollish satisfaction, preempt the derailing by being crystal clear, offering sources and sparing yourself and your readers some of the nitpicking and time-wasting.


I am not saying "be nice" or "ask nicely". I am saying be persuasive. Don't pander, don't kowtow, but speak to him as though you really wanted to convince him, rather than beating him over the head with the soggy end of misogyny.


There is definitely a place for more robust argument. The suffragettes chained themselves to railings and flung themselves under horses. I'm not super keen on doing that. So all I have to persuade you with are my words.


And if you don't read them, I have nothing.


Use your resources, use your humanity. Humanise yourself to the humans you hope to convince.


Raining On Your Parade

We live in a world where men (as a sex) commit 98% of sexual assault and at least 90% percent of all violent crime (some stats lean towards 95%). Women are often rightfully afraid of men. Let's not forget that many men are rightfully afraid of male violence too.


So because we often live in a perpetual state of hyper-awareness, which is required for survival, what isn't always apparent to women is that most men aren't dangerous.


Who cares about the butterflies on the savannah? We're programmed to notice and record the tiger's twitching tail.


What many men still don't realise is that most women are genuinely hesitant - if not actually fearful - of all the men they don't know, and some of the ones they do, for good reasons.


That's not angry rhetoric, that's terrified truth.


The only way to change this dreadful situation is to gain equality for women. And the way to move further towards equality is to bring the decent men on board. And the way to bring the decent men on board is not by yelling at them or offering feelpinions in place of facts.


As I said, it's not possible to turn a man into a misogynist, rapist or murderer by annoying him with articles. If he's making that claim, he was already one or all of the above.


The worst thing that can happen if we inundate men with articles that appear to vilify his entire sex is that he will, probably, turn away and stop listening.


Once, I would have said - so what? They're not listening anyway, I might as well get to yell about it, it's cathartic.


I may have been wrong about that then. And I know I would be wrong about that now.


Write for the audience you want to engage - the decent men. Be truthful, but courteous, be honest but approachable, speak facts, not feelings.


And who are the decent men?


Well, I think that might be most of them.


So, let's try talking to men as though they were our friends - and find out whether they really are.



Sources:

https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/0375553f-0395-46cc-9574-d54c74fa601a/aihw-fdv-5.pdf.aspx?inline=true

https://www.michigan.gov/documents/datingviolence/DHS-DatingViolence-MaleSurvivors_198439_7.pdf

https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/no-women-arent-as-likely-to-commit-violence-as-men-20141118-3km9x.html

https://ncadv.org/statistics

https://www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support/what-is-domestic-abuse/domestic-abuse-is-a-gendered-crime/

https://www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support/what-is-domestic-abuse/domestic-abuse-is-a-gendered-crime/

https://swgfl.org.uk/assets/documents/intimate-image-abuse-in-adults-and-under-18s.pdf

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563217305010

https://www.hardiegrant.com/au/books/first-pages/2020-troll-hunting

https://counsellingresource.com/therapy/self-help/stockholm/

https://www.amazon.com/Loving-Survive-Violence-Feminist-Crosscurrents/dp/0814730590?sa-no-redirect=1&pldnSite=1

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/research/2018/03/online-violence-against-women-chapter-3/

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0306422015605714

https://www.couriermail.com.au/rendezview/make-no-mistake-stalking-is-about-power-and-entitlement-over-women/news-story/22e8cc9228e2df5f212542c48ca8b833

https://www.blackburncenter.org/post/2016/02/03/because-she-said-no

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-47947117

https://time.com/3305466/male-female-harassment-online/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/in-getting-twitter-abuse-zelda-williams-is-hardly-alone/2014/08/14/b0449b1c-23e0-11e4-8593-da634b334390_story.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/in-getting-twitter-abuse-zelda-williams-is-hardly-alone/2014/08/14/b0449b1c-23e0-11e4-8593-da634b334390_story.html

https://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/trashing.htm

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563217305010

https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/multimedia/2020/2/infographic-visualizing-the-data-womens-representation

https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/economic-empowerment/facts-and-figures

https://theconversation.com/women-overtake-men-in-the-media-but-not-in-pay-or-power-14479

https://www.marieclaire.com/politics/news/a15652/gender-inequality-stats/

https://womensagenda.com.au/leadership/study-finds-people-view-women-as-smarter-but-men-still-hold-the-power/

https://www.readunwritten.com/2018/10/10/27-things-women-safe-men-never-have/




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