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The Men vs Women Debate Is Problematic

Over the past week, social media has erupted with many discussions and solutions being proposed within the United Kingdom around gender violence since Sarah Everard’s death. The 33-year-old was kidnapped on her walk from Clapham to Brixton, and her body was found in Ashford Kent. Wayne Couzens, a Metropolitan police officer, has been arrested and charged in connection to the kidnapping and murder of Ms Everard and has already appeared in court.  

The facts

Since the tragic death of Sarah Everard, a 6 pm curfew for men was proposed by Baroness Jenny Jones in the House of Lords, and the proposal caused a massive stir within the country. The Green party member had to clarify that she was not serious about the request and had received dozens of misogynistic emails and tweets due to her proposal.

When she announced the proposal, the hashtag “Curfew For Men” started to trend on Twitter, and during that point, Television presenter, Davina McCall had an issue with the hashtag. The television presenter felt that the trend was excessive “fear-mongering”, and in her tweet, she said that “female abduction/murder is extremely rare”.  She went on and suggested that “calling all men out as dangerous is bad for our sons, brothers, partners”.  Since tweeting this post, she had to clarify her comments and felt that the “misinterpretation” of her post was “terrifying”.  

Mark Deacon, a Tory councillor in Plymouth, was also another person who responded to the proposal and was against it. In response to the proposal, he posted a picture of himself dressed in women’s clothes on Facebook, and the post read: “If the Green Party and some Labour Party politicians get their way and impose this ridiculous 6 pm curfew on men, then I’m going to wear my dress more often.” Since the post, he has been ridiculed by many on social media has now been suspended over this post. He has also deleted the post and has apologised for his actions.

Hanna Bardell, an SNP Westminster frontbencher, was not against the proposal as many others had been. When speaking to the Sunday Times about this idea, she said that “we need to discuss all the options, even the ones that sound a bit wacky”. The First minster of Wales, Mark Drakeford, had not ruled the possibility of implementing such a curfew initially. However, days later, he backtracked on the proposal saying that the government would not be considering such a plan.

The 6 pm curfew has sparked a conversation around addressing violence towards women, and that is for sure.

We have seen many agreeing and disagreeing with Jenny’s proposal, but the question is, how helpful or beneficial has this conversation been?

Let’s see what our journalists think.

It is safe to say that the 6 pm curfew proposal has caused a commotion, but it was needed. For far too long, violence against women and women’s experiences, in general, have been brushed under the carpet. The reaction to the 6 pm proposal was as if people in this country had cold water thrown at them, specifically by Jenny Jones. Unsurprisingly, people were shocked that she would do or propose such a policy. But as wacky or as cold as this proposal may be, it has made us realise how serious this issue is and it has started a conversation, which we desperately needed.

Sometimes you need bold and divisive language to get a tough conversation going, and violence against women is one of those conversations. Of course, some people have misinterpreted the last few days, such as tweeting the hashtag NotAllMen and people furiously typing away on Twitter about their dismay over this proposal. Not only does this show a complete lack of self-awareness by these sets of people, but it also shows how far people are in understanding the issue.

Yet, we cannot rule out that a conversation has started, even if Jenny Jones was not serious about this proposal. One hopes that this wacky proposal can kickstart a change on this issue and for people to start realising that this is a severe issue. Women are not saying that all men are a danger to them, but a considerable number of men out there can be a threat to their lives. All of this is backed up by statistics, and for far too long, we have normalised these statistics. We, as a society, can only hope that this 6 pm proposal is the turning point in this discussion, rather than the detriment of it.  

In a time where the news cycle moves at dizzying speed, cutting through the noise has become an art form. The proposal to ‘Ban All Men after 6 pm’ which Baroness Jenny Jones, has since defended on Jeremy Vine, seems like something from the playbook of infamous right-wing provocateur Milo Yannalpouls.

Long before this particular cultural moment, Mr Yannalpouls traded in absurdity and shock value. This strategy worked in part because it made him famous, however after the dust settles, the question we really have to contend with is whether this strategy helped the conversation and pushed the needle forward. Did it advance any credible solutions?

In the case of Yannalpouls, it’s a resounding no. He has become a pop-cultural figure of dissent, often caricatured but never really understood, a poster boy for the meme zeitgeist we find ourselves in. A generation obsessed with slogans instead of solutions, and Giffs rather than engaging with the nuance.

The proposal by Baroness Jenny Jones may indeed succeed in getting more people talking. However, this is a very low bar. Bad weather gets people in the UK Talking. The question must be asked about the nature of the conversations we are having. Is it helpful in generating solutions and possible policy? It is a disservice to women when we make the issue of their safety a partisan debate with men arguing from fear too.

The proposal coalesces people on different sides. It encourages people to dig their heels further into their ideological trenches. Rather than simple and shallow, ‘men vs women’ debates, we need all people pulling in the same direction. We need solutions, ideas and we need nuance.

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Hamish Hallett is a journalist/broadcaster part of the scribe team at Common Sense. He has a deep interest in current affairs, both domestically and internationally, which you can see through his written work and his podcast called A Spoonful of News. Hamish loves to understand what makes people tick and get to the root of today's issues. Away from the network, Hamish has a profound interest in reading books, keeping active, travailing, meeting new and exciting people and controversially having ham and pineapple on pizza.

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Mike Omoniyi is the Founder and Editor In Chief of The Common Sense Network. He oversees and is responsible for the direction of the Network. Mike is an activist, singer/songwriter and keen athlete. With a degree in Politics Philosophy and Economics, MA in Political Science (Democracy and Elections) and an incoming PhD on a study of Cyber-Balkanisation, Mike is passionate about politics and the study of argumentation. He is also the Managing Director of a number of organisations including, Our God Given Mission, The BAM Project and The Apex Group.

Hamish Hallett and Mike Omoniyi

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