I’m sure I’m not the only one around these parts who finds some “violence against women” campaigners deeply annoying.
It’s an odd thing to confess to the uninitiated listener. Try telling someone who isn’t familiar with the world of men’s issues that you find people who campaign to stop violence against women annoying and they’ll look at you like you just said “I kill kittens”.
So, for fear of being labelled an “evil kitty killer” I’m going to explain exactly why I find some violence against women campaigners deeply annoying as if you’re completely new to the subject.
I was very kindly reminded of just how annoying I find some “violence against women” campaigners by a couple of twitterers who decided to shove their unwanted opinions up my twitter feed without my consent this week. I’ll share the exchange in a moment but first let’s get a few things straight for anyone who’s in any doubt about whether or not I kill kittens.
First things first, when I say I find some “violence against women” campaigners annoying, please note the very purposeful use of the word “some”. I don’t find them all annoying. I haven’t met them all and I am prepared to gamble that there are some that I wouldn’t find annoying at all.
However, from personal experience, I do find some of them deeply annoying.
Secondly, I’m not opposed to people working to end violence against women – I think ending violence against all people, including women, is a highly desirable objective. I’d love to live in a world free from violence and clearly we can’t reach that visionary end-goal without ending violence against women. So I’m not saying that campaigning to end violence against women – as an objective – is in any way wrong, bad or annoying.
Thirdly, I’m not even saying that some people who campaign against violence against women ARE annoying. You can’t objectively measure how annoying someone is, as the annoyance lives outside of them; it’s in other people’s subjective worlds. So I take full responsibility for the fact that my emotional response to some people who campaign to stop violence against women is the temporary and fleeting feeling of being annoyed.
It’s a bit like the experience you have when a fly buzzes in your ear – you experience a momentary feeling of annoyance – you may even try and swat the fly – and then the feeling of annoyance passes and you get on with your life. This may make you a fly swatter, but it certainly doesn’t make you a kitten killer.
So in summary, I’m all for ending violence against everyone (including women) and there are some people who campaign against violence against women whom I find annoying in the way that most people find a fly buzzing in their ear annoying and, for the avoidance of doubt, I’ve never killed a kitten in my life.
So why do I find people who have such a desirable objective annoying? It’s really simple if you look at it like this:
Imagine if someone set up a campaign to “end violence against kittens” and then insisted that the only way to stop this cruelty was for everyone to view the world from a Roman Catholic perspective, and to minimize and deny cruelty to any other cute animals, and in particular ignore or excuse any kind of violence committed by cats against other animals.
If you did pretend to be all about ending violence against kittens, but in reality you were on a mission to convert the world to Roman Catholicism, I think I’d find that a bit annoying, particularly if you argued against anyone else trying to approach the issue of violence against animals from a non Roman Catholic perspective.
And this is why I find some “violence against women” campaigners annoying: it’s because in reality, they seem to be more interested in pushing a feminist worldview in my face and arguing against people who would like to tackle violence in all its forms from a non-feminist perspective.
It’s my considered view that if we want to tackle violence, which is a problem as old as humanity, then it’s going to take lots of people from lots of different viewpoints to work together to do it. The act of religiously pushing your own personal viewpoint on others mirrors the forceful aggression of violence and so learning that there’s more than one way of looking at the world seems to me to be an essential lesson to learn for anyone committed to tackling violence.
Having said all that, I’d like to share with you how one “violence against women” campaigner forced his views on me via twitter this week.
It all started when I tweeted a link to an article by a man who co-founded a pro-feminist fatherhood think tank in the UK in the 1990s. His name is Jack O’Sullivan and he wrote a comment piece in The Guardian, a left-wing newspaper that probably references “patriarchy” and “misogyny” more than any other UK media outlet. What made this article worthy of retweeting is that it highlighted the problem with misandry and matriarchy, and so I sent this comment out into the twittersphere:
- Latest installment in the masculinity debate @guardian it’s all about matriarchy and misandry – great article –http://tinyurl.com/nja9zd4
What came back over the The Atlantic and across the social web was a tweet by a man called Jacob Oppenheimer who it turns out is the co-ordinator at something called The Men’s Anti-Violence Council (MAC). MAC is a is a volunteer group at the University of Iowa housed in the Women’s Resource and Action Center.
- i disagree. power paradox is a real experience for men but it’s from patriarchal concepts of power. Not matriarchal.
I didn’t know who Jacob was at this point but it was clear from his language that he was a pro-feminist and if he wasn’t going to consider a fellow pro-feminist’s writings about matriarchy and misandry, then I decided there was no point a non-feminist like me even trying to have a conversation with him. So I decided to reject his advances.
I tweeted back:
- I’m not interested in people who disagree with other men’s lived experiences of misandry and matriarchy thank you
If you don’t know, “lived experience” is a feminist concept that validates the subjective experience of those who belong to a minority or oppressed group – unless of course that subjective experience goes against the party line. So if I say for example that as a member of a minority group in conversations about violence against women my subjective “lived experienced” is one of being suffocated by ideology and hated as a man and as an advocate for men, that “lived experience” wouldn’t be validated, it would be denied and argued against. As such, it’s not a phrase I generally use unless I’m challenging a feminist thinker to treat men equally and validate men’s subjective experience of inequality, unfairness, discrimination and oppression.
