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! 

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

  1. Hi Jessica, do you think that it really is because men are raised with a far greater sense of entitlement. Or could it be that women are raised with a far greater sense of caring and nurturing, hence they don’t feel the need to say ‘what about me/women?’. Could it be that women have a greater appreciation that to care about one thing/group does not mean you care less about another. I would be really interested in your opinion.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think it’s probably both – one feeds into the other in a highly gendered society. Good points you make here.

      Like

      1. I’m guessing it’s probably more to do with privilege than gender. You get plenty of women complaining about lack of white representation when racial issues are being tackled.

        Although, saying that, I’m sure than our gendered conditioning must play a part to some degree or another.

        Like

    2. Oh dear. I wouldn’t resist to answer the question ‘what about men?’ (when talking about raped and killed girls) – yeah, it’s about men too. Rapers and killers were men.

      Like

    3. Love this, thank you.

      I am also registering an increase in men attempting to derail conversation with ‘if it happened
      Eg ‘if it happened, that would be terrible but we have no proof, so it didn’t
      I am weary of demands to hang the sheets of our experience out of the windows as evidence that women’s treatment is worthy of consideration.

      Like

  2. Brilliantly put.
    I have a friend who has been doing the Whataboutery, since #me too.
    I am going to share this with him, it is so much clearer than everything I have tried to say. Thank you for writing it. Unfortunately I am not at all surprised at the abuse you get 😢

    Like

  3. Wonderful article! I might break the ice on ‘what about women’ in response to this comment:
    “Second perfect example: Male suicide rates.
    We know that the leading cause of death in young men aged 18-35 is suicide. ”

    The reason I am addressing this is because I learned in my Women’s Studies degree about para suicide and it was a real eye opener. Yes, men COMPLETE suicide at a greater rate than women but that is because they use more violent means.

    Very sadly, women ATTEMPT suicide at a far greater rate than men. However, as it is promoted as a ‘men’s issue’, those women are not getting the same sort of funding or help that they need. This makes it very important to put front and centre. Especially when studies and statistics are so focussed on male suicide to the detriment of women and girls, who often suicide due to cyber bullying by both boys and girls.

    I feel that the ‘men’s movement’ has very successfully hijacked suicide as a ‘men’s issue’. In reality it is a mental health issue that affects all ages, genders, races, and every other socially constructed ‘other’ class.

    Until we start talking about both completed and para suicide statistics, this will remain a hidden but substantive health issue for women that is not being addressed. By allowing it to remain hidden behind completion statistics, or be hijacked as a ‘men’s issue’, women will continue to suffer in silence and not have the clear crisis in women’s mental health acknowledged.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_differences_in_suicide
    https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jan/21/suicide-gender-men-women-mental-health-nick-clegg
    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/more-women-than-men-attempt-suicide-x6c7xhrv6t8

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh, so you mean like the woman’s movement hijacking everything that isn’t gender specific? You clearly not clued up, because men point out things like male suicide because entitled feminists like to claim that men have it very easy in this life. Yet if you actually look at our laws, gender specific funding, quotas, & scholarships, & women hanging onto their female privileges despite claiming they’re the downtrodden sex, then you can easily argue that Western women are the most privileged mass demographic in the history of mankind, & I’m quite confident in saying that as well.

      & women attempt suicide more often? Don’t make me laugh. An attempted suicide is an attempt on your own life, not a cry for attention. You either have to say that women are less competent than men at killing themselves. Or in other words, women are a little slow. Or that the vast majority of female suicide attempts are not actually suicide attempts, they are just cries for attention. I assume that even includes such ‘attempts’ as cutting across the wrists right? & that’s not even close to a suicide attempt. Just as women are less likely to put themselves in danger to save others due to her biological child bearing role, I assume the same applies in their suicide quest. Their biological importance to humanity overrides their potential sacrifice.

