Fear Over Hope

In the space of twelve months, the Conservative party won a majority, Donald Trump became a major focus of the 2016 American presidential election for his extreme views on women, Muslims, Mexicans, and more, and a pick up artist, whose views on women and homosexual men are nothing short of violent, tried to arrange a worldwide meet-up, sparking massive outcry online.

Maybe David Cameron is not as proactively terrifying as Roosh V, but there is no denying his harmful actions have led to unnecessary deaths thanks to the DWP, the bedroom tax, and his refusal to accept the scale and the need for something to be done during the refugee crisis.

A lot of these policies do not affect the people who voted for him. This article in the Telegraph found that only one of the areas with the highest unemployment in the UK returned a Tory MP, while only three of the areas with the highest employment didn’t return a Tory MP. Ethnically diverse seats returned Labour MPs, in stereo. The average non-white population of the 22 out of 23 seats the Tories targeted and won? 6.4%. Compare that to the average non-white population of Labour-held seats, which is 23%, and it is clear that it is comfortably-employed white people who are voting for Cameron’s party – not those who are likely to be affected by the bedroom tax, DWP sanctions, or feel the actions of his reserved attitude towards refugees.

UKIP, the anti-everything that isn’t white, male, and heteronormative party, averaged 12.7% of the vote UK-wide. In East Ham, the constituency with the highest non-white population in Britain, they received a well-below-average 5% against Labour’s 77.6%, and it also happens to be Labour’s safest seat in the UK capital.

What this shows is that scare-mongering about immigrants (which is usually a code-word for people who have, at any point in their family’s history, arrived from the Middle East and are of the Muslim faith) only works in areas where there actually aren’t that many immigrants. UKIP’s one MP, Douglas Carswell for Clacton, won in a constituency that is only 2.6% non-white.

Before looking at how that applies to people like Trump and Roosh, it is interesting to note what effect it has on a student living in the west end of Glasgow. Without any scientific basis, most people here would see it as a predominantly progressive area of the city (if not the entire country), where feminism is the norm, the notion of gender identity is questioned, and seeing two people of the same gender holding hands doesn’t so much as raise an eyebrow. For all intents and purposes, the west end feels pretty left-leaning and forward-thinking.

Students are the first loud voices of generation change. We millennials are socially progressive overall, but maybe it’s best to examine even smaller communities without statistics.

To break the fourth wall for a moment, qmunicate’s editorial meetings are made up of ultra-feminist, left-leaning 18-24 year olds. We are the type of people who are past the point of finding equal marriage an issue, and are shocked to find there are people who still oppose it never mind see it as something worth commenting on at all. We see gender as fluid, would sooner die than vote Tory, and believe societal privilege permeates everything in life.

So is qmunicate feminist because of the people who attend, or are the people who attend feminist because of qmunicate?

Our doors are open to everyone, and it could not be said we seem to hold or publish wide-ranging political views. We see ourselves as tolerant and respectful, except when it comes to those who are intolerant. But, those who are intolerant are a community too, and clearly they are not hanging out with us.

(As an aside – we do welcome Tory voters, and if there are any shy Tories in the room, sorry for lumping you in with us damn lefties.)

So taking what we know of how people vote, and how student demographics can be insular, can we begin to tackle problems like Roosh V and his dangerous fanbase?

What Trump and Roosh have in common is charisma (something which UKIP leader Nigel Farage also has in spades). It is easy for them to hold your attention, but if you already know what you stand for, they are also easy to push against. Anyone who respects women will have no time for either of them. Anyone who rejects the notion that Mexicans are rapists should condemn Trump. Anyone who thinks that there is a handbook of tricks and tips to force women to sleep with you, along with profile sheets of cities [would provide hyperlink but these have all been hidden due to worldwide press], is an absolute danger to our society.

If we identify as feminists, liberals, lefties, progressives, socialists, or any other label you can imagine fought against Roosh V, then what are his followers identifying as? I find it difficult to imagine anything other than ‘scared.’ When Marilyn Manson was asked what he would have said to the boys who shot up Columbine high school, he said that he would not have said anything and he would have listened, which is what no one else did.

So we are stuck with this dilemma. The scariest people in our society are also the most scared. Elliot Rodger attempted to shoot up a sorority house, after spending lots of time hanging out on the kind of websites Roosh V would not look out of place on. He had a manifesto consisting of misogyny and an attitude towards women that views them not as the other sex, but as completely different beings. He hung out on a forum that was full of “men who are starved of sex, just like me” and thought women were “wicked and degenerate.” He considered women incapable of reason or thinking rationally. Harris O’Malley, an ex-pick up artist who now dedicates his time to providing a counterpoint to the toxic masculinity of these communities, said they “spur people on, and people who come in with disagreements tend to be chased out. It’s made clear that dissenting opinions aren’t welcome, especially ones that go against the dominant narrative.”

This does not sound unlike any other community of groupthink. Take a look at political conversations on Twitter surrounding Scottish politics and it could be described with the same quote. People take comfort, and feel encouraged, in a community, and we are left to wonder if Rodger would ever have been as extreme as he was if he had never found those who shared his poisonous views.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the outcry against Roosh V’s planned worldwide meet-up may not have been as vocal without feeling comforted and encouraged by the feminism communities, the journalistic communities, the political communities, and those who simply will not stand for this toxic behaviour. The same factor that encouraged Rodger is what brought people together to stop anything resembling him feeling welcome in Scotland.

But we are left with the problem of what created these communities. Are we simply lucky to have been around and raised by accepting people? We are not all born feminists or feminist allies, nor are Roosh V’s followers born hating women.

The emphasis we place on the connection between sex and social standing, with women absolutely being the submissive of the heteronormative pairing, in the media and in life is destructive on a number of levels. As a teenager, if you are not having sex while it feels like everyone else is, it can suck. A male teenager, who is taught by society that he is entitled to power over women, who is not having sex suddenly becomes a danger. The more we treat women as objects, the more that sex sells (and that predominantly means objectifying women), and the more that a patriarchy is in place, the more that the conditions for people like Roosh V, Elliot Rodger, and people like them are given a place in society.

There will always be bad people like Trump and like Roosh V, but we should aim to end a world in which they have followers. Like voting intentions, like student newsrooms, like small areas of a city, groupthink will exist, and that in theory is not healthy to discussion and the improvement of society generally, but intolerance, violence, intimidating, and hate are proactive threats to our way of life. We must bridge the gap. The followers of hateful leaders are not born that way, and to rid the world of them, we must diversify – this means more people of colour given representation, better protection from laws and politicians, and treated with respect; it means women being liberated from patriarchal oppression that includes everything from unfair wages to sexual violence; it means gender identities and sexual orientations being accepted in all of their forms. Without this, there exists a place for hate.

Scotland did not extend an arm and welcome Roosh V’s supporters, but the fact remains that there were people who would have attended. It is false to say that these opinions do not exist in Scotland, but it is true to say that as a whole we did not stand for it. The fight is not over though, not until we accept this problem exists, and we confront it head on with education that preaches respect, tolerance, and love. Until then, Scotland, and the world, will do what it has to in order to protect those who are the targets of gendered, homophobic, racist violence – we will fight.

[Scott Wilson @HeartofFire]

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