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Miriam Lord: Between the headline atrocities men seem to quickly forget all that women said

We need to stop the ‘entry-level’ aggression in order to save women’s lives

So here’s another column to add to the countless columns usually commissioned by men to be written by women after a man has violently murdered a woman. Another entry in the parade of never-ending explainers to men about why women co-exist with the fear of what one of their number might do to them.

How many times do women have to spell out the reality of keys splayed between fingers and ears attuned to footsteps? Why must they put up with the cocky battalions of somebody’s little darlings who refuse to take no for an answer? Why is it still necessary to recount frightening stories of narrow escapes and unsettling encounters with sleazy space invaders?

Does it really have to be explained why women get so annoyed by this #notallmen thing? Apparently it does as it can be really confusing when everyone knows that it’s only a tiny number of men who murder and rape women and, quite frankly, it’s a bit hurtful to all the other chaps when the ladies appear to insinuate otherwise.

So yes, another column might clear things up and, who knows, maybe a few souls from the hurt ranks of the Decent but Oblivious will suddenly twig and utter those illuminating words: “I never realised.”


Although surely there can’t be too many of them left at this stage?

In Friday’s Irish Times, psychology professor Orla Muldoon wrote: “Disproportionately, year on year, the pattern is clear nationally and internationally. Men kill women, men assault women, men harass women. Not all men, not even many men. But it is nearly always men, not women, who kill women.”

She continued: “Men who perpetrate life-threatening violence against women tend to build up to this point of their criminal careers. Perpetrators usually start with jeering, street harassment, exposure, groping. Yet we rarely intervene when men perpetrate entry-level violence.”

Prof Muldoon may have been stating the bleeding (and bruised and abused and jeered and hit upon) truth but try, for example, telling that to the highly indignant men infesting the comment section under her piece.

How dare that woman pen such an insulting portrait of the perennially put-upon male species? But while they might feel like society’s punchbag, they aren’t the ones absorbing the blows.

‘Entry-level’ harassment

"Entry-level" seems such an innocuous description. Since the murder of Ashling Murphy this week the media is swamped with accounts of these "entry-level" incidents of harassment and abuse which women routinely endure.

This more general airing of a noxious reality happens when something comes along like the MeToo movement or the shocking killing in broad daylight of a young teacher out jogging in a midlands town. She was running along a path named in memory of Fiona Pender, the young Offaly women who disappeared without trace in 1996. Her name is on the family grave in a cemetery a few miles away from where Ashling met her death.

Responsibility for these atrocities does not lie with all men. Women do not hold that view, no matter how many men might insist otherwise. In their perceived victimhood it probably makes it easier to ignore the truth of what women have actually been saying about men over the past few days.

It’s nothing they haven’t said many times before and it feeds into Prof Muldoon’s point about “entry-level” transgressions.

They happen all the time.

Take for instance the Belfast Rape trial. The defendants were acquitted, but evidence of the disgusting way they spoke about women remains on the record. It sparked many discussions at the time because the tone and content of their laddish exchanges was not exactly unprecedented.

Women recognise the forced laughter and the thin-lipped smiles when the lads are having the banter around the table at lunchtime. They inwardly cringe when a male friend or colleague begins a sentence with a knowing smirk and “I probably shouldn’t be saying this with you here but…”

But hey, they don’t mean anything by it. “I have daughters of my own.”

Pained reactions

We think of the defensive and pained reactions of men we love and respect as they refuse to accept that cosseted young sportsmen might behave with obnoxious entitlement around young women and then lash out verbally when rebuffed. How they can’t completely disguise their irritation when the stories keep coming.

Foul-mouthed young lads speeding around on electric bikes shouting abuse and intimidating young girls. Male friends boasting about a colleague’s sexual conquests in female company. Some men, so they were, in their day. Legends.

And then they get married and have children and confess to having doubts about repealing the Eighth.

And there’s the young women who tell grizzled colleagues that things are different now. It’s all equal these days. It’s different now. Some of us are old enough to recall many of the same young women 10 years later, plonking themselves down at the same table, cynical and beaten down as the plum jobs go to the boys.

But let us not hurt the feelings of all the good men. Let us think of the hurt feelings and bruised sensitivities of the men. They aren’t murderers or rapists or serial abusers who beat up women.

It’s just that between the headline atrocities they quickly forget all that stuff that women said.

I’m tired of all this. Too tired to be properly furious. We have said all there is to say.

The professor knows the score.

Quit tolerating all the little “entry-level” stuff. The “micro-aggressions” as the experts call it.

It’s quite simple, what Orla Muldoon and all the other women are saying.

Join the dots, fellas. Help women win this battle.

If you’re finding it hard to see, do it by the candlelight from the hundreds of vigils for Ashling.