I’d like more men to know that, and they might be more receptive to the message if they hear it from other men. But those other men might not be so amenable to passing on the message if they themselves become afraid of the finger pointing at them. While women may enjoy a moment of schadenfreude when a man feels the fear she’s known her entire life, paranoia does not make us receptive to new ideas. The news of the BBC ditching a well-loved presenter for an inappropriate ten-year-old text could make some feel that the standard has been pitched so high they might as well give up trying. An amnesty for past intrusive behaviours that were naive, thoughtless or crass rather than criminal, along with a clear message that some forms of “banter” will no longer be tolerated, might be more conducive to creating a new climate of mutual respect.
While too much confrontation can induce a defensive withdrawal or counter-attack, fiction can provide an extremely safe insight into another’s life experience. Perhaps what we really need is for men to read more novels about how misogyny makes the world unsafe for women. I’ve picked out three from this year’s reads – click on the image to go straight to the review – and you can find more through this link. My review of The Burning Girl shows that it’s not only decent men who underestimate how much fear dominates the lives of women. Let’s see what you think.