My post today is inspired by an article in the Verne section of El país, which offers a summary of the messages that many Spanish women have sent to Twitter in reaction to the hashtag #comomujermehapasado (more or less: ‘as a woman I have gone through that’) (see https://verne.elpais.com/verne/2017/04/13/articulo/1492088562_028524.html). I find that whenever a piece of news that decries misogyny is published in the Spanish press, the readers’ comments offer an appalling stream of anti-feminist abuse. I believe, then, that in this specific case and also generally, the real situation of gender issues in this country is reflected not by the article, or even by the women’s tweets, but by the negative comments written by male readers (either anonymously or using their own name).
This specific piece inspired 446 contributions (apart from the many, perhaps 50, erased by the moderator), which amount to a much, much longer text than the article itself. Actually, the persons contributing to the discussion were few, perhaps around 20 and, of course, it’s difficult to say if any of them were women because of the nicknames (I would say 2 were women). Here, in any case, I highlight a particularly recurring trend: many comments by male readers express complaints about the negative situations that men face; this is done not at all in solidarity with women but arguing that women should not complain because men do not complain.
Let me rephrase this. Many men feel that they face unfair situations yet, instead of exposing these situations–as they should–they reject women’s exposure of their own abuse (by men). I keep silent, you keep silent. This seems to be their motto. I don’t whine, you don’t whine–yet they do whine. The men’s attitude is summarized by the words of one ‘Julito Iglesias’: “hay montones de situaciones injustas que afectan a los hombres y ellas aquí llorando??” The other most common feeling is expressed by ‘horton’: “Adoctrinamiento diario de las femis. Coñazo diario. Nada nuevo” and “Las femis ya no saben qué inventar para sacar mas (sic) tajada y aumentar su ya millonario negociazo”. Incidentally, the word ‘hembrista’ appears quite frequently in the comments. According to this ideology, a reader explains, men who wish, for example, to access public bodies such as the police or the fire fighters need to possess higher physical qualifications than women. That is, life is made more demanding for men than for women because ‘hembrista’ women want it so.
I think that rather than quote verbatim the many comments, and since you may read them for yourself, I’ll just sum up the most often repeated arguments. These are also common to many similar articles I have read in the same newspaper:
*there is also a long list of clichés about men (about which men do not complain)
*women also abuse men verbally all the time (men put up with this with no complaint)
*women may not abuse men physically, but the psychological violence they cause is even more harmful than the physical violence by men; women’s violence, however, is not visible because the media silence it (also the ‘femis’ allied with the Government)
*(contradicting the above), women also use physical violence against men; men do not complain out of prudence, or because they are mocked (by women, also by other men)
*the statistics indicate that at least 29 men were killed in 2013 by their female partners or ex-partners (see https://www.buzzfeed.com/beatrizserranomolina/no-existen-los-30-hombres-asesinados-por-mujeres?utm_term=.feJ5QNgN5#.oiowY6l6w)
*men put up with many daily inconveniences, such as dress codes requiring suit and tie for the office even in summer (when women may wear light dresses)
*men often have to put up with women’s criticism about the following: they don’t know how to handle babies, can’t do two things at the same time, lack a fashion sense, are always thinking about sex, obsess about the size of their penis, are all of them violent…
*when men did the military service, women simply went on with their lives; in other instances in which men are unfairly treated, women keep silent
*men complain that if they report inequalities against them, then they are insulted (called ‘marichulo’) both by women and by men
*men are discriminated against in cases of divorce and hardly ever granted custody of their children, either individually or jointly
*many women who report couple-related violence to the police lie (see https://politica.elpais.com/politica/2016/03/17/actualidad/1458206253_890573.html)
*all persons receive negative comments and those which women receive are not part of generalized sexism, but just individual occurrences
*gender-specific violence does not exist: violence is a fact of life for both men and women
*the pay gap is a myth: women earn less money because a) they choose jobs with lower financial rewards; b) they are not as good as men at negotiating their salaries for top positions
*the tweets in answer to the hashtag #comomujermehapasado are quite trivial and only show that misogyny is decreasing; many men face similar situations but do not complain precisely because they are banal
The underlying supposition is this: the institutions favour ‘hembrismo’, facilitating the imposition of a radically androphobic feminist culture and legislation. Feminists are part of a powerful circle that benefits greatly from the Government budget, both collectively and personally. Any complaint by men is either silenced with abuse, or treated as politically incorrect–which is why men do not express their own suffering, as they see no point. Women have all the power, since “Tiran más dos tetas que una carreta, y eso la mujer lo aprende desde joven. Lo demás es tonteria. Ellas mandan” (this is a verbatim quotation in the same article, appeared, remember in El país).
