07/11/2021

The problem is (mostly) yours

3 min
The problem is (above all) yours

If you are a man, you have a problem. Yes, you may be aware of it and you act accordingly with freedom of judgement and questioning so many daily gestures, or maybe you are one of those who exclude themselves with an incredulous look in their eyes when a woman, usually, questions you about your privileged position in the world, without doing anything to change it or to improve the anxiety of so many women around you.

I admit that I write these lines with rage and fully aware of the usual response that will be used to disavow them: generalisations are not accurate and one cannot think well from indignation. Of course one can think well from indignation! In fact, it helps a lot to clear the mind of euphemisms. It helps to go straight to the heart of the matter and to speak without dithyrambs. And what is the central question? To find out how so many men, still comfortably installed at the centre of the world and the debate, accept and allow the brutality and lack of respect for the women around them to continue without feeling challenged to change their ways of being and acting in this world. Why do they think it is not their business? Because they are fathers who pay taxes, take their girls to ballet and leave the issues of sex education - like so many other things - to their partners?

Obviously only a few barbarians are capable of raping a 16-year-old girl in turns and leaving her unconscious in a field with lifelong consequences, or of seriously injuring a sex worker.

These are two extreme aggressions, but they cannot be considered an isolated issue in a country like ours. In Catalonia there are two reports of rape every day. Between January and September 462 rapes have been reported, events that do not include other types of abuse. The aggressors must be arrested and imprisoned, but the collective response cannot only be in terms of security - but also.

There are many women who live in fear. And living in fear cannot be socially normalised. Girls go out at night in fear. They know they are more likely to be drugged, abused, robbed and, at the last of someone's questions, held responsible for the crime someone has committed against them. How dare you drink? What were you wearing? You're not careful! Did you close your legs?

Many small attitudes contribute to perpetuate the lack of respect, the commodification of sex, the blaming of women, the sexual repression of many.

There is a male world that does not take notice and is incapable of putting itself in the shoes of the women around it. Decent men who have it in their power to change the situation of injustice and violence.

Look around you, "normal" men. You have no right to feel uncomfortable if a girl hurries her pace when you walk behind her on a dark street. Change sidewalks. Put yourselves in the place of the other and you will have many opportunities to see that the world is not as you see it. How many times in a meeting have you only looked into the eyes of your male interlocutors and allowed yourselves to interrupt when women speak, always obligatorily accelerated in their expositions? How many times have you burdened them with obligations thinking that your time is more valuable? How many times have you laughed at the humiliating meme of the day? Have you ever identified sex and pornography? Have you ever paid for sex - or laughed at the jokes of those who do?

It is obvious that all men are not the same. Nor are all women equal, and there are women as sexist as the worst patriarchs who perpetuate an unjust world in every gesture.

But changing things also depends on you.

It is true that equality is advancing, even if it is little by little. In fact, it is fundamental that, in the new world that is opening up towards the future, violence is no longer a key means of survival and this disorientates the most disoriented part of the male gender. We are in a digital world, more horizontal, which does not require as much strength as skill and where, therefore, women are in a better starting position. Unfortunately, however, there are still many men who feel assaulted, challenged, when they are asked to think with new parameters and join the progress of equality. The misguided consider women who stand up for their ideas and rights with conviction to be aggressive. In other words, those who seek to put into practice the equality they hear preached.

Sharing privileges is not easy and it is even more difficult when the cliché speaks of soft and obedient princesses and the reality presents empowered women.

Women who defend their place in the world are not necessarily aggressive. They have simply learned that not everyone can be liked and that the worst enemies are often self-imposed limits.

Esther Vera is editor-in-chief of ARA.

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