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Pete Lawrence - 17 Oct 2017
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Patriarchy has had its day. I'm a great believer in the rising up of matriarchy as a much-needed phase of evolution across society.

I’m asking questions here rather than offering opinion but I am slightly perplexed that the #MeToo postings currently doing the rounds on social media appear to be not just about those who have suffered abuse as vulnerable people.

Much as the multitude of posts (it seems as if almost everyone has suffered) had offered an opportunity for the abused to come out, they have led to heated debate about who has the right to post.

It’s also unfortunate that I’m reading multiple examples of people falling out when surely we all want widespread change and a waking up to the fact that patriarchy has had its day. Whatver it does in the long-term, it has already changed attitudes. It might just prove to be a watershed moment.

The admission that I made on my own Facebook wall was seen on another friends wall with an invitation to copy and paste. It read "#Metoo.'If all the women and men who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote "Me too." as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.
Copy and paste.” At the time I'd been in denial from regular news over the last week or so, traveling mainland Greece, so wasnt aware of any wider context or campaign until I started looking around Facebook yesterday.

My motive was that all people who had been abused were seemingly being offered an opportunity to come out and admit their own past. Immediately for me this felt cathartic, healing and that I had found a voice after many years of shame and denial, even in the simple act of admitting publicly that I’d been a victim from the age of 6.

There is another agenda at work that seems - unless I’m mistaken - to be about excluding men from involvement in the discussion unless it is about them admitting they have been abusers. Many, but not all, men clearly need re-education, there is little dispute over that.

But exclusion? My thread has had some interesting comments but one of the first was from a female friend who told me "This isn't about men. Sorry."

Whilst not disputing that men are without doubt in the majority in terms of being perpetrators of assaults on others, mainly women I would guess with certainty, surely this campaign needs to look at becoming universal. It is interesting how it is being interpreted, especially in that it has to be so gender specific for some, but not others. We have to be mindful of all interpretations - even ones that say that we as men may be hi-jacking a campaign that we're not meant to be part of. 

I copied and pasted the post on my own wall when I saw it as it was very resonant in so many ways. I had to think long and hard before doing it. This experience and discussion has, in itself, been interesting, and men's recitance to come forward is palpable, one example being when someone else said on Facebook "I've been very tempted to make this point, but the focus is so very much on women being the victims at the moment, I didn't want to appear like I was trying to distract anyone from the matter at hand.” and this has been followed today but private messages to me from men who have been abused but don’t feel they can speak out. 

There's no doubt that the huge amount of misogyny that still exists needs to dealt with urgently and raising awareness in this way is a potent way to give people a voice when they often feel disengaged and powerless. But if the matter at hand is about women being the victims rather than all vulnerable people being victims, it's a different - but related - issue.

Does the inclusion of all sufferers automatically mean a hi-jacking of attention being directed towards women sufferers? If so, how should gay victims and young male victims deal with their own history and demons? Should it be included or take place in a separate space? 

There is a strong argument that the matter in hand reflects all perpetrators and victims and makes attempts to include all. Another friend summed it up neatly "Sexual assault is about perceived power whoever is the perpetrator and whoever it's the victim. These are not mutually exclusive, in my experience."

Here’s another viewpoint from author Sian Matin, quoted on another friend’s wall

"I want to make the point, that many, many men are harassed and abused by women. I know several men who remain disturbed by the fact that their first sexual experience, at a very young age, was at the hands of a predatory friend of their mother. It was not consenting, but their consent was assumed, they were male. 

I know many men, who were physically and sexually bullied by girls at school and at clubs. In children's homes. Interfered with repeatedly, against their wishes at primary school age. It wasn't taken seriously, they couldn't be unsafe, they were male. 

I still see, in my industry, women in power objectifying young men. Touching them, squeezing them, making utterly demeaning comments. "You're a big one". The men aren't allowed to protest, they have to laugh along as expected, because they're male.

Cleaning house means keeping our own side of the road clean too. When these men complained to their mothers or teachers they frequently weren't believed, or were belittled. The guys I've seen it happen to recently, just don't know what to say: they're embarrassed.

The reasons they aren't believed or taken seriously are the same reasons women aren't believed or taken seriously. A patriarchal system doesn't allow for males to be abused. That can't exist, so it's ignored. It's as pervasive a belief as that women want to be abused.I just want that truth out there, because it may not be as common, (or maybe it is, how would I know?) but it is a fact. And it is damaging. Those men don't skip away with inflated egos. It crushes them. Maybe it comes back to haunt us.
This is about the patriarchy. This is what it makes us do to each other. It's destroying us all
.” 

But is this all about patriarchy? Or does it nearly always go back to power-based abuse over the vulnerable? Whatever it is, many men need to own up and wise up. 

Equally, when I was stripped and beaten at school as an eight year old by the matron, was it because of men ruling society? Had she been cajoled into adopting male traits in order to accomplish her chosen method of retribution? Was it revenge on males? Or was she just a sadist operating in an era when harsh school discipline was the order of the day?  Whatever the motives, I felt powerless as an eight year old, too ashamed to bring it up with parents or friends.

Now, as a 60 year old this month still attempting to process the long-term effects of the things that happened to me back then and feeling that I had an opportunity to ‘come out’ and be open in admitting this happened to me, I was immediately shut down by the simple comment. 

I’m still processing how that gesture to take away my voice and make me feel guilty for speaking up makes me feel. Maybe I shouldn’t have spoken up? Maybe I should have carried the burden for longer. 

For the record, I'm a great believer in the rising up of matriarchy as a much-needed phase of evolution across society. 

As Ally Fogg says in his Freethought blog today “If I can urge you to take one thought away from this conversation it is this. We live in a culture riven with social, political and economic exploitation. Our lives and experiences are intertwined and interdependent. Suppose for a hypothetical moment your only concern is with boys and men being abused, assaulted and exploited, whether by other men or by women. You will never address that or mitigate that for as long as women and girls are being abused, assaulted and exploited in turn, because the culture that allows men and boys to be abused is the precise same culture that allows (or expects) this to happen to women. If you make efforts  – any efforts – to prevent exploitation and abuse of anyone you will, even incidentally, help prevent exploitation and abuse of everyone.

The flipside of this is that by challenging sexual harassment and abuse, whether of women by men or any other combination, whether in Beverley Hills or in Sunderland, the women speaking out today are doing a huge favour to the men who also need our help.”

Here’s to open discussion and an opportunity for all to bury ghosts from the past, exorcise demons and move on. Meanwhile the healing has only just begun.

2 Comments

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Ralph Pettingill

Thanks @Pete Lawrence . I was taken aback by the response to my own similar posting on FB; It lead to me taking a step back, wondering whether Facebook is at all useful for meaningful conversation- I can't really tell whether it is. I think we all have important things to say on all of the ways that we have been hurt. I'm pleased that we're having this discussion; what's essential is that we have a supportive, thoughtful forum for doing so- big feelings and hurts need considerate handling-that's how we understand, that's how we heal and make sense of our experience. I think Campfire is one place where we just might be able to achieve this.

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Pete Lawrence

Yes, I'm still processing the reactions and many other disagreements I've since read on Facebook about how these issues are framed and who is welcome to the discussion and who is not, @Ralph Pettingill. I've also received a lot of private support from men, some of whom feel unable to speak about their own experiences and haven't been encouraged to at all by some of the responses they have seen. I now regret not researching the background of the campaign a little more to see where it started and what its aims were. One to reflect on..

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