I spent most of yesterday with my head down the toilet. Working in a germ factory, as I do, has the fabulous perk of making you vomit yourself inside out, every now and then. Yay. But given that all I've had the energy for in the last 36 hours or so has been staring at my phone, I've been doing a lot of Internet stuff; reading threads on Facebook that I might usually have scrolled past, searching hashtags on Twitter, just for something to do, that sort of thing. And I'm here to tell you it had a very profound effect on me.
It made me mad.
In fact, it made me furious.
You see, one of the hashtags I caught up with on Twitter, was for International Women's Day, which took place on Friday. And there, amongst the genuinely touching tweets from women supporting one another and from men speaking up about equality (special shout out to Richard Herring, who raises money for Refuge each year on IWD, and who responds to countless guys moaning about there not being an International Men's Day - there is, it's November 19th), the inevitable happened.
Firstly, I stumbled upon a dude who, reading between the lines of his multiple rage-filled tweets, has recently been forced to pay child support. How could I guess such a thing? Because he had gone on an epic rant on the hashtag, claiming that all women were "bitches" who "get pregnant deliberately because they just want your cash."
Because, dear reader, only a woman is capable of making a baby happen. The man in the situation has nothing to do with it.
Then came the "jokes." You know, the ones which might be funny if it was 1956. Or if there weren't still plenty of people who seriously hold these opinions in twenty freaking nineteen:
"I guess I'll allow women one day out of the kitchen, then. As long as the wife is back to getting my dinner on the table, tomorrow."
"International Women's Day seems to be making women angry. They must all be on their period."
Meanwhile, over in Turkey, police were busy tear-gassing women who had gathered to march for women's rights. For the past 17 years, women have marched the same route on International Women's Day, but that didn't stop police from unleashing a hail of rubber bullets on participants, even whilst the Turkish President made a speech, claiming to be "on the side of women."
If women marching for equality, only to met with tear-gas and rubber bullets, isn't a striking piece of evidence that International Women's Day is still needed, I don't know what is.
And then came the men who genuinely see women as subservient to them and, for reasons best known to themselves, felt the need to use International Women's Day as a platform for their genuinely gross views:
"I hope all women learn a lesson. Never leave a pub without a guy. We give you a safe drive home, you give us sex in return. This is what happens when women think they can do things on their own and be independent."
"Women's movements are always about putting down men. Well if women were really so woke, they wouldn't wait years to report their sexual assaults, or talk about it on any platform other than to the police."
"Sexist bullshit. Hope International Men's Day is given way more attention. Women are bound to protest it. All feminists want is to crush men to the ground."
It's a sad indictment on (some!) men, when the only way they seem to be able to compute the idea that women deserve respect, is when they're reminded that their mothers are women. Their sisters, their grandmothers and, if by some miracle these misogynists have them, their wives or girlfriends. For some guys, it seems as though they can only get on board with being respectful if it's towards a specific woman, who they happen to know personally. Any other female is fair game.
A case in point occurred when I went from Twitter to Facebook, in search of a conversation that would make me less liable to want to gouge my own eyes out.
Firstly, I caught up with a Coronation Street thread, about the forthcoming wedding of characters Kate and Rana (I ship them so hard, it physically hurts me to know that Rana's leaving the series). Frustratingly, it didn't take long for the comments to turn nasty. In the interest of fairness, I'll point out that plenty of women were moaning about not liking the characters, or being annoyed by the upcoming plots etc. But it was the number of men who were saying things like "These two women get too much attention on the show. Rana should have stayed with her husband! As if you'd leave a man for a woman!" that really rankled. It's as though misogyny on its own isn't enough - we have to also indulge in a bit of homophobia for fun, too. And as a side note, come on; Rana's husband was a whinging dullard with nothing interesting to say for himself. If she hadn't realised she was in love with her female best friend, I'd like to think she'd have left him eventually anyway, lest she die of boredom.
