Life in a bubble
You know how your phone, laptop, tablet are all connected these days? Furthermore, they all monitor your activity and try to figure out who you are based on your searches and then tailor the adverts, news, and recommendations they beam to you to reflect this. Well, the challenge for my phone is that I share my devices with my wife and daughter.
My phone thinks I love (to name but a few) cartoon network, trip-hop and downtempo music, Russian politics (in Russian), Ryan’s toy review, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper gossip, Grand Designs, and the traffic in Ryde. Therefore, whenever I check the news, this is what I typically scroll through; this is the bubble in which I live.
I was shocked, when one day in June, I was scrolling through the news and I stumbled upon an article that was on quite a different topic. A closed-down lap-dancing club, near where I live, was set to reopen. An establishment that self-identified as a sex entertainment venue/sex club was going to have a license to be open from 10 pm to 4 am every night, 2 minutes walk from where I live. Suddenly, I was lurched from my bubble.
Working with Aurora
My concern led me to seek out likeminded individuals and before I knew it, I was helping with the formatting of a blog entitled ‘The impact of lap dancing’ for Aurora New Dawn. From there, I was delighted to begin work optimising and updating the Aurora New Dawn website. I was so pleased because it was an opportunity to work on an important cause that I have always felt strongly about.
My job is to format content for the website and build/update web pages, this means proofreading everything, reading the content again, and again, and again. This means facing uncomfortable truths about male behaviour and more importantly, the scale of male perpetrated violence against women.
It’s not that I hadn’t been aware of issues such as domestic abuse, sexual violence, and stalking. However, what I had done is distance myself from such truths and insulated myself in a bubble of comfort. Working for Aurora, what had once been peripheral began to take centre stage.
Male privilege and ‘the bubble effect’
We men have many privileges. We are so used to many of our privileges that we may not even register them in our consciousness. For example, we are less likely to be interrupted when speaking and can take up more physical space in a public place. Both convenient male privileges that are just the tip of the iceberg.
The facts are:
- Men are much less likely to be on the receiving end of domestic abuse. I’ve seen statistics with numbers as high as 85% of domestic violence victims are women.
- Men are significantly less likely to experience sexual assault or rape, especially if they are a heterosexual male.
- Men are rarely the victim of street harassment.
For some men, like me, it can seem strange when a woman starts talking about something like sexual harassment in the street, I understand the concept, I’m appalled by the notion, but I’ve never experienced it. This unfamiliarity can marginalise the issue: As it doesn’t affect me, and I don’t see it, how many people can that possibly affect? As it turns out… many women.
One study found that 81% of 811 female respondents were the target of sexually explicit comments from an unknown man at least once in their lifetimes, with 41% saying this had happened at least 26 times in their life.
It is very easy to walk the streets when you are a sturdy 6ft 3” male. As a large man, when people say to me things like “It’s dangerous to walk the city streets at night”, I pause and think, “Well sure, theoretically I guess, but I’ve never been assaulted.”
Come to think of it:
- I’ve never been in a domestic abuse relationship.
- I’ve never been sexually assaulted.
- I’ve never been sexually harassed in the street.
When my work colleague joked that when she arranges first dates, she always has a little worry that her date is going to chop her into pieces and put her in a suitcase… she was able to cite sources for her concern. There’s a grain of truth in every joke.
How peculiar the thought is that a woman could be violent to me. My wife is 5ft, I can pick her and my daughter up at the same time. My wife has never once picked me up. On our first date, it never entered my mind that she could pose a physical threat to me. Throughout my life, on all the dates I’ve been on, I’ve never entertained the notion that my date might try and hurt me.
That’s not to say that women can’t be violent to men, of course they can and are. But very rarely. In fact:
- Men are significantly less likely to be killed by their female partner or ex-partner they are much more likely to be killed by men.
- In 2013-14, 93% of defendants in domestic violence cases were men.
Yes, men are victims too, but not on the scale that women are. Yes, women can be violent too, but not on the scale that men can be. So the baseline problem remains the same, male violence.
Male privilege confronted by the scale of male violence
And so, as one day I worked on the sexual violence service page of the Aurora website, as a man reading and rereading, again and again about the scale of violence against women, I couldn’t help but feel angry, ashamed, outraged, and responsible.
Angry – at the perpetrators of violence. Ashamed – because the facts were so clear, that it is men perpetrating this violence in overwhelming numbers and I am a man. Outraged – that this goes on unchecked.
Responsible – because for too long I have distanced myself from issues such as the epidemic of male violence, to protect the sanctity of my bubble. Great for my bubble and me, I got to continue living in my rainbow-and-unicorn-filled existence. But not a great contribution to solving the problem of male violence.
Acknowledging the problem
In an age where we can filter incoming digital communication, it is easier than ever to filter out ‘negative input’. But how is that any different from hearing someone calling for help and then just turning the music up so you don’t have to listen?
The lesson I learned was that just because something is off your radar, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening. Ultimately, all men have women in their lives, whether it be a mother, sister, daughter, wife, girlfriend, friend, boss, work colleague, etc. What happens to them affects us too. If we don’t talk about the widespread crisis of male violence against women, how will it get any better?
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