      Like

    2. Except the fact men frequently complete killing themselves first attempt reduces the possibility of them attempting again (which lowers attempted suicides – if men who tried to kill themselves didn’t ‘succeed’ then went on to attempt as women did the numbers would be higher).

      Additionally, suicide attempts may be seen as cries for help, and according to some experts more violent attempts match situations where no support network is likely to provide this help.

      What’s more, recognising the numbers of men who commit suicide does not in itself remove awareness of girls and women who also attempt suicide, any more than pointing to situations where girls and women disproportionately suffer inherently removes awareness of men and boys. This is simply a ‘what about the women’ response.

      Finally, the concept of male completion of suicide through male violence, especially when (as is usually the case) ignoring other factors leading to suicide, acts as a form of victim blaming and causes further harm to families already going through the suicide of a loved one, with no clear benefit.

      I hope the rest of the course was better than this misleading focus.

      Like

  4. Jessica well done for all your fantastic work. I think to understand what you call ‘whataboutery’ you need to appreciate that until the last say five years – all we have ever heard about is women and girls. Just look at the media every single day – it swamps us from the screen, from the radio, from newspapers, from adverstisement for women in sport, from #metoo, from not enough women on our screens, sexual harrassments, girls being depressed in schools, the gender pay gap (absolutely non stop and a complete misrepresentation of reality), and it just goes on and on and on. It is so ubiquitous we almost don’t see it but it is brainwashing none the less. So many people will believe the gender pay gap, or lack of representation of women (which is of course true but is not about discrimination or misogyny – but the fact that we make different choices) or whatever and assume that women actually are hard done by. So when they find some less powerful person who is doing the same thing to whom they can write, then they do say something because they feel angry. Just have a look around you at what is coming constantly out of msm. Question it. I really appreciate why it must be totally annoying but just try to imagine for one minute where it is all coming from – without just jumping on the misogyny bandwagon.

    And to the extent that misogyny does it exist – it is a product of this constant female harping – not a cause.

    Like

      1. Hope you laughed your head off Tracey. Good lord. Missed the point! I was talking to a woman recently who said that men have no idea what they getting anymore because women spend so much money on cosmetic surgery they are fake. I advised her that if its such a worry for men, they should try not criticising women all the time. She then said she has to appeal to her daughter’s concern about her looks to get her to drink water. Cross-eyed by now, I suggested she appeal to the girl’s long term health.
        So far to go, so little time!

        Like

  5. Well said. In my limited experience of ‘whataboutery’, in politics it is a diversionary tactic that appears to come from a sense of power that has just been frustrated by a good argument. Its intent is to divert and undermine. In the context T in which you write it appears to also be central to the thesis of your research and therefore although cringe worthy (as a man) it seems to be of no surprise 😲. I agree with every point in your article here. Thank you.

    Like

  6. Thank you for an article that finally puts this whataboutery into such clear context! It’s such a struggle to explain and argue the point, some really interesting points raised – It’s true, it doesn’t cross my mind “what about women” if I read an article about men’s mental health, or abuse, or domestic violence, I wonder why this is?

    Like

  7. Thank you, Jessica, for describing this phenomena so well. I would urge you and anyone else hearing such stories or seeing them unravel to consider that internet is a place for non-entities and paid trolls. While there is a culture of hiring trolls by government agencies to derail mainly geopolitical discussions, THIS topic is proving to be no less important. The toxic effect this rivalry between genders has on our society, as well as constant support for oppressive behaviour is leaving all of us vulnerable to manipulation and herd mentality. It is a typical “divide and conquer” tactic. In short, I would urge men not to take the side of most-likely paid troll whatabouters, becoming trolls themselves, accusing women of not paying their issues enough attention if women find the time to discuss their own. And I would urge women who are getting attacked to treat trolls as trolls and simply find ways to discredit their intention by revealing their trolling, destructive, and distracted, unrelated to the topic, vindictive comebacks.

