When I first started calling myself a feminist, I was tentative about it. Apologetic even. I wasn’t always sure how important it was – I mean, we’ve got the vote right? And Maggie Thatcher happened and everything? And aren’t feminists all hairy and angry (god, how terrible)?
But I read books and I watched films and I started to realise how the objectification of women had become so normalised we’d all stopped noticing. Things started to bother me, like why did I ask my mum if I could buy a thong when I was in year 6? Why when I was a 14-year-old virgin did girls at school who wanted to hurt me call me a slut? And why was I more likely to see a woman on TV giving a bloke a tit wank than I was to see her chairing a debate? Phrases became important: the beauty myth, the Bechdel test, everyday sexism.
But a while ago, that changed for me. It was no longer just about women being treated like sex objects in adverts or music videos, or that page 3 still exists, or that women are often meaningless plot devices. I began to understand that ritual misogyny is a pervasive, subtle and poisonous part of everyday life. Of course, the latter is only possible because of the unwavering persistence of the former – the continued portrayal of women as second-class citizens are symptoms. But I can no longer pretend that we don’t live in a society that is awash with the hatred of women.
We are repeatedly told that misogyny is just a case of mildly amusing anachronisms. The chief executive of the FA sent some sexist emails? Oopsy, wish the public hadn’t seen that – but he’s just being bawdy! Oh, another famous man off the telly has been arrested for sexually abusing women – but the culture was just totally different back then, you understand. Rape jokes? Jeez lighten up guys!
And then a 22-year-old man goes on a killing spree which he himself describes as “my war against women for rejecting me and depriving me of sex and love” – and it’s not a misogynistic attack. People are falling over themselves to say that Elliot Rodger, who killed six people and claimed “it was women’s fault for refusing to have sex with me”, did not hate women.
He did it because he was mentally ill, or because of the gun laws, or because his dad worked on the Hunger Games therefore = violence obvs. In fact we should totes just blame Jennifer Lawrence. Some have said Rodger is not a misogynist because he killed men too. But he didn’t kill those men because they refused to give him the sex that he felt unequivocally entitled to.
So I’ll just tell you right here and right now, Elliot Rodger was a misogynist killer. As far as I’m concerned, that is not up for debate: he murdered women for not giving him the sex he felt he was owed. He murdered men because they were getting the sex he felt entitled to.
Misogynist killings aren’t rare one-off events either: let’s not forget Jill Meagher, Joanna Yeates, the five women killed in Ipswich, or the 2012 Delhi gang-rape. Woman-hatred like this is not interesting or complex – it’s simply because some men believe that women don’t have the right to have control over their own bodies.
We can argue that misogynist murders take place until we are blue in the face, but we can’t escape this tuneless dull chorus: “but not all men are like that”.
Of course not all men are like that, but even if one is, it’s a massive fucking problem. All the time that men continue to use their energy to distance themselves from misogyny, rather than address the fact that it not only occurs but kills, they are simply perpetuating its existence.
I’m sick of trying to convince people that misogyny exists. I’m sick of trying to explain to people that rape jokes legitimise sexual assault. I’m sick of trying to tell people that a sensationalist video of a woman beating a man in public is distorting the debate, because I have never seen a woman be violent to a man in public but I’ve seen it the other way round more than enough times. I’m also bored stiff of the fact that even though I know ‘asking for it’ is the vile rhetoric of victim blamers, I still feel like it’s my fault if I walk home late at night and get attacked. And I’m also pretty bored of the fact that when I’ve called out commonplace wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing misogyny, I’ve been told ‘that can’t be right – he’s such a nice guy’.
What the ‘not all men’ argument does – whilst distracting from a proper debate about structual misogyny – is that it ignores the fact that actually, yes, all men are taught to feel entitled to sex and attention from women. And yes, yes, I know that when you were in your mother’s womb you had no concept of the patriarchy, but you were born into it just like we all were, and either you face up to that, or you try and pretend that you’ve lived your life in a vacuum and that you haven’t been trained all the way from Disney movies to porn films to see us as something you are owed. Fool yourself, but you won’t fool me.
Jessie Thompson a.k.a girl ignited tricks people into listening to her opinions at length by disguising them as attempts at humour.
She has also written for The Independent, The Telegraph, The Quietus, Red Pepper, Ideastap, Vagenda, Feminist Times, Huffington Post, A Younger Theatre and Libertine. Whilst at university, she worked as Arts Editor and Arts Editor-in-Chief of Sussex’s student newspaper, The Badger, which she found dehumanising because at house parties people only spoke to her so that they could find out how they could write for The Badger.