2017 Revisited: A look back through the eyes of TCW’s top writers.
First posted November 2017
Ever since the outing of serial sexual attacker Harvey Weinstein, men have been on public trial. They have been subjected to an across-the-board character assassination. Innocent until proved guilty in the law maybe, but in the trial by media that’s followed they’ve been presumed guilty without recourse to due process.
Yet the bullying continues. Women commentators, instead of re-directing women to the law to pursue their grievances, continue to encourage the media witch-hunt, the viciousness of its tone scaling up, not down the while: ‘Almost every day’, Nesrene Malik wrote, ‘there is a man’s sneering, hovering head sitting on top of a few hundred words of what is really no less than the sort of existential hysteria of an animal whose cosy ecosystem has been disturbed.’
If such derogatory commentary is anything to go by, Carl Sargeant’s death is not proving the watershed moment some of us hoped for. In what appears to be a cop-out, Labour now says its investigation into allegations that led to Mr Sargeant’s death can’t continue. If the police don’t take it up his reputation will have died with him.
So this ever more ludicrous trial by media goes on, its justification still insisted on, not least by one of its instigators, Jane Merrick. As my co-ed commented yesterday, it must take a huge amount of self-delusion to be invested in such nonsense. Who do they think they are? Rosa Parks? Not one of these women seems prepared to take any responsibility for her own actions.
But men are silent. They stand accused of sexual harassment en masse; of creating a climate of fear and intimidation in which women have to work, an allegation serious enough for the PM to put it before other business, but they still stay silent.
Where’s their protest? Will they not speak out even in self defence? Not even to condemn the casual conflation of flirtation, inconsequential body-touching or familiar or derogatory comments (all of which women are ‘guilty’ of too) with serious sexual assault?
Of the four hundred and twenty two male MPs just two have had the guts to do so. Veteran member Sir Roger Gale alone dared take to the airwaves, while Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, remarked on ‘a degree of anguish that these things also unfairly tarnish the vast majority of MPs who are committed to public service and to doing good for their constituents’.
Are we to believe the rest are in accord with the vindictive Mrs Leadsom? That they stand squarely behind Jeremy Corbyn’s denunciation of a culture of degradation in Westminster? Do they want us to believe they are all guilty?
The silence is deafening. As the united front of Corbyn, Cable and May met to ‘collectively signal their virtue’, as one commentator on this site put it, we heard not so much as a bleat.
You would think men would be infuriated by the double standards, the aspersion cast on their sex, the myths perpetuated by attention-seeking ‘I too have been abused by ten Tory MPs’ Guardianista female columnists and by the idea that we live in some sort patriarchal theocracy, rather than a society in which women are already on top.
Newspaper editors appear totally uninterested in exploring men’s reactions to MeToo, in finding out whether men feel angry, abused or despairing. Do men not count? Or is it that editors fear ‘unpublishable’ responses that would ‘label’ them as unreconstructed in the eyes of the feminist thought police, should they print what they find out?
The mainstream media’s male commentators seem as cowed as the male MPs. Perhaps they are all genuine converts to the feminist cause, fearing Marina Hyde might turn on them having dealt with Westminster. ‘I read recently’ she joked, ‘that parliamentary authorities spent £130k on pest control, but it turns out to have been the wrong kind of pest’.
Are they as fearful of the feminist columnists as male MPs are of the feminist MPs like Jess Phillips who takes any witch-hunt talk by male colleagues as a mark of their guilt?
Imagine, for one minute, the furore were a man was to write about women as pests to be eliminated. This, surely, has to be the real culture of harassment and one that has crept up on us.
Perhaps it is a case of who needs enemies when you have ‘friends’ like the insufferably smug Guardian commentator Jonathan Friedland who says ‘on sexual harassment we men need to be clear: the problem is not women, it is us’.
No, Jonathan. The problem society has today with bad, coarse and aggressive behaviour, online and off, with the breakdown of respect between the sexes (which appears to infect Labour’s ranks particularly badly) is one of women’s as well of men’s making.
Dare say as much, as former political editor Michael White did – that female hacks could prey even on ugly old backbenchers (as Melissa Kite was later to confirm) and you’re smacked down – by another man, namely the Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn who told him he ‘may want to apologise’ for his ‘outburst’.
The question remains of why far less PC men than he are kow-towing to this harpy led onslaught on their freedom of expression? Is it their innate chivalry? Do they not like contradicting women? Or are they genuinely scared?
Perhaps the answer is to be found in Niall McCrae’s response to David Kurten’s article on this site, that modern men find themselves caught in a cleft stick: ‘ . . . hit with their (the feminists’) unshakable dichotomy of power relations. So (that) just like a black person can never be racist, a woman can never be sexist, because she is of a disempowered group’.
If the silence of the men lays bare one thing, it is the myth of their male privilege. What it reveals by contrast, I fear, is the reverse, an appalling crisis of male confidence. It is not men’s masculinity that is toxic but the feminist attack on it.