Stop asking me ‘what about men?’ 

Stop asking me ‘what about men?’ 

Everyone who follows my blog knows that my best work is written in rage, or port. But Christmas has gone now so no more port. 
Well, at least I still have rage. So back to that. 

Recently I have been getting increasingly frustrated with ‘whataboutery’ every single time I write or speak about women or girls. 
For those of you who don’t know what that word means, ‘whataboutery’ is when someone responds to a difficult issue or question with a counter issue or question that completely derails the conversation. 

Example:
Mai: My research focussed on the murder of women in Yemen 
Randomer: uh, this is a bit sexist. What about the murder of men in Yemen? Don’t you care about men? 


Example 2
Pam: I’m really upset with you for stealing from my purse 
Mel: What about that time you stole from the local shop? You’re not innocent either, you know! 
Pam: I was 9. 
(Haha) 

Familiar with that? Yep? Thought you might be. Sometimes reminds me of gaslighting. 
Okay, so back to the rage. Rage that I need to put in context for this blog to make a jot of sense. 

Almost 5 years ago, my father in law died after we had tried everything to help him and begged every agency and service for help. We got the dreaded phone call from police to say they had found a body. It was his. We had to go and identify him. He was a very vulnerable adult struggling with addiction, homelessness and a very complicated trauma history. 

At his wake, my Husband and I decided to set up a charity for male mental health and well-being and we named it ‘The Eaton Foundation’ (TEF).

(Someone once laughed at me, ‘Bit narcissistic of you isn’t it, naming a foundation after yourself?’ and then went every shade of red whilst I told them it was my late Father in Law’s name.) 

So in 2013 we founded the charity, of which I am still the Chairperson. The charity only supports adult men. We grew exponentially. I mean – from like 10 men to 150 men in one year. In the second year of operation I managed to secure over £270k of funding and funded the renovation of a huge old derelict building which we turned into the first male mental health and well-being centre in the UK. 

My husband runs it on the day-to-day, along with his staff and volunteers. We now employ 6 people and have a further 9 volunteers. We see hundreds of men a year who benefit from completely free, lifelong support including counselling, benefits advice, food parcels, housing advocacy, legal advice, IT suite, music and band practice, employment clubs and training courses, fitness clubs, art therapy and so on. Some guys have been coming every day for years. Our clientele is between 18 and 85 years old from every walk of life you can imagine. 

Why am I telling you this? 

Because in those 5 years, I have NEVER received the amount of abuse and ‘whataboutery’ that I get for my work and research with women and girls. 
Most of you know me for my work with women and girls and my controversial tumble into CSE. My PhD focusses on the victim blaming of women and girls in society which includes one of the largest ever literature reviews of every factor in society that supports victim blaming of women and girls (I do mean every factor I could find evidence for – from porn to Hinduism). 

I have a career history in rape centre management and criminal justice management of vulnerable and intimidated witness programmes, which is where I built my experience and knowledge of sexual violence, homicides, trafficking and other serious crimes across my courts. 

I launched a study last year, exploring the many different forms of victim blaming women and girls can experience. Over 700 people responded. My other recent studies have included interviewing women who have been blamed for rape and abuse, interviewing therapists and support workers who work with women who blame themselves for being abused or attacked and a complex study in which I developed and validated a new psychometric measure of victim blaming of women. 
I honestly cannot express how much whataboutery I get. 

Here are some real examples: 

‘Don’t you think you’re being sexist by only writing about women in this article?’

‘This article is good but where are your studies on men?’ 

‘I don’t condone murder but don’t you think you are gender biased, only caring about the murders of women?’ 

‘You can tell the psychologist who wrote this study is a sexist bitch who hates men’

‘This study was ridiculous. All you care about is women! What about men?’

‘You should have your PhD removed. This is so sexist. None of your research is about men.’

‘By only caring about women, you basically say that all men are rapists.’

‘This is great Jessica! But I wonder if you can now build one of these for boys and men and why they aren’t included in the first place?’

‘Why do you only focus on women? Men can get abused as well, you know!’

