There’s been a lot of debate lately.
The debate about whether comedians whose stock in trade are rape jokes in a society where around 1,600 women are raped every week should be on primetime TV.
The debate as to whether a self-styled ‘pick up artist’ should have a visa to enter the UK. This is a man who – in a society where there are 1.2 million incidents of domestic abuse every year in the UK – looks at the Duluth Model (a chart describing different forms of intimate partner abuse) and describes it as a checklist of 'how to make her stay'.
The debate about whether Ched Evans should be allowed to train at Sheffield United; the debate about whether the rape he committed was proper rape; the debate as to whether women should keep their knickers on and their mouths shut if they want to ‘avoid’ rape; the debate about whether men just can’t help themselves if 'they're whipped into a storm' (yes they can).
There’s been the debates about whether Bill Cosby’s career should be over after multiple rape accusations; the debate about whether the freedom to promote violence against women is a freedom of speech issue (because only men’s freedom of speech matters – who cares that when you have a woman in a choke hold she can’t speak); the debates about whether a debate between two men on abortion should go ahead (this was never about whether anti-choice arguments were being silenced, it was about men using women’s bodies as objects to debate).
Debate, debate, debate.
What the last few weeks have shown women all over the UK is that our rights are not absolute. They’re not guaranteed. Right to live free from violence? Right to freedom of movement? Right to bodily autonomy? It’s up for debate.
Domestic abuse, stalking, threats? Time to debate men’s freedom of speech.
Rape? Let’s debate whether women are in truth the ones to blame. Let’s debate whether rape is really rape.
Abortion? Let’s debate whether women can actually be trusted with their right to bodily autonomy.
One of the arguments of feminism has been that in a patriarchal society, women are not seen as fully human. The human is the default male and women are positioned as other.
The debates of the last few weeks seem to suggest this. If we saw women as fully human with equal access to the same human rights as men, then we wouldn’t debate whether women are responsible for the rape committed against them. We wouldn’t debate whether a man’s freedom of speech to incite violence against women is more important than a woman’s right to live free from the impact of male violence. And we wouldn’t debate whether a man’s right to tell a woman that she has no right to her bodily autonomy is more important than her actual right to bodily autonomy.
Instead, we would recognise that the only person to blame for rape is the rapist. We would recognise that inciting violence against women doesn’t harm the speaker’s freedom of speech – it harms women’s. We would recognise that women have an absolute right to bodily autonomy.
But we don’t see women as fully human. Our bodies are still battlegrounds. And so our bodies are used as objects in debates between men.
So much of the debates these last few weeks have posited the right of women to live free from violence against men’s right to freedom of speech.
It’s such bullshit. Because men’s freedom of speech isn’t threatened by the cancelling of Dapper Laughs, or the denial of a visa to Julien Blanc.
But women’s freedom of speech sure is threatened in an online culture where speaking out on these issues leads to rape and death threats.
And women’s freedom of speech sure is threatened in a rape culture where male violence leads to around 1,600 rapes every week and the rape of vulnerable women has been effectively decriminalised.
Women’s freedom of speech sure is threatened in a society where there are 1.2 million incidences of domestic abuse every year and two women a week are killed by a partner or ex partner.
After all, as I said before, it’s hard to have a voice when you’re caught in a choke hold by a man who sees violence as a way to ‘pick up’ women.
So enough of this so-called debate. It's a nonsense. There's no debate when it comes to rape, when it comes to domestic abuse. We don’t debate the crimes committed against men. We don’t invite women into hallowed halls to discuss dispassionately whether men deserve their full human rights. We don’t look at the crimes committed against men, and discuss whether they are real crimes at all. We don’t look at male victims of crimes and say they should have kept their mouths shut.
My right to live free from violence isn’t up for debate. My right to bodily autonomy isn’t up for debate. If we saw women as fully human, none of this would be up for debate.