If You’re Surprised That A Man Hated Women So Much That He Killed Six People, Then You Haven’t Been Paying Attention

We like to think of men who hate women as shocking aberrations, because it is more comfortable than facing the truth: that there are tens of thousands of them out there, egging each other on, writes Laura Bates.

Plymouth shooting

by Grazia Contributor |
Updated on

There has been shock this week after the worst mass shooting in the UK in a decade. Shock at the news that online communities exist where thousands of men are collectively revelling in the notion of causing women pain and suffering. The events in Plymouth were a tragedy. But is it really such a shock that men hate women and want to kill them? In a country where one woman is killed by a man every three days, where a quarter of us experience domestic violence, where there are over 85,000 rapes a year, where 86% of young women have been sexually harassed in public? Is it a shock that the man who carried out this massacre appears to have been active on extreme, misogynistic forums, describing his affinity with the woman-hating incel community? In a society where almost half of women and non-binary people have experienced online abuse, where 80% of schoolgirls have been pressured to send nude photos, where threats of rape, murder and violence against MPs are described as “commonplace” and a female politician was murdered in the street in broad daylight by a far-right terrorist?

Against that backdrop, the notion that a young man could become completely radicalised online into a hate-fuelled misogynistic ideology can only really be completely shocking if you haven’t been paying attention.

There is much we don’t yet know about the awful events in Plymouth, but you can't separate the fact that a man has carried out a massacre after being steeped in online misogyny from a string of other news items that have appeared in the same week alone, from the woman who died while on hold to the police after having been assaulted by her partner (it was the seventh time she had reported him), to the man who has just been jailed for murdering his ex-girlfriend's new partner or the man who raped a girl on her way to school.

These incidents are all connected. They are all part of a society in which the idea of male domination and female subjugation are normalised and hailed as markers of successful masculinity.

We shouldn't be shocked that there are websites out there devoted to utter hatred of women, advocating their rape and torture, because this is a logical extension of the society in which we live in. A society where low-level misogyny is so normalised that 80% of girls are sexually harassed at school and describe it as “normal”. Where the police refuse to consider misogyny as a hate crime. Where female MPs who tried to raise the issue of sexual violence in parliament after Sarah Everard's death were told to mind their tone and speak more temperately. Where rape occurs with such impunity that just 1.4% of cases reported to the police result in a charge or summons.

We mustn't see this as an extreme, isolated case, because it is just one end of a continuum of normalised misogyny and violence against women. And the key to confronting it is to tackle that low-level, everyday sexism that begins to prepare boys from childhood to be groomed by groups like incels and socialises girls from birth not to protest.

Men Who Hate Women: From Incels to Pickup Artists, the Truth About Extreme Misogyny and How It Affects Us All, Laura Bates
Price: £10.99

The way we admonish our sons for shedding tears and praise our daughters for their sweetness, their prettiness, their compliance. The way we cry “lock up your daughters” when a little boy is born, or tease four-year-olds about “being on their first date” when they play with kids of a different gender. The way we consider it ‘normal’ rather than cause for concern when this eventually feeds into gender segregation in playgrounds and social groups by the age of 11 or 12. The way we teach children at school that when boys harass girls or commit offences against them, the solution is for the girls to cover themselves up, to wear longer skirts, to learn how to protect themselves, because, after all, “boys will be boys.”

We can’t separate these things out because they are all connected. We like to think of men who hate women as shocking aberrations, because it is more comfortable than facing the truth: that there are tens of thousands of them out there, egging each other on, comparing notes on how to get the highest possible “kill count” or to commit rape without being caught. But the only way to stop them is to face up to this reality: it is the inherent sexism in our society that has allowed these ideologies to flourish unchecked for so long in the first place. We might be shocked, but we should not be surprised.

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