‘What about men, cunt?’

Honestly, I could go on forever and ever. 

In fact, I did one study where there was a free text question at the end and a whopping 9% of respondents chose to use that box to criticise me for not researching men. I say whopping because the free text box didn’t even ask them a question about that and 63 people still managed to use the box to whack in some ‘whataboutery’. 
Not only that but a further 14% (over 90 people) left comments that were just plain nasty or abusive. One guy told me that my work was shit and he hopes I fail my PhD. And then left his full name and job title. He was an academic at a university. In my field. He even put some kisses on. 
And what perplexes me about all of this, is that I have no such experiences of running TEF. 

I can’t tell you about the hundreds of messages or tweets we get asking ‘what about women?’ – because it’s never happened. 

I don’t have any stories about the times we got sent a tonne of abuse when we conducted research with general public in the community about male mental health stigma – because it’s never happened. 
I can switch over to the TEF twitter account right now and write literally anything about men and nothing bad will ever happen. Our Facebook page has thousands of followers and we never get threats, abuse or whataboutery. 

Fair enough, my Twitter is currently at about 4.5k followers but my teeny tiny Facebook page is only on a few hundred followers and I get between 10-20 abusive messages and comments a week – almost exclusively comments about me focusing on women and girls – which usually results in me being called a ‘fat, ugly feminist cunt’ or something along those eloquent lines. 


Recently this has all caused me to reflect. 

Why don’t I get any abuse when I speak and write about men and boys? 
Why am I hailed? 

Why did we win 6 charity awards and over £300k in the first 18 months of operation? 

Why did I end up on every TV channel and radio in the UK? Why can I launch studies and campaigns and videos and appeals for TEF about male mental health and receive ZERO whataboutery comments?

And why do I get shouted down if I even dare post one tweet about violence against women or rape statistics or murders of women by partners? 

Why do I get hundreds of messages and tweets every week asking me:
‘But what about men?’ 

And actually, this isn’t rocket science. This is uncomfortable but it’s real talk:

Women are socialised into their gender roles (gender roles are harmful, narrow, stereotypical characteristics and expectations assigned to males and females to conform to a societal norm) to not even possess a shred of the sense of entitlement that men have. Women do not read a campaign about male mental health or male abuse or male cancers and furiously tweet back ‘what about women, you cunt?!’ because they didn’t think about themselves when they read it. They didn’t see the campaign as two fingers up to women.

Perfect example: Movember. 


Have you EVER in your life seen women kicking off that Movember is sexist? Or that the campaign should include women? Or that focusing on testicular cancer is exclusionary? No. Have you fuck. 

Second perfect example: Male suicide rates. 

We know that the leading cause of death in young men aged 18-35 is suicide. This is the strongest symptom of a patriarchal society where emotionless males struggle to cope with trauma and feelings, can’t open up, don’t feel safe to talk and become completely overwhelmed by emotions they are taught are ‘feminine’, which further induces shame and stigma. 
In all my years I have never seen women jump on those campaigns yelling ‘women commit suicide too, you know!!’ Or ‘what about women?’ 

Switch it over. Women’s marches. Pussy hats. IWD. Counting dead women. VAWG strategies. Women’s health screening. Women’s reproductive health. Women’s mental health. Rape campaigns. #metoo. 

There is ALWAYS someone saying ‘what about men though?’ under all of those issues. It’s as sure as taxes and death. 

Like a depressing new catchphrase nobody wants:

There’s only three things you can be certain of in life: taxes, death and some randomer yelling ‘what about men?’ every time you talk about women’s issues.’



‘Whataboutery’ comes from a place of misogyny. An arrogant, derailing technique used to respond to a campaign, video, research study, intervention, organisation or communication that screams ‘I don’t care about women, talk about men!!’ 
And the proof is in the pudding for me. Because when I do all those things with a focus on boys and men, I’m a fucking hero. But when I do all of those things and focus on girls and women, I’m a fat, ugly feminist cunt. 

