In the six years since my first novel was published, I have been called a man-hater many times.
At book events, school talks, on social media, during radio interviews, in letters sent anonymously to my home, on Reddit forums and Boards.ie.
I have been told that a university lecturer referred to me as such when discussing Asking For It in his classroom, and that a bookseller made similar comments when someone was paying for After the Silence at the till.
I have said it isn’t true. I’ve talked about my love for my father, the decency of my boyfriend, all the good men I am lucky enough to know.
I have tried to explain that in criticising the patriarchy, I am not targeting individual men (#NotAllMen) but the societal structure as a whole that has benefited men over women.
But I am done explaining.
Why are we still characterising feminists in this boring and lazy way, when all they have ever argued for is equal rights and opportunities for men and women? Why are we not examining the far more pressing issue at hand, which is the deep-rooted hatred that a certain contingent of men hold for women?
It was revealed this week that Discord, a US messaging platform, was being used to share nude images of women and under-age girls that had been leaked without their consent.
The Victim’s Alliance lobby group said that up to 140,000 intimate and sexual photographs were being shared amongst five hundred male users.
Activists fighting to have these images removed were subjected to death and rape threats; “these feminazi c**ts need to be burned,” one user wrote.
Understandably, this has caused the women involved an enormous amount of distress, some of whom reported feeling suicidal.
When a user on the forum was told that one of the victims tried to take their own life, he replied – “was she hot?”
This dehumanisation of women is horrifying but not shocking.
For a project I was working on earlier this year, I reserached incels (involuntary celibates – a subculture of men who are unable to find a sexual partner).
After days of reading about the importance of finding a female partner who is in a ‘sexually pristine’ state, how education, career, and ambition are ‘useless’ for women as they don’t enhance male sexual satisfaction, and that women should be ‘forced’ to date undesirable men, I felt chilled to the bone.
This is something that Laura Bates explores in her latest book, “Men Who Hate Women”, for which she spent months infiltrating men’s networks online.
She discovered a mass grooming and radicalisation of young men, convincing many of them that they are the ones being marginalised, attacked, and disenfranchised in our world today.
These right-wing movements are legitimising misogyny, telling men they can do what they want with women’s bodies.
They can find sexually explicit photos and videos anywhere on the internet; indeed, some of the photos leaked were taken from OnlyFans, a subscription site where users pay for that content.
These men were getting a thrill from knowing the women involved didn’t give consent and the proximity of that to rape and sexual assault is frightening.
What is often referred to as ‘revenge porn’, and is perhaps more accurately described as image-based sexual abuse, is currently not a criminal offence in Ireland.
A lot of politicians have spoken out about the Discord leak, including the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, who has said she is determined to introduce “tough new laws…to ensure anyone who shares these kinds of images will face serious criminal sanctions…regardless of the motivation of the person who passes them on.”
While the legislation will be a critical element of tackling this issue, it is only one part.
There needs to a massive shift in societal attitudes around gender and sexism and an inclusive sex education curriculum with consent at its very core must be introduced in an age-appropriate manner from primary school onwards.
This is no longer an abstract theory to be debated in the Dáil, it is essential for the health and well-being of all our young people, boys and girls alike. We also need the good men out there to be our allies.
We don’t have access to many of the same spaces as you do – the locker rooms, the sports teams, the Whatsapp groups.
We need you to call out this bad behaviour rather than dismissing it as ‘banter’, and we certainly need you to take an unequivocal stand if your friends are sharing photos like the ones from the Discord leak.
Any attempt to shift the responsibility onto the women involved will be seen for what it is– blatant victim-blaming.
Telling women they shouldn’t send nudes if they don’t want to be violated in this way is akin to telling us that if we don’t want to get raped, we shouldn’t go out at night and we shouldn’t wear short skirts and we shouldn’t drink and we shouldn’t walk home alone and we shouldn’t and we shouldn’t and we shouldn’t… We have done all of those things and yet still, one in three of women will experience sexual violence in their lifetimes.
Why are we still expected to break our spines in order to fit into a world that is so hostile to us?