Why Do We Believe Such Terrible Things About Men?
In the article ‘Why do we believe such terrible things about men that can’t be true?’, published yesterday in the Telegraph, Neil Lyndon responds to articles discussing statistics that show that one in three women is subjected to sexual violence, and that femicide is a leading cause of premature death for women by arguing that, ‘you have to question the motives of anybody who would write and publish such a transparent fiction’. The basic statistical errors and blatant misogyny that characterize the rest of his argument must raise similar questions about his own writing.
Lyndon asks us to assess the claims made by feminist campaigners, journalists, and the UN according to ‘objective research’ and our ‘own experience and the evidence of [our] own eyes’ before proceeding to demonstrate why he can’t be trusted to interpret either one.
The most objective inaccuracies in his article come in his use of statistics. In assessing whether the claims made about what violence women are likely to experience in their lifetimes, Lyndon consistently uses other figures that record instances of violence recorded ‘in the previous 12 months’ to show that there is a discrepancy between the two. The major reason why this would be the case ought to be obvious – more women will experience violence over the course of their whole lives than will do so within any particular year, but Lyndon presents this as irrefutable evidence that the UN and ONS statistics are a ‘monstrous, ludicrous misrepresentation’ of the facts.
Lyndon’s standards for accepting that violence against a woman has occurred seem to be pretty high, arguably to the extent that he will not believe that violence has occurred unless someone can show him a dead body. He states that because murder is easier to define than sexual violence (or “sexual violence”, as he repeatedly puts scare quotes around the phrase) we ought to consider murder statistics a more ‘reliable guide to the true extent of violence between men and women’.
From the rest of the article it is clear that Lyndon carries over this disbelief of women’s reported experiences into his interpretation of the lives of those around him.
Lyndon asks his readers, ‘How many women have you ever known who were subject to “sexual violence”?’ My answer would fall somewhere between ‘A lot’ and ‘All of them’, but Lyndon says, ‘I have only known two women who claimed to have been raped. Both of them were disbelieved by their own women friends who reckoned the soi-disant victims were making up stories that couldn’t be verified to dramatise their lives.’ The language of disbelief heaped up in these sentences provides a pretty good indicator of some of the reasons that women might not feel particularly comfortable disclosing their experiences of sexual violence to him, and the risks that women take in disclosure more generally.
This impression of Lyndon is strengthened by a very little exploration of his history. He is quoted in Joan Smith’s book Misogynies as having opposed the 1991 change in the law to forbid marital rape, arguing that it was a victory for a ‘totalitarian group’ that ‘insists that male sexuality is actively antagonistic to women’. You might not think that you’d have to be a very totalitarian feminist to see marital rape as actively antagonistic to women, but Lyndon clearly disagrees.
All in all, this article is 1,300 words of misogynistic assertion and innuendo coupled with actively dishonest, misleading, and wildly speculative maths and statistics. From his previous writings it is easy to dismiss Neil Lyndon as an obsessive and ridiculous MRA with an axe to grind. But what is more disturbing is the question of why the Telegraph is publishing this shit.