So I need to explain something else. This is not about equality. ‘Whataboutery’ has nothing to do with equality. It’s not about reminding us that men suffer too. Social issues aren’t equal. 

When I write a tweet about women being murdered or raped, I didn’t forget men. I didn’t forget they could be murdered or raped. I didn’t accidentally miss them off my tweet. I simply CHOSE to talk about the experiences of females. It is not helpful, or clever, or promoting ‘equality’ to write to a researcher specialising in women’s studies and tell her in three paragraphs why she should focus on men. 

It is not useful to ‘send a gentle reminder than men can get raped too, you know’. 
If you’re reading this and you know you have done this to someone, please think twice before doing it again. It’s not helpful. It’s derailing. 
We do not need to centre men in every conversation we have. Women and girls are valid entities, independent from men.
We need to get to a point where we can talk about women’s issues and get the same level of respect we get when we talk about men’s issues. 
Until then, your ‘Whataboutery’ is unwelcome here. 


What about that? 




Written by Jessica Eaton 

@JessicaE13Eaton 

My free videos at http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

My new book is out in September 2018 – go to http://www.victimfocus.org.uk/thelittleorangebook for the teaser! 

536 thoughts on “Stop asking me ‘what about men?’ 

  1. Well said. Most men just don’t get it and it’s way to comfortable being in a privileged position (being a man that is) to even try and begin to understand Woman’s issues in the world. I credit my wife of 40+ years and people like yourself for my continued education in this regard. I certainly would not have gotten it on my own. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a rather general comment about men.

      Not being discriminated against is not a privilege. It is normal. If women are discriminated against and men not, man are not privileged, and women are under-privileged. It’s a semantic difference with a very deep importance – men have nothing to feel guilty about for not being discriminated against -though of course if any man and woman discriminate then they should be be feeling guilty.

      I argue that traditional gender roles have many advantages for women as well as disadvantages in terms of leisure time, ability to pursue artistic, uneconomic interests, ability to spend time with family. I appreciate many women nowadays want the freedom to pursue a career as well – but they should understand that many traditional gender role men also were not free in the ways I describe.

      Like

    2. You’re so right, we always do this, and i am sorry on behalf of all those who cannot see they are in the wrong. I am sorry if i ever did this.

      Like

    3. I do hope you are wrong. I personally think most men and women “get it”. By most I mean well over 50%. Those men who do not, however, don’t feel any resistance to broadcasting their whataboutery. If 10% of 50% of an audience is vocal and entitled and thinks they have detected an injustice, that is a pretty hefty cacophony of negative voices. Please god let them be the minority – this is one of those occasions where being significantly ahead of the curve would be a very unhappy place to be.

      I’m not sure there is anything useful to be done though as a witness to whataboutery on this scale. Entering into the argument has connotations of mansplaining and white knight to it. I content myself to calling anybody I know personally on this stuff, and hoping things will be better. Any suggestions gratefully (and quietly) received.

      Like

  2. Hi there – I have been pondering this a lot and have recently concluded that it isn’t actually what men, or non-men mean when they say ‘what about..’ I believe they are actually indirectly asking whether you are blaming them and hoping you will indicate that you are not. Deflection may not be the correct term but it’s how I describe the affect the what-about repos e has. Similar to answering a question with another question which changes the subject to the person who asks the second question.
    Hope this makes some kind of sense.
    Anyway, I wanted to mention because if we heard ‘far out, that’s awful…. I hope you don’t blame men for the terrible situation /instance that affected a woman/women… ‘ we might just get to the next point which is, ‘lord no, we don’t blame men, but we need to support the woman/girl here ‘ or ‘it’s not about blame, it’s about support’, or something equally focused on the need of the victim
    And then the what-abouterer is likely to say, oh I definitely agree with that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for these observations, which are themselves rather depressing; your clarity is heartening. It seems that anti-sexism and sexism are both growing in men; anti-sexist men are more powerful and vocal and forming alliances with women — witness the extraordinary changes in the last three months in the US regarding sexual harassment. Powerful men and women in institutions are no longer tolerating it, or so it appears. But a deep, mystified, inarticulate sexist resentment towards women persists. One could hypothesize many causes — women entering the paid workforce and gaining a degree of economic independence; women rejecting men in marriages as, in the US the divorce rate has doubled and it appears more women are initiating the divorces (also true in China); the decline of the middle class and more men feeling like failures; the subtle humiliation that accompanies the obesity epidemic; and one could go on and on. Please note, in adducing areas where women are gaining power I am not blaming sexism on women; I am suggesting that there is what Michael Kimmel calls “aggrieved entitlement” in men. Perhaps they grew up with some assumptions derived from family life about what a wife is or a mother or a woman and when women do not behave as they presume, they are angry. In the past I wrote a lot about sexism and am heartened by what is taking place in the US — I also expect a strong backlash.