    Like

  8. first, my condolences about your father in law, i to recieved a phone call about my grandmother only my call came from a vulture at a local news agency and her suicide? incolved police and the shutdown of a section of north dixie dr

    that said, have you ever stopped and putting asaid your gender stereotypes and looked at it from he individual’s perspective? maybe they had someone who needed that kind of help/support and couldn’t get it because they were male and males don’t need rape counseling or emotional support, they just need to suck it up and get over it.

    surely you realive there are still many today who do not believe it’s possible for a man to be a female’s rape victim or abuse victim.

    maybe their visceral response is rooted in a past, personal pain.

    instead of getting mad at them, why not ask why they feel that way?
    open a conversation?

    Like

  9. I just stumbled across your blog article and agree 100%. All so true. It also got me thinking about the determined/right-wing “whataboutery” or it’s variations regarding the Black Lives Matter movement here in the US. This version goes, “What about white lives — don’t they matter, too?; don’t all lives matter?”. It’s a concerted effort to change the subject and to diminish the very really issue of blacks still (and regularly) being killed by authorities/police almost with impunity. I don’t mean to be overly dramatic, but here we are in the early 21st century yet women and people of color (and the poor) continue to be relegated to “the back of the bus”. Far too many (not all by any means!) white men are at war with the rest of us. There is a deep fear that they are going to lose status and/or power. And they are — worldwide demographics are against them. Rather than find ways to adapt to the new, they perserve in attempting to keep things in the mold of white European power. Sad and, all too often (witness the US these days), very frightening….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, blacks are 27 times more likely to violently attack whites than the reverse in the USA, so according to your very own logic, you think there should be a “white lives matter” movement in regards to black violence & rape against whites.

      & black lives matter is wrong, because the statistics tell us that there is no truth to their claims. Whites are more likely to be shot, armed or unarmed, relative to violent crime rates & cop killers. Even a black university student did a study on it & found that blacks were less likely to be shot.

      Now you may ask, how could this be the case? Why would blacks be less likely to be shot? Simple really, because there’s the potential for massive political blowback if a cop shoots a black person, whether it’s justified or not, so cops are extra cautious in pulling the trigger on a black person. The same can’t be said for white people, even unjustified shootings of whites struggle to break into state news, let alone nationwide.

      Like

  10. Brilliant article. I am completely raging now. Thanks so much for giving such a clear focus for my rage and enabling me to reply to ‘What about men?’ with coherence from now on.

    Like

  11. That was a fantastic read! Well said! You are definitely not a fat ugly cunt! You are amazing!! And your heart is so in the right place! While a lot of other people’s are certainly not!

    Like

  12. Thank you so much Jessica for taking the time to enlighten us with this article.
    It makes me sad that thousands of years of various types of Patriarchal society (I feel that Christianity and organised religion probably has a lot to do with it!), have manifested in a massive gap between the way men and women are treated, and expected to be in society. It is so deeply embedded in the psyche of our society, and for it to change, we (both men and women) have to consciously try and change the way we are in the world so that in the future, it eventually trickles down to our subconscious, and the way we behave. For women, that may be working on self esteem issues and not being ‘in service’, and for men it may be not carrying a sense of entitlement that they have inherited. They are just two of many examples. Whether we will do it before global warming gets the better of us, I am not sure, but I feel dedicated to aiming towards harmony between the masculine and feminine. When the healthy masculine and feminine join, and we are working together with love and respect….. who knows what we can achieve?
    Thank you. Anthea Barbary (acupuncturist, hypnotherapist and founder of Alternative Lewes)

    Like

  13. Whataboutery is an argumentative fallacy. The reason you get when dealing with women’s issues and not with men’s, is that unlike with men’s problems, it is implicitly or expilictly stated that women’s problems are caused by men, when men’s problems are caused by non-gender factors.

    Hence uneducated man who reads about women’s problems and implications how he is responsible for them, resorts to such faulty argument.

