news

Why do these people hate women so much?

Gretel Killeen

By GRETEL KILLEEN

Some days you notice lots of three legged dogs, some days you notice lots of men walking babies and some days, at the complete other end of the spectrum, you notice acts of hate and violence.

It took a couple of days actually. First I heard of a Chinese woman seeking justice against the men who raped her daughter, and the woman was sent instead to a labour camp.

Then I heard of families in India, telling their widowed elderly mothers they were taking them on a pilgrimage and instead abandoning them penniless hundreds of miles from home. I heard of an American teenager taking her own life after being sexually assaulted and photographed while drunk and the humiliating photos distributed in her school.

And I heard of Caroline Criado-Perez, a woman in England, bombarded with 50 violent and sexual tweet threats an hour  over a twenty four hour period. Her crime? Persuading the Bank of England to put a female face on the new £5 note.

Caroline Criado-Perez

I’m not unfamiliar with violence and hate against women. I’ve seen women in Bangladesh profoundly disfigured due to the throwing of acid by a jilted suitor. I’ve seen women in Iraq whose lives were considered to be less valuable than the family’s livestock, I’ve been to Zambia where sex with a female virgin has been considered to be a cure for AIDS. But this hatred doesn’t just exist in ‘other places’ and the bombardment of vicious tweets received by Criado-Pereez is  a reminder that this hatred can exist in our  western culture too.

I want to soften this column for you.  I want to tell you that it’s not a feminist rant. I don’t want to put you off by appearing to be on any high horse, because the fact of the matter is I don’t have any answers, I only have questions.

I am asking where does this hate come from? All men clearly do not feel this way. But some do, so how can these men, who are sons of women, wish such ill and misfortune upon women? Why are they so angry?

Many Australian females in the public eye have received such tweets, emails, Facebook messages and even phone calls, threatening to rape and or kill us, to maim or mutilate us. I know when it has happened to me I’ve been expected to cop it, to take it in my stride, to accept that this is one of the prices one pays for being in the public eye. But I can tell you it is not easy.

Yesterday activist Caitlin Roper tweeted this picture. It gives you an idea of the sort of hatred women receive online for expressing an opinion.

And while you know, or at least hope, that none of these threats will ever come to fruition, you cannot help but wonder who sent them. Was it that person over there, or that person over there, or that one or that one or that one?

ADVERTISEMENT

And no matter who sent it, why on earth did they do it?

It makes the recipient distrust, it makes you retreat. It makes you smaller and more timid and less adventurous. They stop you from reaching your potential and expressing who you really are, and you forget who that really is.

I guess maybe that’s why they send them.

In our Western Society one can assume these haters are a disenfranchised minority. But what is their goal? Does sending such a tweet make the sender feel good? If so, why?

In  a court of law what would the defence be? That he didn’t mean to cause harm. Then why did he send it in the first place? Because he was ‘only joking?’

Jason Pargin (alias David Wong) has referred to the 5 ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women. But the issue he cites as most important is that the sexual obsession men have for women makes men feel powerless.

‘This is really the heart of it,’ he writes ‘This is why no amount of male domination will ever be enough, why no level of control or privilege or female submission will ever satisfy us. We can put you under a burqa, we can force you out of the workplace – it won’t matter. You’re still all we think about, and that gives you power over us. And we resent you for it.’

Bizarrely this analysis makes sense to me. But it also frightens me  because it precludes the cessation of such behaviour .

So what can we do if this is true? We must do what we can to balance this concept. Of course we must do it in government and  in the board room but the rights of women are not just about equality. They’re about respect and recognition and the presentation of women as something other than a sexual object.

That’s why violent anti-female lyrics in pop songs do actually matter and should be stopped. That’s why sexually exploitative images, language or actions do matter. Because sure you may be using them, singing them, citing them in jest, but someone else may genuinely see this as validation for their hatred and cruelty.

I’ve received threats of all kinds, often for the most innocuous trifle; a dress I wore, an avant-garde hairdo. Perhaps in writing this I will cop it again, in fact this fear has constricted my expression. But if I am bombarded I hope the perpetrators are arrested for harassment or intimidation or intention to assault or perhaps the commitment of hate crimes because laws are there to protect us and we need protection. This current situation is not ok.

In her colourful career Gretel has been a best selling author, film director, TV host, journalist, voice artist, doco maker, radio host, public speaker, social commentator and stand up comic. Next she is thinking of becoming a neuro surgeon but in the meantime Gretel is writing a play about the lies of love. You can visit Gretel’s website here and follow her on Twitter here.

00:00 / ???