    Like

  4. Great great article!! Fascinating and not surprising. I’m curious if you could share what 100% of those whataboutery are posted from men verses women?

    Like

  5. Great! Good job pretending this is a one sided male only phenomenon. Unfortunately that just isn’t the reality. I’ve personally witnessed woman after woman post “what about women,” “women are raped in far greater numbers,” and other similar responses in the comments sections of stories about Kevin Spacey where men were sharing their rape experiences. And when those women were called on their insensitivity and the inappropriateness of their comments they offered weak excuses and continued being dismissive of male rape.

    Like

    1. I have never said it was men asking ‘what about men’ re-read the article. It said ‘people say what about men’. I would say that it’s about 60:40 or 70:30 in terms of a Male:female split of who asks me what about men.

      Like

    1. Listen mate, I don’t know if you realise that I have to personally accept or delete your comments but I have just had to wade through your comments of insults and shitty tone to everyone on here that you disagreed with. They all just sound like you’re having a massive toddler tantrum and I’ve had to delete some because they don’t even argue a point. They just attack the commenter. Like this one.
      For the final time David, the article does not say that only men ask me ‘what about men?’ – men and women do this to me every single day.
      5 years of my life, for free, with no reimbursements, has been devoted to the male mental health centre. You clearly have no idea how big an undertaking that is otherwise you wouldn’t write stupid comments like this. I spent every single day of the kids 6 weeks holiday renovating a derelict building with my husband to make it into a Male mental health centre – does that sound to you like someone who shames men?
      I don’t need to ‘grow up’ and quite frankly I would sooner get to old age than ‘discuss my behaviour’ with you, you absolute moron.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Hahahhaa congrats on outing yourself as a complete misogynist. That’s the best you got? Slag? What are you, 14? Don’t you think I might have heard it all?

        Im gonna publish this comment so the rest of your ‘well meaning’ arguments are put in this true context.

        Now I think you had better get off the internet and get back to your job raising money and awareness for male mental health services. I mean, that is what you do right? You don’t just comment shitty comments on strangers blogs and think you’re actually helping men do you?

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to get this enraged over a blog that never shamed men in the first place. None of your points make any sense because you’ve not understood the blog at all. It’s almost as if you just fancied going on the attack through the comments because of your own warped agenda.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thanks for your brilliant and informative article Jessica – If you don’t know about the Dunning-Kruger effect its worth looking it up – In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein people of low ability suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as greater than it is. David has every sign of it in his complete inability to recognise or make a logical argument while still believing he aced the debate – Talking to such people can really do your head in until you know whats going on.

        Like

    2. Jessica (mate),

      I was going to argue with David. What a fruitless endeavor that would have been. You know the whole “when you roll around with pigs…yada yada”. Instead, I will use my time more effectively by saying what an insightful piece.

      Also, congratulations on your dedication to men’s mental health services. My very good friend commit suicide 8 and a half years ago. It was devasting and life-altering for so many. I had no idea he was struggling so terribly.

      Keep doing you lady, you’re making the world a better place (not of web-shitting on others).

      From a fellow “slag” (cause we know Dave will probably call me one too so I will get in first).

