As my bleary eyes adjusted to the light emanating from my phone screen this morning, I peered through the steam rising from my coffee to read one of the most sickening, misogynistic stories that it has been my misfortune to read since that tiny-handed Neanderthal currently occupying the White House, announced to the world that he could “grab ’em by the pussy.”
Sophie Stephenson, a 24-year-old bar supervisor from Stoke, UK, had a holiday romance with 21-year-old Jesse Mateman from Amsterdam. The two of them slept together while on holiday in Barcelona and kept in daily contact when they arrived home. However, when Sophie spent £350 flying to Amsterdam to see Jesse again and rekindle the romance they had shared in Spain, not only did he leave her stranded at the airport, he sent her a text saying “You were pigged *two pig emojis* It was all a joke *crying laughing emoji*”
It seems that “being pigged” or “pulling a pig” is a game that some men (and I use the word “men” in only its biological form here) play during a night out, whereby they try and pull the “fattest, ugliest girl” that they can find. It may sound horrific, it may be difficult to believe, but don’t worry, because according to Jesse Mateman, it’s all just a joke.
A joke? I have always been led to believe that a joke is funny. How the fuck is sexually humiliating someone supposed to be funny?
Sadly, this is yet another example of the symptomatic rise of misogyny and sexism in the men of today. I will not tar all men with the same brush, for there are a great many fantastic men out there; but all too often the spectre of misanthropic, chauvinistic behaviour raises its ugly head in the attitudes of males. All too often it is young males in whom this worrying trend is most prevalent. And this in itself means that the blame cannot be laid squarely at their door.
Such attitudes do not develop overnight. No man wakes up one morning and discovers that he sees women purely as objects, playthings, nonentities. The seeds of such attitudes are planted early on and unless checked and weeded out, will grow and grow until they choke and kill everything else that is good and kind. As a society, we can scream and yell and rage against the fact that all our young men are turning into absolute shitbags, or we can look to, and ask ourselves, what we are doing to change it.
Many of these young men – men like Jesse Mateman – have parents. They have fathers. And they have mothers. They have sisters. They have aunts. They have nieces. They have a whole host of female influence in their lives who can look out for and correct such toxic views. I know this to be true because I have seen it happen.
My own nephew was in danger of turning into a man like Jesse Mateman. He was surrounded by others who fed him their corrosive views on women, and he may well have developed into yet another hate-filled young man, had it not been for a conversation he and I had one night when he came home from a club. After listening to him talk about the girls he had seen at the club, I said “You know the thoughts that go through your head when you look at these girls and women?”
“Yeah.” he answered, in that weary way teenagers have when they sense a lecture coming on.
“And you rate them and talk and laugh and joke about all the things you’d do with them?”
“I suppose.” This time his response was laced with reticence, as if he wondered how I knew what he had been thinking.
“Well, other guys do all of that laughing and joking and rating, and thinking what they’d like to do, when they look at your sister.”
And in that instant, he went grey.
And in that instant, I knew I’d made an impact.
To him, it was no longer funny. It was all suddenly real and very close to home. Just a few short steps away in his sister’s bedroom, to be precise. Almost overnight, his attitude changed. He stopped hanging around with toxic personalities and turned into the nice, kind, decent young man I always knew he was.
So when I read tales of misogyny and sexism, my first response is often “What an absolute cunt that guy is!” Yet invariably, it is always followed by the thought that we women can do more to challenge this. We do it by checking the behaviour of our children and male family members, by refusing to believe that nothing can be done to halt the rise of a generation of sexist arseholes. Jesse Mateman is only 21 and already he is showing dangerous signs of being a misanthrope, a chauvinist, a misogynist, a sociopath. I hope he has a mother, and I hope she reads the story of his behaviour and I hope she is appalled and gives him a good smack around the head. To all the mothers out there, I say this. It’s not our job to raise everybody else’s child to be a decent, respectful human being, but it is our job to raise our own kids to be that. Because if we don’t do it, no one else fucking will!