I’ve met lots of men in my 26 years. Short men, tall men. Funny men, not so funny men. Men who announce they are a feminist and call their girlfriend an idiot in the same breath. Men who don’t actively call themselves feminists, but who I know in my bones to be decent and just.
In old grainy battle films, for some reason these men are always called John. “John is a good man,” the characters would agree earnestly. Bless John, he has no idea of his sex appeal because he is humble. He is a trustworthy man. A reliable man. An attractive man. A good man.
Then there’s the men who run our country. I fear these men are the antithesis of John. They are not good men. Perhaps I sound extreme, but when three cabinet ministers are among a whopping 56 MPs subject to sexual misconduct allegations, there is no denying it: we’ve got ourselves a house full of rotters.
And no, Kwasi Kwarteng, it’s not just some “bad apples”. Like booze and entitlement, misogyny is clearly embedded into the upholstery of Westminster, because I can’t take my earplugs out without hearing about another damn Creepgate.
But what do we expect when year after year we handpick these mouldy apples from the same old overgrown trees? They all seem to quite miraculously land on their feet in various positions of power across the UK. And it’s not a huge stretch to say they are all incredibly similar people, if not exactly the same. Heck, it’s almost like they went to the same schools and are all family friends or something.
Identical upbringings foster similar breeds of un-woman-worthy men. If you are unsure what a bad apple looks like, you can identify him as the one who always goes “just a bit too far”. He uses humour to cover his wrongdoings. He may even be charming. His laugh is booming, but he “just doesn’t find female comedians funny”.
He grabs without thinking. He mocks “fluffy” ideologies because he doesn’t know what it feels like to be touched when you don’t want to be. Secretly, although he isn’t allowed to say it anymore, he thinks she probably enjoyed it.
His dad was definitely a d***. He has lived a sheltered, rarefied existence and yet sees himself as worldly and wise. He only spends time with people like him. He tells the story of that time he met a builder often and loudly. His parents told him he was better than other people. He started to believe it. Now, he struts. His legs spread apart when he sits. Which is funny, because he has a truly microscopic penis.
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Perhaps this seems cruel and simplistic, but this is a man I think about a lot. I feel as though I know him like the back of my hand. Sometimes I can’t sleep because I am so enraged by him. And in the morning I wake up to him every day on the radio through some scandal, and another, and another. Sometimes, I see him in the faces of good men.
It’s not unusual to experience day-to-day sexism, but when it comes from the people who are supposed to represent us, it undermines democracy for women. And when MPs can’t show women respect within the walls of our most sacred, mighty and humbling institutions that is the Houses of Parliament, then what hope do we have down the pub?
So I’ve realised it’s not enough anymore for men to just be good. We need them to be exceptional. Because if John won’t march into battle to face misogyny with axes and swords, he’s no better than just another useless lump of rotten apple. And no one wants to shag that.