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25 Nov, 2020 18:28

#MenToo needs to be taken seriously. Male victims of abuse deserve compassion, not dismissal and ridicule

#MenToo needs to be taken seriously. Male victims of abuse deserve compassion, not dismissal and ridicule

Society has progressed and now views exploitation of women as heinous, but the same standards of care are not being afforded to men. Isn’t it time for equality? A Scottish piper's recent revelations suggest we are some way off.

There’s one country in the world where men are commonly ‘upskirted’, and that’s my native land, Scotland. Our national dress is the kilt, mainly worn at ceremonial occasions like weddings and New Year celebrations. Part of the tradition is not to wear underwear, hence the infamous question: “Are you a true Scotsman?”

I’ve witnessed plenty of men falling prey to women manoeuvring their hands under their kilt – or even grabbing a picture on their phone. Many guys adore the attention and play up to it, but there’s plenty who don’t, and now one has gone public.

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Bagpiper Willie Armstrong is part of the group Red Hot Chili Pipers, who put a Scots twist on rock ’n roll. He said: “Quite a lot of the time we just accept it. It's not just me, it would happen to every member of the band, and it's not just guys in the Chili Pipers. I think you need to look at it from their perspective – if you're going to say something to someone or touch somebody, you need to have their permission first. There's a boundary there you cannot cross. And too many times it's been crossed.” 

Upskirting has been a crime since 2009 in Scotland and was granted the same status in England and Wales last year, following a campaign by females who were being groped by men at crowded music festivals. It carries a two-year prison sentence, but when it happens to men, it’s laughed off as banter or high-jinx. It’s no big deal and just a spot of cheeky behaviour. Whereas if a man was to stick his hand up a woman’s dress or take pictures under her skirt, all hell would quite rightly break loose.

The difference highlights how society currently accepts double standards in relation to sexuality.

Another prime case was last weekend’s episode of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, Britain’s most-watched TV show. One routine saw celebrity contestant Caroline Quentin and pro dancer Johannes Radebe play out a suggestive scenario of an older housewife and young fireman. At one point, he thrusted his pelvis back and forward, as she was pressed against a ladder. Later on, she licked his bicep. If an older man was dry-humping a younger female, or if a mature gentleman was licking a girl in her 20s on national TV, it wouldn't have been dismissed as light entertainment.

There was also a low-key response to Conservative Councillor Vera Rider who, when taking part in a debate about domestic abuse, said: “I feel quite passionate about this. I beat my husband up regularly but he keeps quiet. But on a serious note – it’s only when something serious happens that something is done.”

While it was clearly a glib comment, that’s precisely the issue.

Earlier this year, world champion boxer Billie Joe Saunders received death threats and was branded “idiotic” for using a boxing bag to show “how to hit women.” His joke was in awful taste and deserved to see him roasted all over the media. But Councillor Rider suffered nothing like a similar backlash for her insensitivity.

Female pop star Katy Perry was accused by a male model of pulling down his trousers and underwear to uncover his genitals whilst on a video shoot. The singer denied the claim, but if that had been a male celebrity, would they have been able to walk away from it so easily? That led to a string of male strippers complaining of being violated by women who are too aggressive and show no respect for boundaries. 

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Their job may be to take off their clothes, but that doesn’t give anyone carte blanche to fondle them.

Britain’s best-known media executive Rebekah Brooks, CEO of News UK, was arrested for allegedly assaulting her husband in 2005. She was released from custody the next day and it has seemingly had no impact on her career – but would that be the case if the roles were reversed?

Johnny Depp was hastily removed from the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ movie franchise by Warner Bros for losing a libel case about domestic abuse, even though it was not a criminal case to determine his guilt. He levelled similar charges against his ex-wife Amber Heard, yet it seems unlikely she will be axed from her role in the ‘Aquaman’ franchise. 

There’s also the soon to be released book ‘I Hate Men’, which is being stocked and sold by major retailers.

Would a similar release called 'Let’s Hate Women’ be put on shelves by these same outlets? And even some of the reviews of the book are scandalous; one featured in London’s Evening Standard sees the writer proclaim “I’d like to make the case that being attracted to men is a fatal flaw, because they are the absolute worst.” 

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The status quo is way out of balance. The vulnerability of men is not taken as seriously as that of women. The solution is not to undermine any issues that females face, but to see those pertaining to males elevated to the same level.

The stereotype of tough, unflinching macho men is long gone – guys are just as likely to endure trauma from being sexually abused or exploited. The #MeToo movement thankfully unearthed a lot of toxic and hidden suffering. We need to consider #MenToo seriously, so we don’t have to deal with an analogous mountain of male pain in years to come.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.