It's funny. I was a bit naughty with the last piece I wrote, about Harvey Weinstein. I deliberately put a 'red herring' headline, suggesting the piece was defending him - when really it was facetious, condemned him entirely (labelling someone a 'disease' you'd think pretty definitive), and it simply looked at other 'layers of the onion'.
I was interested to see how many people would pounce and start labelling me a sexist, a misogynist, a mansplainer etc without even digesting the point of the piece. (Eg: that silence in the face of evil is the enemy.)
The results were telling. I'm pleased to say the number of people who attacked the post were relatively small: less than I'd predicted. But there were still a few, and they were all females who basically lambasted me for not knowing what I'm talking about, or having no right to even speak on the matter, because I'm male.
Also quite telling, is I monitor how many peruse my blog (a vanity, I know), and that piece, with a headline that potentially 'enraged' - rather than stating clearly what it was about on the tin - was read considerably more than some of my material.
Hmm. And we wonder how The Daily Mail and The Sun garnered such power.
I'm pleased this has all come to light, and think exposure of Weinstein's abuses - perhaps for the first time - genuinely has a realistic chance of changing things. But at the same time, neither can it be ignored there are a growing minority of ladies out there, especially on social media, who seem to hold any and every man responsible: somehow arguing everything we say is seeped in misogyny. And if you dare to dispute so much as one aspect of their argument, it only heightens their resolve, making them more insistent you're a 'male bully'. (To be frank, it's highly reminiscent of arguing with Brexiteers - you're wrong, simply because 'you are'.)
That is not 'equality'. That's simply going too far in the other direction. The whole bloody point of equality is you judge people on the basis and content of what they say, regardless of religion/sex/race/wealth, or any other potentially stereotyped variable. Being born with a penis and/or being sexually attracted to women does not somehow mean you unequivocally harbour an inherent and genetically predisposed disrespect for women, it's ludicrous! I for one am the son of a single working mother, who brought me up by herself, who was smarter than most men will ever be. And today, I am father to a highly confident and assertive four year old girl who one day I want to rule the world. My entire life, I've categorically never ever thought of women as anything other than the equals of men. I'm the furthest thing from a 'macho man'. But some ladies manage to make even me, the 'enemy'.
I Put My Hands Up... I'm Guilty
Yes, I may in passing acknowledge occasionally the fact a friend I'm talking to is a female ('hi babe', 'hello gorgeous', 'yes my dear'). I might even crack a joke - God forbid - about a cultural stereotype ('bloody women drivers/shoppers' etc), but if you genuinely think that implies I really honestly believe women are somehow less capable, or have a 'secondary status' on account of their sex, you really are off your bloody rocker. That's absolutism to ridiculous extreme.
Appreciating men and women are often different, they often like different things and are often good at different things, is a beautiful mystery that keeps the world spinning. Anyone with a brain knows they're not 'rules', not exclusively the case, and that 'equality' means allowing someone to choose their own path without restriction. But neither does acknowledging those preferences exist, somehow make you a crusader for male bigotry.
Recently, a couple of female friends posted things on Facebook that were, to my puerile mind any way, wide open for jokes. One was a friend named Adele who casually commented that "upon returning from her honeymoon, she turned vegan". I couldn't resist making a crack, though I did it somewhat timidly by asking "is NO-ONE else gonna make a joke here??" The other, another lovely lass named Lauren commented "she wished they did delivery roasts." Again, my inner childish smut-peddler came out, and I commented that depending on what sort of roast she was after, I'm sure there'd be plenty of volunteers. Only a minute later, I added a follow-up post apologising profusely to anyone who might find that offensive. Something I wouldn't normally have done. (Some might see that as a resulting victory from this Weinstein scandal.) I don't generally like to tiptoe around my female friends though, just because they're female.
I knew the friends in question would not take offence at these quips, they're both intelligent and confident women who did in fact laugh, and if they had a problem with me or anything I'd said, I'd like to think they'd tell me. But I did later wonder how many others might think me a 'shameless misogynist' for those comments, and/or were somehow judging me. And really, that's not cool either.
