Rosa Montero is a highly respected Spanish journalist and author. She writes a regular column in the newspaper El País and has published 29 books.
Rosa Montero – 27 Jan 2019
The majority of men in the world are decent, as has always been the case. However, toxic masculinity inevitably has an effect, and crime statistics reflect that.
In his fascinating book, Incognito, the neuroscientist David Eagleman says, “If you think genes don't matter for how people behave, consider this amazing fact: if you are the carrier of a particular set of genes, your probability of committing a violent crime rises by 882%.” He then outlines the annual statistics in the United States. Aggravated assault: carriers of those particular genes, 3,419,000; those without the genes, 455,000. Murder: carriers, 14,196; non-carriers, 1,468. Armed robbery: carriers, 2,51,000; non-carriers, 157,000. Sexual assault: carriers, 442,000; non-carriers, 10,000 (this is the most marked difference). Eagleman continues relaying chilling statistics regarding the potential effects of this genetic endowment (like, for instance, that 98.4% of prisoners on death row possess it) and finally reveals the genes to which he is referring, writing that “they are summarized as the Y chromosome. If you’re a carrier, we call you a male”.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted a quote on my Facebook that said, “If a 14-year-old boy is drunk in a group of five drunken women, he isn’t going to be raped. That is all.” It referred to a horrific case that occurred in Miramar, Argentina, where five men raped a 14-year old girl who appeared to be drunk, a detail that meant that some people blamed her for what happened. Now, in the comments thread of that post, some men wrote that they felt offended, which I find both astounding as well as depressing. I do not understand why surely decent people feel that they are somehow being referred to when we talk about rapists and a statistical reality that, as Eagleman clearly explains, is objective fact. Why do they feel the need to defend all men, aggressors included, instead of prioritising the defence of the victims, trying to understand why these atrocities happen and what we can do to avoid them? I’m constantly asking myself, and not just with respect to men, but in terms of human beings in general – how can we fight all this cruelty? Cruelty which, although 882% less likely, is also perpetrated by women. I don’t relate, in any way, to Countess Bathory, who tortured and killed hundreds of young women. So why do some men who consider themselves to be good people feel that they are being referred to when we talk about monsters and maniacs?
I suppose that it’s a case of the blindness of sexism, that age-old prejudice with which we have all been raised, including women, that makes some people feel endangered when they are not, and feel personally attacked when no one has pointed the finger at them. It is male chauvinism that makes them talk nonsense and offer absurd arguments, like saying that more men than women are the victims of violent deaths. They are, of course – at the hands of other men, confirming what Eagleman says. And further still, even outright lying, quoting fake statistics about gender-based crime reports or murders of children, for instance.
It’s clear, and Eagleman emphasises this, that having a genetic predisposition to violence doesn’t necessarily make you a criminal. The vast majority of men are decent, empathetic and respectful - it goes without saying that there are wonderful men in the world, as has always been the case. However, I think that it’s undeniable that an ideology based on toxic masculinity has an impact on these statistics, especially in terms of aggressive acts towards women. It’s good news, in a way, because it means that we can change things through education. And the other good news is that this change is already happening. In the comments thread of my Facebook post, there were more men in favour of the sentiment of the quote than there were sceptics.
The world is full of decent men who know that we are on the same side, allied in our quest to build a better society. We shouldn’t praise them, as anti-sexism is something that concerns us all, and applauding a man who fights for a fairer world is like thanking your partner for doing the laundry. But I do it anyway, as I still find it so moving. It is this body of intelligent and sensitive men that women are addressing. Friends, brothers, partners - show that decency of yours and fight alongside me.
Translated by Molly Shevlin
Original article: elpais.com/elpais/2019/01/21/eps/1548069914_462444.html