These are no (gentle)men

A response to John Birmingham’s post today at the Brisbane Times. A little too short for a blog post maybe, but too long for Facebook.

Sorry, John, I usually like what you write, but I don’t think this is helpful. These are shameful things that men have done, but it’s not a stain on men in general. Was doing some research earlier in the week and discovered that (in the US, stats for which are easier to find on the internet), around 2.5% and 2% of women commit violent crimes per year. Terrible things are done by people who do terrible things, not by men as a whole. Perpetuating this illusion stirs up more ill-feeling between the sexes and continues the myth that all women are victims and all men are victimisers. I won’t own, as part of a group, any of the stuff that these people have done, but I will own responsibility (along with all women) for trying to get people like this to stop treating other people (regardless of their sex) as less than human.

One last thing that springs to mind is Ben Harper’s song “Excuse Me, Mr.”, where he says

I’m taking the Mr.

from out in front of of your name

’cause it’s a Mr like you

that puts the rest of us to shame.

Such people do not deserve to be included in the company of (gentle)men; they are something other entirely.

Important update: I fell into a huge trap here, and it shows the grievous danger of gender politics. People do things we don’t like; sometimes they harm others. But there is that paraphrase of St. Augustine, “love the sinner; hate the sin.”

As an increasingly unreligious society, we have become increasingly unforgiving and cruel. Even in her apology to Nigella, Dunleavy writes “my wish … is that she is safe and well, and as far away from her beastly husband as possible.” We begin with criticism of Saatchi’s acts, and move swiftly on to naming the man himself a beast instead of a person.

It does nothing to diminish Nigella’s suffering to acknowledge that Saatchi is still human, to condemn the sin but keep room for compassion for the sinner. What is going on there? How have his standards and their relationship deteriorated to this apparent point?

It does in the end, diminish the value of Nigella’s suffering–in fact, of every human suffering, to do what I did above and cast another person into the outgroup where they are not deemed worthy of full moral consideration. I began by defending men against Birmingham’s attempt to shame, and I ended by casting a man out of manhood. The next step is to cast him out of humanity.

And this is what we do. On the basis of appearances, we judge men (and sometimes women) in our own hearts, without due process, and then in the courts. We strip them of their rights, cast them out of their families, out of our friendship, and we throw them into prison where they are raped, or, slightly better, onto the streets. Either way, we make them and their suffering invisible. But never mind: they are no longer human!

This process mirrors almost exactly what happens in the mind of a true misogynist who hates women, casts them out of humanity, and says to himself that they deserve to be subjected to abuse.

This, dehumanization and nothing else–not inequality, not violence, and not oppression–is the fundamental essence of racism and sexism.

It must not continue. There is something far bigger at stake in gender politics than the treatment of each sex by the other. This mode of discourse threatens our humanity.

I apologize to all people, everywhere.

Author: Ben Hourigan

Ben Hourigan is a novelist from Melbourne, Australia. His books Kiss Me, Genius Boy and My Generation’s Lament are Amazon category bestsellers, and are available wherever good books are sold online. Ben also works as an editor, copywriter, and self-publishing consultant at his own firm, Hourigan & Co. For news and book release updates, sign up to his email newsletter.