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I don’t agree with the way David expressed himself, and he wasn’t very coherent before he lapsed into abuse,, but the title of this piece “stop asking me what about men” is obviously sexist to men in a way I feel you wouldn’t be to women. and that is a point I feel you should address directly.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I feel like every time someone says the title is “obviously sexist to men” they haven’t read the article or, in your case, the responses to your other comments. It’s not just men asking “what about men”. It is, however, the only whataboutism that this particular writer experiences in her daily life and work.
        Is her writing about her experiences sexist to you?

        Like

      2. Funny. In response to an article about “whataboutery” and men derailing conversations when it comes to womens issues believing it is sexist to ever talk about womens issues people still manage to make the comments section all about men.
        *Sigh* Funny but also sad. Will we ever be able to get around to talking about issues predominantly effecting women and make some changes to make the world a little safer for women or will we continue to get tied up in this bullshit having to defend every word we say to dominating men whos lifes ambition is to crush every womans voice and keep her in her place!!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Bloody brilliant blog! I get this all the time as I run a social enterprise Girls Out Loud, yes you guessed it working with teenage girls. The comment what about boys Jane? comes form women and men and I am so fed up of answering it.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. It is a very interesting read for me and it poses numerous questions. So thank you for that.

    My one critique is about the generalisations and over simplifications made in the paragraph preceding Movember. It appears that you have got a catch-all reason that ignores the numerous and highly complex reasons for human behaviour. It does come across, intentionally or otherwise, that male self righteousness is the sole cause and that women do not posess any of this personality trait. Both of which are simply untrue.

    I appreciate that this is not an academic piece of work but I would be very interested to read your thoughts on the other causes of male whataboutery.

    Like

  8. I have never posted a comment on a blog before but I really enjoyed reading this Jessica.
    My work involves assisting customers in financial difficulty and along with that often comes mental health and domestic violence issues. Reading your article really got me thinking about some of the issues in society around gender expectations and how that plays in to how women are generally more comfortable sharing emotions and seeking help while men generally have more difficulty with doing the same.
    It’s really sad how many people (men and women) give the whataboutmen responses!
    I wonder if a little bit of this is being caused by societies desire for more gender equality; for women’s equality in all the areas that it applies to and also for men, particularly in the areas of being OK to talk about emotions, mental health and suicide. In your article you mention that TEF was the first foundation of its kind in the UK, that it has grown quickly and that support has been substantial (I hope I have summarised this respectfully). Could this be because while we have been rightfully challenging the norms to create more equality for women it has created the space for men to be more emotionally open (or conflicted) and therefore there is a need for more mens health services?
    Don’t get me wrong, some people are just assholes, some are ignorant, some are a product of their belief structures or life experiences. OMG I hope I’m not coming across as an indirect whatabout! The difference your making for both women and men deserves to be respected and congratulated. Neither side should invoke the whatabout, we should just appreciate a positive contribution for what it is right? No need to tarnish it or try to make it about something else.
    We have come so far with equality and discrimination but we still have so far to go!
    Thank you for your contributions and also for reading my thoughts. Keep changing the world for the better and know you have support from people like me!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have to say that when I see the examples of whataboutery you cite above I have to wonder why, if they think something is worthy of study or consideration, don’t they start a charity or study the topic themselves. I have to admit there are times when I hear about some studies or charities that I wonder about the excluded groups, but I don’t think that is a fault of that study or charity. There is only so much one person can effectively do or study. If we do not focus our efforts then we will never make significant progress and in some cases we will end up not addressing the real root causes of the problems in our society. If we each do our bit then we can achieve real change in the world.

