If you’re upset because I do a SheCycles series of posts, but not a HeCycles series, we need to talk. Sexism remains a common element in the world, and in the UK, women are on average paid just over 80% the wages men receive for the same job.
As the Sarah Everard tragedy showed, and as countless similar incidents – most which never make the news – quite clearly show, women often aren’t physically safe. The facts on the Refuge site are terrifying, and if you’re not deeply disturbed by them, then I don’t think we’ll get along. While you’re at it, go support Refuge, in whatever way is possible for you to do, as they do amazing work.
But first, we need to do a basic lesson in language, so please bear with me here. The sentence “The man is hungry” is simple, and factual. It tells us that one particular man is hungry, and doesn’t for a moment claim all men are hungry.
The sentence “Some men are hungry” is also simple and factual, and tells us that a number of men, but certainly not all men, are hungry. Easy enough so far, right?
Now, let’s look at the next sentence “Two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales alone“. I’m sure you’ll agree with a number of points here, starting with the fact that the sentence doesn’t say all men will kill their partners (so there should be no need for most men reading it to get defensive), and also the fact that these are terrifyingly high figures. Oh, and these figures are only for domestic abuse. Women also get killed by men who are complete strangers to them.
There’s an old saying of “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression”, and the simple fact of the matter is that, if you’re a man, you’re accustomed to privilege. Here’s the point where you start telling me how you’ve worked hard to get where you are in life, you’ve never hit a woman, and similar things. They may all be true, but you’re still accustomed to privilege.
You see, you and I aren’t in a habit of letting our friends know we’ve safely made it home, after visiting them and walking the two or three blocks home at night. Women do that all the time. You and I think nothing of going for a long solo bike ride at night. Many women would love to, but are justifiably too worried about being attacked.
No, writing a blog post like this won’t stop sexism, and I’m very much aware of that. Having said that, if we as men, work together, educating other men, at least we should be able to reduce rampant sexism somewhat.
Men, go ask the women in your lives about how they operate, often subconsciously, on a daily basis. Ask them about trying to ensure they know where the exists are, and about trying to position themselves so a man they don’t trust isn’t between them and the exit. Ask them how they feel when walking though a seemingly deserted multi-storey car park, and they hear a sound. Ask them how closely they guard their drinks when on a night out. Ask them about crossing the road because they saw a man up ahead on the same side, and especially ask them about the fear they feel if that man, having seen them cross the road, does the same.
As you’re reading my blog, it’s likely that you’re a cyclist, too, so let me explain this in cycling terms. When riding on the road, we often ride in the middle of the lane, also called primary position. This is to help avoid dangerously close overtakes from bad drivers.
Not all drivers are dangerously incompetent, but when out cycling, you have no way of knowing which driver might kill you, and which driver will give you a safe, wide overtake. As a result, you’re forced to adopt a defensive riding style that treats all drivers as if they’re murderously incompetent, purely because you cannot possibly know in advance which drivers you can trust.
Men are to women like drivers are to cyclists. We all know it’s not all men, but if you start with “Not all men!”, you’re detracting from the main issue. From the reality that women have to treat all men as if they’re potential rapists and murderers, simply because they have no way of knowing in advance which men they can trust.
This isn’t an attack on men, but rather a reality check on what women have to deal with daily.
When we live in a society where women aren’t treated like this by men, I’ll stop doing SheCycles posts, or perhaps start doing HeCycles posts. Until then, there will be no HeCycles posts, as men are still getting most of the attention.
This isn’t reverse sexism, but simply a tiny attempt at creating a more balanced world.