If this lengthy exchange happened, this is because there were at least two dissident men. One, a teacher, intervened again and again, telling at one point one of the contributors: “¿No te da pena? ¿Hay un montón de situaciones injustas que afectan las mujeres y tú solo te miras tu ombligo? Además de machista egocéntrico (perdón, que va incluido)”. Another one writes: “Tengo dos hijas y quiero mucho a mi mujer, a los hombres que se ríen aquí ¿de verdad pensáis que, aún, no existe desigualdad y prepotencia de nosotros a ellas? No creo que lo vuestro sea sólo machismo, es egoísmo”. I need not add anything to these men’s words. Let me insist, however, that they are the only dissenting voices in a string of misogynistic comments published by the leading liberal newspaper in Spain. If readers of El país are so recalcitrant, I really wonder what the rest are like. (See my previous post “Of men and grassroots reality”, https://blogs.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/2016/03/28/of-men-masculinities-studies-and-the-grassroots-reality/).
Clearly, misogynistic men cannot be addressed with rational arguments, as to begin with they are already convinced of their positions. Of course, they will reply that so are we, the feminazis. There is, then, very little hope that we can understand each other. It seems to me, then, that we, feminist women, need to support above all the men who are willing to speak for us, like the two I have quoted above. Not instead of us, mind you, but for us–as true gentlemen, the kind of men we need in the anti-patriarchal fight. And I really mean it.
Beyond the issue of the responsibility that liberal pro-feminist media like El país bear in granting a space for misogynistic trolling to these readers, which is not really a minor issue, we need to wonder why recalcitrant men are locked in this no-win situation. If, as men, you are suffering and need to express your grievances, by all means go ahead. If a woman is ill-treating you, the way to make this situation visible publicly is not by declaring “I’m also a victim of abuse but I don’t complain”. The way to go is to say “I’m also a victim of abuse; if we join forces, then we can hopefully liberate all personal relationships from violence”. If, however, a man begins by denying that gender-related violence exists, how can he expect to be heeded as a victim? If you deny someone else’s suffering, you’re complicit with the perpetrator.
I agree 100% that all situations of abuse are caused by a power imbalance. Since power is mainly in men’s hands (not all men’s hands, I know), they appear to be the main perpetrators of violence. The women who abuse their power within the couple, their family, their work environment, etc., also commit unpardonable offences. What is totally unfair is to disregard reality and claim that the amount of abuse committed by men and women is the same. Supposing the gender gap does not exist, and this is a lot to suppose, the reality is that women are abused collectively by Governments that deny their citizens’ rights and individually by patriarchal men who think that female bodies are objects for their pleasure–just because they are women.
The point I’m raising is that we are not moving forward because for us, women, to sympathise with men’s patriarchal grievances, ours have to be acknowledged first. The “I don’t whine, you don’t whine discourse” leads nowhere. Well, it leads to the pages of El país… Deep sigh.
Misogynistic and androphobic bitterness often has personal reasons. I don’t mean by this that it’s purely an individual matter. However, feminism taught us long ago that the personal is political and there is no doubt that radical feminism and misogyny also reflect personal experience. The man who declares that he loves his wife and daughters (and if he does that, this is because he is loved back) is not misogynistic. One of the most recalcitrant male readers ends up commenting on his difficult separation from his wife. Many opinions are based on personal experience at work, as well.
Am I saying that we should put up with misogyny and androphobia for the sake of inter-gender peace? Not at all. What I am saying is that each of us is both an individual and a representative of our gender (sorry to use basic binarism here). If you crack a joke at women’s expense, expect women to retaliate–and the other way round. Etc., etc. Some men will be misogynistic no matter what women do, and some women think that men are collectively despicable no matter what they actually do. But let’s aim at the rest, who happen to be the majority.
The silent majority that leaves no opinions in El país, because, as one reader concludes, “the better I know people, the more I prefer the company of fish”. Me too.
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