KANA FOREVER. *sigh*
Then, a page I follow on Facebook posted a sweet story about a guy who approached two men he thought were a couple, to ask if they would mind talking to him about how best he could support his son, who he suspected might be gay. He wanted to know how to ensure his son felt safe and loved, without feeling pressured to come out before he was ready to. The two men in question (who, it turned out, weren't a couple, but were gay and drew on their own experiences to help the guy) told him what an amazing job he was doing as a father, just by being so accepting about the whole thing. The comments beneath the article were full of sweet, supportive statements.
AND THEN IN CAME THE MISOGYNIST.
"If these guys had been saying all this stuff to a woman, she'd have accused them of "mansplaining," instead of it being a sweet story. Double standards!"
When a woman - perfectly politely - explained that no woman would accuse a guy of "mansplaining" if she'd actually asked him a question and he'd answered it, the dude told her she was "full of crap." When another woman backed the first woman up and explained that "mansplaining" referred to a guy patronisingly telling a woman something she usually already knows, without having been asked to, Mr Misogynist responded by telling her: "You crazy women need to give up your war on men." After a third woman replied, backing up the first two, the dude responded that all three were "nothing but feminist trash."
He eventually went on a long rant, explaining that "feminism is a disgusting cancer on society. If you're a white cis man, you are a target of hatred. Feminists believe in some imaginary "patriarchy" but if you look, you will see that feminism is nothing more than a movement to put men in their place and make females dominant. It has nothing to do with equality. It is a CANCER."
Ah, yes. Cis white men. The world's most truly oppressed group.
And what, pray tell, is a man's "place?" Because for years, women have been told that their place is in the home, raising kids. Or tied to the kitchen sink. For years, we've been judged in ways men can't possibly begin to understand.
We're too fat. Or too thin. We're showing too much skin and should be ashamed. We're not showing enough skin and should remember we're supposed to look sexy. We're wrong to choose not to have kids, but we're awful if we have them and go back to work. We should dress in a way that pleases men, but we're then responsible if one of them "can't help" but rape us, because we're too tempting. We're too mousy and quiet, or we're too opinionated and over-emotional. In far too many countries, we're still not allowed control over our own bodies. In too many countries, we're still prevented from voting.
I mean, for crying out loud, half the time, our trousers don't even have pockets! Because somewhere along the line, some designer decided that women don't need to carry tissues, or small change, or have their phone close to them, or anything sensible like that.
I don't hate men. I hate misogynists, but thankfully, not all men are misogynists. I have male friends who appreciate that women are their equals. I have male family members who are as appalled as I am when they hear of countries where women's rights are still practically in the Dark Ages. I know men who don't only respect the women they're related to, or are in a relationship with.
But the misogynists are still out there. Still shouting that feminism is cancer and that women are somehow "making up" the very real injustices we face. Whether they truly believe that if women had real equality, it would somehow destroy their lives, or whether they just dislike women so much they can't bear the thought of them being treated like people is a whole other question. But they exist.
They're the ones who question what you were wearing and whether you were walking alone, if you complain about being harassed.
They're the ones who claim there already is total equality and that the patriarchy is a myth, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.
They're the ones who jump straight to calling you "an angry lesbian" if you reject their unsolicited dick pic. Spoiler: that really happened to me. As it turns out, I'm actually bisexual, but dudes like that make me much keener on girls.
They're the ones who derail International Women's Day by spending the whole day asking when International Men's Day is, only to be strangely silent on November 19th. It's almost as if they're less concerned about having their own day, than they are about arguing against women having one, too.
I don't have the answers as to why men who seem to genuinely hate women are still a thing. All I know is that I'm pretty damn tired of them. So, next time you decide to be a misogynist, remember that the people you're targeting are living a life you've never experienced. A life that still, in many parts of the world, offers them fewer opportunities than you get. A life that will be judged in ways yours never will be.
And then maybe, just maybe, ask yourself what's so terrible about treating people with equal respect, instead.