Anthea McTeirnan: A feminist does not desire or seek to alienate men

Yet if men are serious about stopping other men beating, raping and killing women they must speak out

 

I was sitting in a room in Dublin’s City Hall on Wednesday waiting for the Minister for Justice to arrive for the launch of the annual Women’s Aid report.

The top table was bereft of the customary token man, attending by virtue of his lofty Government office. Ireland’s current Minister for Justice and Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald may have a fluid name, but she definitely presents as a woman.

That left Garda Colm Heaney from Coolock Garda station as the only man in the packed room.

He was the only man there to hear that the organisation, which deals with the terrible aftermath of domestic violence against women and children, received 12,041 calls to its 24-hour helpline last year.

He was the only man in the room listening as Women’s Aid presented the results of 20 years of its Female Homicide Watch. He was the only man in the room to hear that of the 211 women killed in this State since 1996, 99 per cent were killed by men.

Bloody hell, I thought, men are dangerous beasts. Not all men, of course; #NotAllMen, , as the feminist internet meme originally intended to counter generalisations about men, but which appears to have mutated into an irritant for some men, goes.

Garda Heaney was there to offer a glimmer of hope that even though 55 per cent of women were killed by their partners or ex-partners during the past 20 years, not all men are actually murderers.

He held out his hand to terrified women, who are being beaten and abused, that help is out there. “We might not get to you straight away, but we will get to you and we will help you. We are there 24/7. Ring 999 and the Garda will come,” Heaney said.

Most of those gardai will be men. #NotAllMen are horrible, angry, violent control freaks, I thought.

Then, as I sipped my coffee in smug feminist revelry at still being alive, I flicked through irishtimes.com and read an opinion piece about the tricky business of #somewomen taking on #somemen on Twitter (or wherever it is the feminist “orthodoxy” - as the article called it - gathers these days).

The piece argued that feminism might advance its cause better by trying win men over rather than alienate them.

I looked around the room and, with the exception of one admirable garda, no men were there at all. Yet if men are serious about stopping other men beating, raping and killing women, surely they must speak out and join in the struggle for gender equality.

How deliciously ironic that it was being argued that some women, #notallwomen, naturally, just feminist women, are silencing men.

The article annoyed me, but hey ho, I thought, there was no point lavishing this retro take on gender power relations with the oxygen of any publicity. It was not the first time that I had encountered such opinions after all.

Anyway, I thought, rather than reading my “sarcastic” feminist riposte, the author would be better served using his valuable reading time to flick through a bit of Susan Brownmiller.

In her 1975 book Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, Brownmiller argued that rape has been defined by men rather than women, and that all men benefit from the use of rape by keeping all women in a state of fear.

Susan along with myself and all those other Reclaim-the-Night marchers thought we had won that argument long ago. Men have the power. Men should use it for good not evil. QED.

A feminist does not desire or seek to alienate men. But anyone who argues that feminism might advance its cause better by trying win men over rather than alienate them is shifting responsibility for dealing with the unconscionable things some men do onto women.

Any man who needs handling with kid gloves when he discovers that we live in a world where a significant number of men kill and rape a significant number of women and transgender people year in, year out, should get off the pitch. We are going to be playing too rough for you. Why? Because the result matters.

Ask Garda Heaney. This result matters.

Anthea McTeirnan is an Irish Times journalist

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