by Gina Guest

No individual can possibly speak up against every abuse or even against the most outrageous abuses.  At best we can protest some individual abuses and try to show the pattern of gender inequality that underlies all the abuse.  

In my experience the most common way of trying to silence and discredit those who do attempt to speak up is to respond with "women do it too" and/or "men suffer as well."

Initiate a discussion about the Taliban's persecution of women and you'll immediately be told that the Taliban also persecutes some men.  Talk about the hundreds of thousands of women raped every year and you hear about an adult woman who had consensual sex with a 15-year-old boy.  Mention that after divorce women's economic status declines while men's improves, and you hear about some guy somewhere who "got taken to the cleaners by his ex."  Talk about spousal abuse and you hear that "women are violent too."

The issue of male-bashing jokes recently was injected into a listserve discussion about men who rape women, and men who deny human rights to entire nations of women in the name of religion, and husbands who think they have the right to kill wives who displease them.  

I don't think jokes made at the expense of men are funny.  I don't think humor that demeans any group is funny.  But that's not the point.

[A listserve member posted an example of a male-bashing joke to the list] and suddenly we were being exhorted to protest male bashing.  Why?  It's as if there is some sort of unspoken shut off valve -- you can talk about women being abused just so long and then you have to restate your opposition to male bashing.

When an all-female government starts killing men for going to work or walking too loudly, I'll protest.  When the all female heads of churches declare as a matter of faith that men are subordinate to women I'll protest.  When women start gang raping men I'll protest.  When seven-year-old girls rape and murder 11-year-old boys I'll protest, but I won't be diverted from protesting those things happening to women in order to be part of some dog and pony show that says "tsk, tsk" to men's being the butt of some dumb joke, or be told that the credibility of my protests against women's inequality depends upon my doing so.

Gina Guest, 1998


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