What I learned when Lauren Mayberry fought back against misogyny

Until Lauren Mayberry revealed online this disgusting message she’d received on Instagram, on Twitter – https://twitter.com/laurenevemay/status/591029348821512192 – I think I was somewhat naïve about how comments on social media and misogynistic and sexist statements in general can affect women. I think I was even blind to how common the issues – in general – are.

We’ve all heard the saying ‘sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never harm me’.

I think I maybe used that idea to avoid exploring and understanding the issue because it made and still makes me feel uncomfortable and a bit guilty for the times I might have done or said sexist things even though I knew it was wrong. I should add if I have done so it’s very rare, because I do try my best to be a generally nice person.

I’m the only son in my immediate family. I have two sisters, a twin and another who’s six years older than me. I have a Mum and a Dad who have always been there though my Mum spent much more time with us growing up as my Dad regularly worked 12-hour night shifts as a mechanical engineer and slept in the day. So I’ve always had females around me and feel comfortable with them. My Mum’s my favourite person in the world.

But I’m a ‘typical English guy’. I’m a football fan. I drink pints at the pub. I sometimes find women complex. I often say the wrong thing without meaning to.

But I read Lauren’s tweet and I really wanted to offer her some support. I’d only recently got ‘in to’ her band, Chvrches, but she seemed really nice (although I don’t know her).

I said in response to her tweet: “That guy was constantly posting crap, presumably to get a reaction. It’d be easy to say ‘just ignore them’, easy for someone who doesn’t have to deal with that. Like I say though they just want attention.”

To be honest, any idea for a worthwhile, supportive comment, sort of evaporated before I suggested the offender was saying it just for attention. I should have just said nothing but I felt compelled to try to make her feel better – possibly a typically male thing to do in a situation that possibly didn’t require it.

After a while and seeing what Lauren’s opinion was on the matter, I began to really regret what I’d said. I realised how clueless I was about this sort of thing. I mean, I was called names at school, like many of us are and I found the best way for me to deal with it was to try to develop a thick skin and try to let it wash over me, even though things people said always hurt and I’d sometimes go home and hate myself even though I’d done nothing wrong.

As you get older and more mature you get stronger and realise you don’t have to put up with bullies or people who say things to get a reaction or for whatever reason.

Maybe how we deal with personal attacks depends on our personality.

Anyway, I realised – although it came from the right place – my suggestion for Lauren to dismiss what had been said to her as attention-seeking and move past it was wrong and I felt naïve.

Now – I love to learn – I try to learn new things every day and when I realised I was so naïve about how these vile/ evil/ pathetic comments affected people, mainly women, I felt an urge to educate myself.

And since then – about two weeks ago – I think I’ve learned quite a lot and continue to do so.

I’ve read articles, watched videos and listened to podcasts to try to understand these issues better. Go, me. Right..? I’ve plunged myself in to feminist media at every opportunity and really tried to be better.

Lauren wrote this in September, 2013, about online misogyny and I read it for the first time today: http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2013/sep/30/chvrches-lauren-mayberry-online-misogyny.

She wrote it nearly two years ago and she’s still having to repeat herself.

I feel I’ve been hiding in a cave. This particular article was very interesting, engaging, touching, upsetting but inspiring.

I also turned to TYCI, ‘a collective run by women’ at http://www.tyci.org.uk/wordpress/, to learn more.

Her talk with Google is a fascinating watch even though Lauren says she’s uncomfortable with public speaking. Here it is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zdmg9QySDTs.

This is also great from Rain City Rock Camp: http://raincityrockcamp.org/laurenmayberryinterview/.

After Lauren stood up for herself and other women, I hope she made other women feel empowered and that they shouldn’t take crap.

But I know the way she showed strength in what must have been an unpleasant situation shamed people, like me, to wake up and see how big an issue misogyny and sexism is. We can’t just bury our head in the sand because a problem is hard to deal with.

Men: don’t avoid the subject. Work on your blind spots and love and respect the women in your lives.

It can be challenging reading feminist writing. I sometimes feel I’m not really welcome. Is it just for women? Should I go back to reading about football and listening to The Cribs, i.e. my male idols? What part do men have to play? A support role maybe? Simply being open-minded and respectful?

Whose dad gave them a talk on how to treat women? Mine didn’t. Maybe your father’s – and mother’s role is simply to lead by example.

We’re taught in school about women’s fight for the vote but not much more. Maybe we – men – shouldn’t need an education on how to treat women.

Thanks for reading. And thanks to people – like Lauren – who are inspiring positive change in this world of ours.

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