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! 

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

  1. I’m certainly not saying that there isn’t a degree of this going on; but your two key examples aren’t like for like here. So it’s difficult to say whether or not your conclusions hold.

    You are comparing charitable work inspired by personal experience with a paper that sets out to make conclusions about societal trends. So obviously people’s responses will be different. One is action, the other is academia.

    In the case of the study on victim blaming, I suspect that the reason that people responded in this way because they perceived it as setting out to prove that women specifically are subjected to victim blaming by collecting anecdotal reports from women, without assessing whether or not men are also subjected to victim blaming. Whether they are right or wrong, that would make their complaints an attempt to critique what they perceived to be the goals and methodology of the study.

    That won’t happen in the same way with charitable work, because by helping people you aren’t saying anything except that these specific people need help. So the comparison falls apart a little.

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    1. So the men’s only mental health facility she built is suggesting only men suffer from mental health? And even if anyone has this perception she stil isn’t being criticised for focusing on one gender.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. could it be that men simply don’t like your phrasing? where you help men you don’t have to blame anyone for mental health, where you’re helping women with “rape culture” you’re stating ‘men commit more physical abuse toward women than women toward men’ which is fair enough but at the same time divisive.

    i wonder how men and women would respond to equal articles.

    but “what about” begs the question, why address this as a different issue for women than it is for men? if the plan is to abolish domestic violence completely. have we established that the causes for domestic violence toward women vs toward men are different? do they require different measures to stop?

    as for your perfect examples they’re actually very poor examples, male suicide rates are in comparison to female suicide rates. i don’t think the “ability to display emotion” plays a role, women are more likely to attempt suicide than men. men are just more likely to use violent means to do the job, which makes male suicides more likely to be successful.
    movember has been called sexist… a lot. i think you’d be hard pressed to find something exclusive to men thats not called sexist.

    good luck in your endeavors to help people and i hope you do well, but if you’re going to divide the sexes for seemingly no reason i can’t blame anyone for questioning why.

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  3. By framing it as one sex at a time divides people, and men obviously are far more defensive than females when they feel like they are being singled out (whether or not they actually are). The fact that so many people abuse you weekly means the good things you have to say are not getting through to a huge number of people. If we can rephrase things so that we drop the amount of abuse you receive, this would mean more people are listening and taking your facts on board. This would be a win for everyone.

    Could we address both females and men at the same time, or simply remove gender from the discussion? Could it just be “Humans who suffer mental illness”, “Humans who suffer domestic violence” ?

    I would be very curious if you did some A and B testing on an identical study/article, and simply change the phrasing to remove gender from the discussion. Then log how much abuse you receive vs view count.

    The end goal should be reaching as many people as possible. If only women listen to you about rape and men not only don’t listen, but they actively abuse you this means your work is being wasted when it could reach so many more more people.

    We should be working together as humans by avoiding this divide that almost always occurs on these women gendered studies/articles. it would be great if men didn’t abuse you and actually read what you had to say, but it seems that they don’t in many circumstances.

    What do you think?

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    1. I’m curious as to why you consistently refer to “men and females”, rather than “males and females” or “men and women”?

      That seems really odd, grammatically speaking, and dehumanising.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I stopped reading this article once I read;

    “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”.

    Personally, I believe that my best writing is due to my passion and my ability to control the need for rage and you are surprised that people ask you about abuse against men when you make a statement like that?

    It is fact that abusive men are extremely immature and they lack intelligence but women actively working to criminalize abused men because abuse is a woman issue that isn’t a very clever move.

    If abuse was seen as a human issue, not a gender and as a result abused men received the same help, understanding and grace as women do it would result in men naturally defending women that are victims of abuse and educating other men that abuse against women is never OK. If you would like evidence of this research the culture in Iceland but I have no doubt that you won’t look at any of my recommendations, as this might directly go against all of your misguided feminist views.

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      1. How is this a constructive reply? What does this achieve other than further cementing both of your positions?

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      2. I can’t reply to them all. There are absolutely hundreds. Look at how many I haven’t replied to.

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      3. I’m not sure what the point of publishing this article is then. You have invited discussion and have many great responses. What is your goal?

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    1. I didn’t need to read the whole article, I was referred to this article by a woman that says abuse is a man’s issue, as men as the default abuser and her recommendations are to brand all men as abusive until they can prove that they are not abusive. I followed the link that she sent to me against my better judgement and the opening line to this article told me everything that I needed to know and by the way, I have no intention of proving that I’m not an abusive man, as I know the truth about my own character.

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  5. I didn’t need to read the whole article, I was referred to this article by a woman that says abuse is a man’s issue, as men as the default abuser and her recommendations are to brand all men as abusive until they can prove that they are not abusive. I followed her the link that she sent to me against my better judgement and the opening line to this article told me everything that I needed to know and by the way, I have no intention of proving that I’m not an abusive man, as I know the truth about my own character.

