Dear Men on the Left,
25 Jun 2020
Dear Men on the Left,
Some of you are rapists. Some of your friends are rapists. Some of those men you’ve met in your society or CLP are rapists. More than you think, are rapists.
If by these first lines you are turned off or are dismissive. You are a part of the problem.
You may be sitting there reading this, thinking, she’s overreacting, or this is just to catch your attention. It’s not. I wish this wasn’t the case.
You may be sitting there, going, ‘well I would know if my friend was a rapist, and I’ve never done anything wrong!’ You wouldn’t know. Rapists love to hide in plain sight. They are brazen. You might not get told because, if you're their pal we probably won’t trust you, especially to believe us. The women in our community, work slyly and in private to make each other safe. Quick messages here and there; “I heard something bad about…”, “He hurt my friend”, “don’t go anywhere alone with…” I have messaged three people in the last week about sexual harassers or predators or rapists. I was warning them, trying to protect them.
Men on the left often are unassuming. They wear an ‘I’m a feminist’ t-shirt and say they are an ally. Maybe they disagree with ‘how far #metoo has gone’, but of course ‘rapists are bad!!’ So you assume it can’t be them. You trust them. They groom you. They convince everyone around them that they are a top lefty, fighting for liberation.
Women don’t report. You don’t believe us. Sometimes years later, they may find the confidence to tell someone, then all the stories come out. That can lead to change, but most of the time, it just means we will warn each other more.
You think sexism and gendered struggle looks obvious, but it isn’t.
This isn’t to say women are entirely innocent. I’m sure there’s some who aren’t. It isn’t to say men don’t experience this, I’ve had to warn just-out-the-closet gay men who to be wary of too many times.
It’s strange when I warn men, though, if they believe me. They are shocked. I haven’t been shocked in a while. They are outraged, angry, confused and hurt. They feel betrayed. I hope reading this you feel those things, that you are now suspicious and cautious of your friends. You would be feeling an ounce of what is my normal.
We can’t stop accepting men at UoB societies unless the victim reports. There are men I don’t trust. I can’t name or insinuate who, I could be called out and punished for ‘bullying’. So we rely on our quieter methods.
Perhaps you’re a fresher reading this, or someone shy. The desperation to fit it and be one of the lads is in the back of your mind. Maybe you’ve consciously ignored jokes that weren’t just jokes. They’ve alluded to things you know aren’t right. You might be reading this feeling guilty. I don’t think you’re evil; I think we’ve been socialised differently. I have known about this problem since I was 12. I’ve been scared of this since I can remember. You can change and grow. You can be better. Some men on the left are brilliant. Don’t be scared to speak for the sake of fitting in. You could be brilliant too. Not all men are rapists, but a lot are complicit in their silence.
This isn’t just a problem of men on the left. This is a problem. If you want to not be one of these men, you have to be ultimately and utterly for women. I mean women-only shortlists, not saying ridiculous things about how you were oppressed because you wanted the only male candidate, BELIEVING US. Call out your friends. Listen to us. Learn what consent looks like.
We are all supposed to be comrades, so the lie that we are all on the same team continues. Some of you are not comrades to women. You have the choice to be my comrade, though. I hope you made it past the first paragraph. I know some didn’t. Hard truths aren’t easy to face. I hope you think about what you’ve read.
Solidarity to those who didn’t need to read this, who knew everything I’ve said already. To those who perhaps are seeing things in a new light, solidarity - I hope to welcome you to this fight.
I’ve been told men like data, so here's some:
20% of women and 4% of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16, equivalent to 3.4 million female and 631,000 male victims
Approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men experience rape, attempted rape or sexual assault by penetration in England and Wales alone every year; that's roughly 11 serious sexual offences (of adults alone) every hour.
Only around 15% of those who experience sexual violence report to the police.
Approximately 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence.