Violence is the choice of men who believe they are owed something by women, writes Shelina Janmohamed
Today too many men are migrating to the dark side
The man suspected of gunning down five people at the Capital Gazette newspaper in the United States was not a one-off. He follows in a long line of outraged men who see it as an appropriate response to go out and conduct mass shootings in response to their hatred of women.
The alleged perpetrator Jarrod Ramos had sent threatening letters to the paper saying he was on his way to “kill as many people” as he could. He had been angered when the paper had published news of his conviction for harassing a female classmate, which she described as a "year-long nightmare". Ramos was angry, angry that he couldn’t harass women, angry and vile at women. He’s not alone.
According to Mother Jones, of the 95 mass shootings carried out in the US between 1982 and 2017, 92 of the perpetrators were male. And according to FBI data on mass shootings, 54 per cent of them between 2009 and 2016 included a spouse, former spouse or other family member among the victims.
It’s not confined to America. The signs of rising hatred and violence against women are visible around the world. In India, figures from the National Crime Records Bureau suggest that the number of rapes against women has risen 12 per cent; against children it is up by eight per cent.
According to the UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions, the number of offences against women in 2015-2016 – including domestic abuse, rape and sexual assaults – rose by almost 10 per cent. And men are finding all sorts of new ways to terrorise women, like stalking, posting intimate images of women as revenge and a proliferation of imagery of women being raped or violently assaulted. The picture is similar around the world.
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None of this is arbitrary or random. Hand in hand with the rise of women’s rights movements is a rise in men's movements that are espousing huge amounts of anti-women hatred and violence.
It’s also no coincidence that traditionalist male leaders with "strongman" profiles are suddenly having a resurgence in popularity. They embody many of the chauvinistic behaviours which regard control – and even violence – against women as normal and even desirable. Just think Trump, Putin and Xi. After all, the man who occupies the position often described as "leader of the free world" says that it’s okay to grab women you know where. Their popularity is a response to women trying to rebalance society. And the hate and violence that proliferates under their watch is the vilest of rages, based on their perception that what is owed them is being denied, and they have every right to bad behaviour.
Many of them would class themselves under a growing new label of Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs), men who, for want of a better definition, wish an end to women demanding their rights. And want things for men to go back to how they used to be. In fact, it’s more than that, the problems that men face according to MRAs are directly caused by women.
In April this year, Alek Minassian brought the "Incel" movement to the world’s attention. He drove a van down a busy street in Toronto, Canada, and killed 10 people. Like other proponents of the Incel rebellion, he blamed his "involuntary celibate" status on women denying him his apparent right to intimacy. They owed him and his peers, and it was wrong that women denied them. Advocates of such movements suggest that women should be forced to marry men in order to restore men’s status and problems that they struggle with.
Such examples exist around the world. And the terrifying thing about the "alt-Right" which is home to such characters and these social movements is that it is hugely anti women and anti non-white. Nevertheless it holds appeal for all men including those of non-white backgrounds, who are prioritising their wounded maleness over their "othered" status, not mindful of the fact that these "alt-right" groups would destroy them in a heartbeat.
These men are the Darth Vader to women's rights activists' Luke Skywalker – they were once our fathers, brothers, and male peers but they have gone to the dark side. There’s nothing righteous about them. All they bring is death, destruction and hatred. Just ask all the women suffering.
Shelina Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and Generation M: Young Muslims Changing the World