The Kavanaugh hearings and the #MeToo movement have revealed one depressing fact about the world: that no matter how terrible the abuse suffered, someone will always prioritise a man’s career over the trauma suffered by a victim. When women speak out, the response is: “What about men?” The question should be: “Why is the career of a sexual assaulter more important than the victim’s trauma?”
Here’s the thing: women speak out for change because we have real concerns that should be addressed. The issues that we speak out against exist already. Potential male suffering in the future – a ‘problem’ concocted from a long string of events that may not even happen – does not outweigh the tangible, current concerns of women.
Men reframe the debates around women’s issues. They encourage us to think of the men whose lives are ‘ruined’ by #MeToo or sexual assault allegations. Allegations are just words, we’re told. But the substance behind the allegations is not just words. The substance behind many of the allegations is the kind of abuse that people deserve to have their careers destroyed for. In comparison to a lifetime of trauma, an abrupt end to a career does not seem like a high price to pay.
When someone calls for the gender pay gap or employment bias to be eliminated through an effective process (like, I don’t know, actual regulation), someone suggests that giving women equal opportunities in the workplace will disadvantage men. That deserving (male) candidates will lose out if workplaces promote women. By redirecting the focus of the conversation onto this hypothetical, discriminated-against man, the deserving women who are suffering under the effects of the current system are forgotten or ignored.
In the conversation about making menstrual products affordable, men argue that items they use should also be funded. They bring up condoms and toilet paper. But condoms are already funded. Toilet paper doesn’t drive people into poverty with its prohibitive prices. These male needs are used to show that women’s concerns are simply human concerns and we are no more deserving of funding than anyone else. Period poverty becomes a sub-issue despite the real problems it raises for women.
The male contraceptive pill debacle exemplifies the problem. When women suffer side effects from the contraceptive pill – and we have, since the 1960s – our concerns are brushed aside in favour of the benefits that contraception has brought us. Those same concerns were given enough weight to stop a medical trial when men complained of them.
These conversations centre on real and current concerns of women. Men should not have the dominant voice. Why are the effects on them prioritised over women’s calls for change?
Women aim for progress; men say “that might hurt us”. That’s the end of the conversation. Men get to veto women’s concerns by raising their own, hypothetical concerns about the outcomes of achieving equality for women. They think, “If women are no longer unfairly disadvantaged, won’t that remove my unfair advantage?” Yes. That’s the whole point.
Conversations about issues that affect women shouldn’t be redirected by men to centre on their concerns. That’s a centuries-old tradition that has caused endless harm. Women’s voices should be prioritised in conversations about women’s issues. Listen to women.Support Villainesse