Lynette Fay: Deep-rooted misogyny is all around us – it is systemic in society

No-one is born disrespecting women, this is learned behaviour. Can we please start the conversation to address this problem?

Lynette Fay – How can we stop men being violent? Picture by Press Eye/Darren Kidd
Lynette Fay

I AM very glad to see this month of March come to an end. Usually March is a month I look forward to. Spring really kicks in, we really feel the stretch in the evenings and the world becomes brighter.

Despite both International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day being celebrated during March, this year was dark and bleak month for women.

In London, 33-year-old Sarah Everard was abducted and murdered, while she was walking home. A policeman has been charged with her murder. In Newtownabbey a 26-year-old man, Ken Flanagan, stabbed his mother Karen McClean and his girlfriend Stacey Knell to death.

Just like many women, I felt angry that these women were robbed of their lives, and so very sorry for their families.

Social media timelines were flooded with women telling of their experiences – how women are judged by our looks, the clothes we wear, are afraid to walk anywhere alone after dark, are told to calm down when a man touches us inappropriately in a social setting – or if a man says something very inappropriate in the workplace.

Calm down, Love, sure we’re only having a bit of craic.

Domestic violence against women has soared since the pandemic began. I was so overwhelmed reading through some of the stories, that I had to stop reading. I found myself reliving parts of my life where I have been genuinely afraid for my safety, thinking back to the precautions I would have taken to try and keep myself safe – because it’s what we have to do. I was scared all over again, and even more afraid for women now living on their own.

Does it really take someone to lose their life in order for wider society to begin to understand that a serious conversation about misogyny and respecting women needs to start immediately? Will what has been revealed and discussed since these abhorrent attacks on Sarah, Karen and Stacey have any impact on how society treats women going forward?

Last week’s Sunday Sequence with Audrey Carville on BBC Radio Ulster hosted an excellent debate on the subject of misogyny. One of the questions posed was ‘How can we make women feel more secure?’, which rightly evolved into ‘How can we stop men being violent?’

There have been calls to make public spaces safer after dark. Will a few extra lights act as a sufficient deterrent to someone who is determined to commit a violent act on another human being? That sounds like a ‘women should not leave their homes alone after dark’ type of solution to me.

Back in your boxes, ladies – do not dare to have an opinion, enjoy civil freedoms or expressions. Where is that chain for the kitchen sink?

Deep-rooted misogyny is all around us; it is systemic in society. No-one is born disrespecting women, this is learned behaviour. Can we please start the conversation to address this problem?

Something else discussed on Sunday Sequence and elsewhere in recent days is the need to educate our sons. In a world where pornography is so readily available on smartphones to which children have access from a very early age, we have a responsibility to talk more openly about sex, consent and respect and normalise it. Women can not do this alone. We need men to help us with is conversation, and start calling out inappropriate behaviours in a meaningful way.

I have seen a few classic examples of the patriarchy at work over the last few weeks, I found myself inwardly asking questions of packs of men; what has a woman ever done to you to make you hate all females this much? Is it hate, or is it fear? Or is it the inability to empathise? 

I have often heard men dismissing what a woman has to say because she is 'too emotional', the ambition of a woman qualified by her having ‘sharp elbows’. Why the need to constantly put us down?

It would be fitting to keep this conversation live and constant, to talk to each other. Let’s ask all difficult questions, so that perhaps next March, we can really celebrate International Women’s Day without the tokenism and without any more women having unnecessarily lost their lives to violence by a man’s hand.

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