    Like

    1. Men’s problems sit within the same patriarchal system that causes their issues too. I would argue that their issues are very much caused by societal attitudes around gender factors – the blog acknowledged & gave some working examples of this.

      Like

  14. Thank you very much for all what you do for men with your foundation!

    As far as the article is concerned, though, I want to add another perspective.
    (N.B.: Actually, Movember has received a lot of criticism, including women making it about themselves. See the links here:
    http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2015/11/movember_mustache_campaign_for_prostate_cancer_is_misguided.html)

    Also, there are some reasons men tend to leave comments like this in discussions about women’s issues.

    First, the odd thing is that public attention almost never focusses on men as victims. Many people perceive feminism as a false “men are oppressors, women are victims” dichotomy. Take the example of street violence – men are twice or more likely to be assaulted by strangers on the open street, but public perception would only provide empathy and support (for example with a special low-priced late night women only taxi) for women. Other examples are victims of war, victims of child custody cases, victims of suicide, victims of workplace accidents, life expectancy… and what you and others in the comments have listed. Men are expected to “man up” on these issues, and few people actually listen. I know you do. Others need too.

    Second, if they bring these topics up, they are often quickly labeled as MRAs (as if being an activist for men’s rights would be a inherently bad thing); as there are few discussions about male problems at all, the only way to get public attention is to ask to be heard where attention is abundant.

    So not only do people rarely give attention to male issues, but men (or sometimes women) who want to bring them up are actively silenced. Men are expected to “take it”.

    And of course, this causes anger. And the feeling of helplessness. And seeking a place where to raise awareness. Bad that the only possibility appears to be hijacking threat’s about women’s issues.

    One thing which might be helpful would be to stop gendering issues as women only issues when they apply to all genders (and we haven’t even started about how meaningless the labels “man” and “women” are in a time where gender fortunately starts to be seen as a property independent from sexual organs or presentation). It would help those people who nobody is listening too. People get assaulted, raped, killed. Sometimes the reason is that they have a certain gender and are seen as prey (women) or disposable (men).

    Like

  15. 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.

    http://www.theportlygazelle.com/2015/11/11/movember-needs-to-be-banned-beards-are-sexist-and-mens-health-shouldnt-be-prioritized/

    http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2015/11/movember_mustache_campaign_for_prostate_cancer_is_misguided.html

    https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2013/11/movember-as-micro-aggression/

    http://outlookaub.com/2017/11/14/no-shave-november-movember-problematic/

    https://www.xojane.com/issues/the-top-5-reasons-to-blow-off-movember

    Just a cursory search leads me to these articles…. You’re full of shit and your writing is garbage.

    Like

    1. Dearie me you obviously didn’t read any of the links you shared. Otherwise you’d have realised that they are either satire, or about there being better ways to support men’s health. Not one of them is about woman complaining about it being sexist( bar the first one which is from a satirical site)
      Whataboutery much?

      Like

  16. I work at a very special residential mental health facility that provides services to clients with persistent severe mental illness. I advocate for my place of work. I have helped raise money and worked to secure grants. 80% of our clients are male due to criteria and representation in the population. I receive positive feedback for this work because I am providing a service, helping community members, and my service fills an underserved need. I receive no negative comments when writing or talking about my work. I experienced push back when I would advocate for my services to be limited to only male clients (I have advocated for the underserved and over-incarcerated). I have never experienced pushback when I advocated for female clients because the increased prevalence of sexual trauma make living with men in treatment difficult to the point of not being therapeutic for some with severe PTSD or anxiety stemming from abuse. Typically advocates for women see it as a zero sum game with men utilizing resources that their population could benefit from, and rationalize jail/prison as a more appropriate place for male patients with mental health issues with their arguments focusing on violence. I seldom encounter advocates for men that do not have a close family relationship that has exposed them to the limited delivery of care for this population.
    Summary: Did you consider people treat providers of care differently than people writing about gender issues and advocating for policy change?

    Like

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