No, I'm just an infantile dickhead with a silly sense of humour, eternally wanting to make people laugh. Not everyone will, but I don't particularly like the idea of living in a society where humour is policed and censored.
Anyone is of course free to think they were shit gags, horrifically immature and unworthy of the slightest smirk, even that they were totally inappropriate. But to think that stands as ironclad evidence I'm clearly someone who disrespects women? No. That is a grotesque assumption. No more than if I hear a female comedian making a joke about beating her husband or 'cutting his todger off' (key word being 'joke') or making silly generalisations about men, I don't assume she actually condones violence, hates men, and/or mutilates her unfortunate spouse.
I once fell foul of an editor, a lady I liked and respected a great deal, because I commented 'woof' on a picture of Charlotte Church in the newsroom, looking particularly ravishing. Really. I still just don't get it. Okay, as my better half told me, it probably wasn't incredibly smart, but on the scale of things that's pretty darn tame, and hey - I don't hide who I am or what I find interesting/funny. Plus, if any woman I knew in the world commented on a picture of Brad Pitt (or male equivalent) and commented 'what a hot piece of ass', 'come to mama' etc, I can honestly say I wouldn't, and really don't give two hoots! Go for it ladies, eat all you can eat.
Again, that is equality.
Simply saying 'woof'?? Really?? Maybe not classy I grant, but hardly a slur or imposition on the state of womanhood. And I'd also argue, anyone who thinks that is grossly offensive, clearly hasn't actually ventured out to talk to actual 3D people much in the real world. Try touring with a rock band, or working at a car dealership.
No, of course it's not the sort of thing I'd say to a stranger, or directly to and about a woman in a professional capacity, and it's certainly nothing like shouting or 'wolf-whistling' women you don't know in the street etc - that is intimidating and sexually aggressive. But commenting to a friend that you think a man or woman is 'hot', however you phrase it (within reason) is hardly the same thing at all.
When and if women are genuinely expected to behave like the comedian Mickey Flanagan portrays them, then there's genuine reason to worry. But until then, let him make his jokes. (I don't actually find his whole misogynistic routine funny by the way.)
In the last few days, I've seen finger pointing in all directions. Video games, films, TV, music, the adult entertainment industry, education, cultural values, James Cordon, you name it. Some of the criticisms contain elements of truth. But not universally, and not to a degree I believe women should now start demanding everything cater to sensibilities of the most sensitive and/or at risk among them. Not everyone who watches a violent TV programme goes out to commit violence. Not everyone who plays Grand Theft Auto on their X-box goes out murdering prostitutes and running people over. Not every guy who visits a strip club thinks of women as objects to be used and abused. Not every film director/producer who put a 'sexy chick' in a movie where she took her clothes off, is a vile sexist pig, or cajoled her into doing so. Not every guy who likes boobs is a potential rapist-in-waiting, or a man like Harvey Weinstein. These are too wide assumptions to make, however serious and tangible the issue.
Nobody should ever be bullied or pressured into doing something they don't want to do. Ever. But neither is it for those puritans among us, male or female, to decide what others do or don't like either; what they do or don't find acceptable. If nobody is hurt or violated in any way, live and let live I say.
There are so many issues and examples within our society of genuine institutional misogyny, and rife casual prejudice against women, there's no disputing that. And I wouldn't try to. Tampon tax? Get tae fuck. Wage inequality? Fucking preposterous. Sexual predators and bullies? Despicable wankers. It is disgusting, and all of it has to change. But please... please ladies, a minority few of you do need to appreciate not everyone with a penis is somehow responsible for this state of affairs.
As I kinda tried to point out in my last piece, 'evil is evil' - regardless of whether it's white or black, Muslim or Christian, rich or poor. And certainly, whether it has a penis or vagina.
What matters, is that we call it out wherever and whenever we see it.