Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Some men really need to get their hatred of women off their chests

What a jolly upstanding bunch they are at Amazon.

If they've made a mistake, they hold their hands up and admit it right away, and those 'Keep Calm and Rape a Lot' T-shirts are whipped off their website before you can say, 'But didn't it occur to you when you set out to make money from selling these T-shirts that the wording was less a catchy slogan and more a statement celebrating misogyny, ignorance and violence with such venom it verges on hate crime?'

To be fair, though it took a public furore to get the items removed from sale at haste, we can surely trust that Amazon would have done in time anyway, as soon as it spotted its own mistake, probably made in a confusingly under-lit room on a distractingly shaky Stock Market day.

It's easy to overlook the questionable tone of an incitement to rape and, in another on-sale T-shirt, 'Keep Calm and Knife Her' when you've had a long day. The stress of working for dynamic tax-avoiders like Amazon also probably explains why the company still hasn't, at the time of writing, issued an apology.

Solid Gold Bomb, the original manufacturers, blame an automatic message-generating computer programme for the T-shirts. Oddly, the programme appears to have cultivated a preference for violence against women – it doesn't seem to have randomly generated any garments urging the rape or cutting of 'him'. And one does wonder – is it really likely that huge batches of clothes are printed, folded, packaged up and promoted online without anyone noticing what they say?

This story isn't just about a global retailer selling morally unacceptable wares. It's something much scarier than that; a backlash against equality.

People in Northern Ireland know all about social groups lashing out in a panicked frenzy when the slow dawn of equality takes away the power they used to assume without contest, whether they earned it or not.

The last few years have seen a drip-feed of exposures covering various injustices against women, from shocking domestic violence and rape figures to a flurry of tales about gropes in the stationary cupboard or men 'forgetting' to invite female peers to important meetings.

Emboldened women are creating new platforms to say what they've been afraid to say for a long time, such as the strengthening 'No More Page 3' campaign or Eve Ensler's worldwide One Billion Rising celebration.

This public fight-back won't trouble the majority of men, because most are decent, fair-minded and sensible. But there is a sizeable faction who are reacting badly, spitting like cornered dingos.

They may have tolerated the rise of cross-gender respect and the progressive metrosexual male for a while, but there now seems to be a re-embracing of old attitudes about female inferiority and the adoption of brutal language which presents women as 'sluts' and rape as 'what they had coming to them'.

Just this week the prestigious Glasgow University Union annual Ancients debate made headlines when female speakers were booed and met with cries of 'What do women know anyway?' while male debaters enjoyed respectful quiet. When a female judge tried to hush the cat-callers she was shouted down, alleges debater Rebecca Meredith, and called a 'frigid bitch'.

Yes, the Amazon T-shirts are shocking but you can find their sentiments on numerous websites where men swap jokes anonymously.

The last time I was in a Soho restaurant I sat next to a bunch of city boys and wow, did they despise women. I bet they thought those T-shirts were a right old laugh.