    Thanks, Mike

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Hi Jessica,

    Great post! I don’t need to welcome you to a world of double standards since you’ve been navigating it since birth as a female. It really is a tragedy that many people cannot acknowledge/decry/fight against a problem or bad behavior without pointing to other problems (that must be tackled first) or other bad behavior. Tu quoque fallacies seem to abound these days in every sphere of life. For example, the answer to Black Lives Matter is apparently “all lives matter” or “blue lives matter”, Trump says “don’t look over here, look at Crooked Hillary”, and the list goes on and on. Let’s face it, I think it’s ingrained at the deepest level and something that many find as a useful and legitimate tool to support confirmation bias or defend against cognitive dissonance. I can’t say how many times my police friends have heard the line “but why did you pull me over, others were obviously breaking the law?” Whataboutism is sadly now a part of the human condition, which means that integrity is in cheap supply. The following link is not exactly analogous to what you’re describing, but it points out that even in situations in which using common sense would result in a better outcome, there are always people making arguments to the contrary, for no better reason than they just want to be contrarian: http://chainsawsuit.com/comic/2016/07/07/all-houses-matter-the-extended-cut/

    Regards,
    Marc

    Like

  11. Very interesting article. I’ve lost count of the ‘what about men’ comments I’ve seen, often from women. I’ve never understood the need some people have to make such comments. They’re unhelpful. One cause does not invalidate the other. Attention to any cause is a good thing; it’s almost as if they wish to undermine the author, or condescendingly inform the author that you haven’t covered everything therefore you aren’t as clever as you think. We must therefore put you back in your place.

    Like

  12. Please just let ”whataboutaries” be. Trying to convince people is such waste of your beautiful work. An infinite Sisyfos work that does not lead anywhere. Standing strong with you. Btw have you notice a change since #Meetoo?

    Like

  13. I can’t thank you enough for this blog post. I applaud you and please don’t stop fighting! Amazing work you’re doing for both genders, I get reminded our world is not totally lost when I see sensible humans like yourself.

    Like

  14. Thankyou. I’ve noticed this also exists when talking about any race other then white people. It seems that when we dare talk about groups that have been systematically abused/ignored etc and racially profiled some people’s defenses go up, as though somehow by bringing attention to very real and present issues we are accusing and ignoring them personally! It’s interesting to me as these things are not mutually exclusive and no one is saying they are. Thankyou again for your good work and for not backing down.

    Like

  15. Great article!

    Two thoughts, both slightly off-topic…

    We recently adopted a Romanian street dog and countless friends and acquaintances have asked “What about all the British dogs that need rescuing?” I’m glad to now have the term whataboutery to describe this phenomenon! (Anyone who thinks it’s a valid question, please consider we decided to adopt one dog, not solve the homeless dog problem in a whole country, Britain or Romania, or indeed the world. So we adopted one dog, who happens to be from Romania.)

    The other thought occurred to me earlier today while reading The Handmaid’s Tale and I was reminded of it reading this article: perhaps men blame women and women blame themselves so much because our culture is (I believe) undeniably based on Christianity and (one of) the main story(ies) is about how things were all going along nicely for Adam until Eve came along and was weak to the ways of the snake and essentially caused the downfall of mankind by committing, and convincing Adam to commit, the original sin. I should say I consider myself Christian, but I don’t take the stories of the bible literally and I don’t think wd should forget the context imposed by the writers, translators, transcribers… mainly men. Is it any wonder that after more than 2000 years of being told it’s essentially all our fault (consciously, subliminally, intentionally or otherwise) we believe things are all our fault?

    Like

  16. I just have to say, you and your husband are amazing. Thank you so much for all you do. And I totally agree that the ‘what about men’ thing is egotistical and self-centred, and I hope the ‘whatabouters’ read this article and feel ashamed!!! Thanks again. x

    Like

  17. Just curious, you state your husband runs the day to day of the male charity. Does he get any whataboutery? I’m wondering if there is any relationship between women sharing womens issues getting the whataboutery and men sharing men’s issues facing the same?
    Thank you

    Like

    1. If only there was a dislike button smh
      This comment is such a feeble attempt at sarcasm and a dig at women in general but you just don’t even see what you are doing or saying. Do you really think that the author hasn’t discussed this issue with her husband in the past before being prompted to write this blog. If it was the case then she would have written it when she explained at length the reason why she was writing it. Never mind whaterboutery whatareyoudoing should be the reply to every misogynistic question or snide underhand dig

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s