At this stage in the conversation another man called Robert Fuller, an atheist campaigner from Omaha tweeting as @aparticularA, joined in, saying:
- At best, you had an experience not typical of trend. More likely you’ve severely misjudged reality.
Which was kind of amusing because Robert was himself misjudging reality as I hadn’t said anything about my own experience, just shared someone else’s article. I tend not to bother sharing stuff with people who don’t validate men’s personal experience if it contradicts their gender politics, it’s one of the reasons “men don’t talk.” So I tweeted back:
- it’s written by co-founder of pro-fem thinktank. u know his lived experience better than he does?
To which Robert responded:
- If he thinks matriarchy is a real problem, then yeah, I know better than he.
And Jacob backed him up saying:
- Agreed w @aparticularA, @HelpingMen I’m sorry you & author had bad exp with wmn, but we may have to agre to dsgre about def of oppression……..further, systemic oppression and privilege exists whether you experience them or not.
Which again was very bizarre as I hadn’t said anything about women, systemic oppression or privilege. So having spent no time finding out about my supposedly all-important “lived experience,” Jacob the “violence against women” campaigner was now telling me what my “lived experience” was.
Again, as this was a man who clearly wasn’t interesting in listening to the experiences of other men he didn’t agree with, but desperately wanted to be heard, I gave him the opportunity to consider why his viewpoint wasn’t getting through to me, saying:
- Who should I listen to. An expert who set up a Fatherhood Think Tank or 2 twitter trolls. Gee, tough decision!
Robert came back with:
- Anyone can found something and call it a ‘think tank'”
…a comment which comes straight from the “you smell” school of intelligent debate, while Jacob did that weird thing when people pretend to apologize but aren’t actually saying sorry for something that they’ve said or done, but are in fact telling you that they’re upset about something that you’ve done. He said:
- I’m sorry you think Im a troll.
There it is. Watch out for that little linguistic trick if you’re ever caught in an argument with someone who’s pretending to be reasonable but in fact telling you that your opinion is completely invalid and you are 100% wrong. He wasn’t sorry for being a troll or reflecting on his behaviour and acknowledging how I had the experience of being trolled by him, no he was personally upset by my assessment of his behaviour. I continued:
- I think #healthymasculinities convos have multpl POVs that are liberatory 4 all….. I have seen too many men attack other men for talking about their own #masculinities as well to not speak out
Now personally, as nobody would dare say that conversations about “healthy femininities” or “healthy homosexualities” or “healthy blacknesses” were “liberatory” for women, gay people and black people—I personally find the idea of “healthy masculinities” conversations facilitated by pro-feminists with a political agenda to be oppressive and discriminatory. So I simply said:
- This isn’t a conversation it’s u pushing ideology & invalidating other men’s personal experiences. Go away
At which point, having thrust his unwanted views into my twitter feed, Jacob turned himself into a victim and me into a perpetrator, with this tweet:
- Again, we shall agree to disagree. Our goals of @healthymasculinities are similar but I refused to be bullied…..
Wow, so now Jacob’s “lived experience” is that I am a big, mean, kitten killing perpetrator who is bullying him and he’s the plucky survivor who is refusing to be oppressed by my bullying behaviour. So I turned the tables and decided that in my “lived experience” it was me who was the poor victim and Jacob the evil perpetrator, saying:
- Go away you are forcing your opinion on me and it’s not wanted – no means no Jacob – STOP!
And then Rupert concluded the exchange with three magical words of twitter gold:
- Boo Fucking Hoo.
While none of this pointless exchange is worth taking seriously it does reveal something: Jacob runs an organisation that claims to promote healthy masculinity and appropriate male behaviour with the aim of preventing violence. And yet Jacob wasn’t interested to find out if I was beaten by an auntie or sexually abused by a female teacher or falsely accused by a girlfriend or emotionally abused by a female partner or institutionally abused by the sexist system of family law.
He had no interest in my “lived experience” and sought only to force his ideological viewpoint on me, invalidate the experience of other men, make up stories about my own experience and label me a perpetrator.
I didn’t invite Jacob to enter into dialogue as from his opening salvo he didn’t seem to be ready to have an adult conversation with me. When he is ready, I’d ask if he’d like to talk about ways to end violence against men, women (and kittens) by allowing space for people of lots of different perspectives to work towards the common goal of ending violence, without us all having to convert to feminism in the process.
What I find annoying about some people who say they are campaigning to end violence against women is that whenever I enter their world I am in a minority as a non-feminist thinker and my “lived experience” as they say, as a member of a minority group that dares to think differently, is one of being oppressed and opposed by people who say they are all about ending violence when in reality it seems, they’re more concerned with converting people to feminist thinking.
I find this behaviour deeply annoying, this is my “lived experience” and saying so doesn’t make me a kitten killer.