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    1. Shut up. No ones accusing you of being an abuser by default, but I find it interesting that you perceived it that way. Why are you so defensive when it comes to women complaining about sexual abuse and other issues that pertain to our safety? Every time a woman speaks out against sexual assaults and harassment, men always come in to silence her..Pfft. The fact is, men are physically stronger and can easily over- power a woman. How else do you even think it could happen otherwise? That’s why fathers worry about their daughters going out at night..if you are not this type of man, than it doesn’t apply to you and you need to just move on unless you can add some solutions, concern and support or constructive conversation. I won’t hold my breath because you sound like the typical, defensive, shut up, you’re ruining our reputation..you need to out up and shut up like you butches used to type male.

      Like

  6. Thank you for this article. I think it really highlights the situation well. I mentioned to my boss recently that i had started a women’s support network at work annd the first comment was about how it would be viewed if it was a men’s only group. Also the assumption was that it was just to be filled with rage against men… which couldn’t have been further from the truth!

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  7. Thank you for a great article and the insight you have given into the different responses you have received when representing both genders in the public discourse.

    It must be hard not to be crushed by the weight of negativity that is out there and to feel like you’re screaming your lungs against a wall that doesn’t seem to hear but good on you for continuing to doing so.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for being supportive. It does get very exhausting and honestly it just makes me really sad. Its hard to accept the fact that we will always be considered to not have any worth what-so- ever to most men we are just here to serve. 😞. We are not even allowed to complain about being raped. That’s why the vast majority of rapes go unreported, we know the hell that will come if we dare to open our mouths. Its easier to just put up and shut up bc the response is worse than the rape in some ways. Just sad.

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  8. Hi Jessica,
    Many thanks for your interesting and well thought out article. I have experienced the “whataboutery” phenomenon too – and not just online by random strangers – but also shockingly from a male relative. (Yes just one man, not all men!)

    Keep up the great work (for both genders!) and all the best for your PhD. The world needs more professional research and intelligent, articulate, caring people like you and your family to kickstart conversations like this.

    Cheers,
    Dee

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is an amazing article, that I can truly relate to. I’ve always spoken about women’s rights issues based on my own experiences and the experiences of those I know, and I do tend to speak a lot about men’s issues as well. However, the moment I speak about men’s issues, it’s like the world has gone silent, yet when I speak about women’s issues, there’s so much outrage and uproar and for the most ridiculous reasons. This is why we will never stop talking about women’s issues, because people like that prove to us that we’re doing the right thing by talking about it and that society is truly in need of change.

    Thank you so much for writing this 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Thank you so much for this article, I think it’s brave and illuminating. I founded a charity a couple of years ago (it’s actually been running for 6, but I only applied for charitable status in 2016) which has gained a great deal of respect and won a Scottish Social Services award recently. I have had to defend that it is a woman- and girls- focused organisation since the start and been told I was sexist for only focusing on females. I have had a top specialist practitioner/researcher in this field complain that I was talking about girls when ‘that happens with boys too’ (or words to that effect) DESPITE that I had preceded my own comment with a disclaimer i.e. I was talking about girls because it’s girls I know about and I’m not saying the same isn’t true for boys… I have had peers belittling and trying to dismiss my work on the basis that it’s ‘just about diagnosis of women’ (it isn’t, it’s much much more important than that, it’s about self-identity and esteem, role-models, confidence, mental-health, community, access to services, citizenship). I recently attended an event that presented what was supposed to be a major piece of research that actually states there is no financial differential in terms of health costs based on gender! That of course is because autistic girls and women are still relatively invisible and the idea that they might be mothers, for example is still not even acknowledged by many – that they are still women, indeed and impacted in every area that women are. We still have no actual money and are run entirely by volunteers; we only are still running at all because I managed to get a post with another charity that employ me to do what I do (which includes chairing my own charity) and I can pay my bills. We now have regular monthly meet-ups in 3 cities, run online peer-support forums, have had input to a range of consultations and projects such as the Cross Party Group on autism and I have presented to many conferences, national and international, including 2 last year that were gender/women’s studies events rather than autistic ones. My charity is called SWAN btw, Scottish Women’s Autism Network. I hope you don’t mind this lengthy response, I really just wanted you to know I think what you have written is so important. I see some of the recent responses to you illustrate, extremely well, your point.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I loved your article and then I read the comments. Only proves your point really but leaves me feeling we really are banging our heads against a brick wall…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It made me feel the same reading the comments..I almost want to cry. They always want to silence us, they don’t even try to understand..immediatel defensive and all about their inclusion..pathetic.

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  12. Congratulations on an illuminating and enlightening article. Wow – us women have so much more work ahead of us. And yes – the irony of the comments left by the men on this page, only further illustrates how much the dogma and narrative needs to change. I will say this – it’s been interesting watching how much men’s backs get up of late – there is such a resistance by men to take ownership of their gender’s role in the historical denouncement and oppression of women. The ‘rules’ are finally changing. It serves women to no longer continue to act small. Men – adapt to this change or fall way behind. It’s call progress.

    Like

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