Sometimes it seems that the only possibility of respite against the endurance of misogyny would be for all the world’s women to be granted a restraining order against all of the world’s men. The reason is simple; so many men possess a degree of rage and an appetite for sudden and rapacious violence that they are a constant and unrelenting threat to women. It is perhaps no surprise that women today feel constantly threatened and put upon by the men they must tolerate every single day. Every day brings news of women assaulted, harassed, hurt, and even killed.
In Pakistan, where I am from (but which in this sense is not much different from anywhere else), the new year brought a defamation hearing in which a woman who dared complain of sexual harassment was “disciplined” in the guise of legal cross-examination. Back in 2018 a young female singer named Meesha Shafi had dared take on superstar vocalist Ali Zafar for his harassment. The sexual harassment in question took place at an informal jam session with Zafar. Two other women and six or seven other men were also present (yes there is a video), and Shafi alleges that during this event Zafar groped her. Again and again, Shafi was asked why she made the allegation when she did not “see” the harassment happen. Shafi had to explain that she had “felt” the harassment. Listening to her in the courtroom—where she now faces defamation accusations from Zafar—were gawking men, no doubt titillated at the spectacle of watching a woman describe her sexual trauma. They could well have been barking and foaming at the mouth.
South-Korean men need restraining orders, as well. In recent months, squads of these resentful men mostly dressed in black have begun to show up at gatherings being held to highlight increasing sexual and domestic violence. Like Pakistani women, South Korean women have had it with the intimidation, which in one recent iteration led to a university rescinding a lecture invitation from a speaker who these antifeminist clowns have accused of misandry. With a battle cry of “Out with man haters,” these men, some of whom are members of groups like “Man on Solidarity,” harass the government by alleging it is too “pro-feminist.” “We don’t hate women,” the leader of Man on Solidarity generously offered by way of clarification, “but feminists are a social evil.” This in a country with one of the highest gender pay gaps and dismally low representation in corporate leadership.
The restraining orders would have to apply to virtual spaces as well. Twitter’s version of “hangouts” (named Spaces) has in its nascent existence already become a kind of international meet-up for all the nasty men of the world. One such space featuring a Nigerian version of Jordan Petersen (whose name I am choosing not to write) insisted that women should not be allowed to be in a relationship with men unless the women made at least ₦50,000 a month. Like most men of his sort, upholding male supremacy was couched in the psychobabble of emotional vulnerability and authenticity. Women then are not just awful because of their onerous refusal to submit, but also because they do not let men cry.
The ghastly and brutish Taliban, newly legitimized, have re-exerted their constraints on women, who must accord to a vast panoply of rules relating to how to dress or speak or educate themselves or work. Leadership or bodily autonomy are out of the question, instead they must offer up their minds and bodies to be minded by men whose principal concern is to punish women for their transgressions; to act out their malign masculinity to control the details of their lives.
Then there are French men who began the year by killing French women. When 2022 was just hours old, police in the French city of Nice found a dead woman’s body in the trunk of a car. Also on Saturday, a middle-aged man in the Meurthe-et-Moselle region killed his female partner. The murder weapon, a knife, was still in the woman’s chest when her body was found. Toward the end of New Year’s Day, a soldier killed his girlfriend because he had an argument with her. Aghast, women’s groups demanded that the government take notice of the rising number of femicides, to no avail. So far, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, has not responded at all. As in France, so also in the United States. Almost eighteen hundred women were murdered by men in America in 2019, according to a tally by the Violence Policy Center, which amounts to nearly five per day. A Brooklyn woman who is the mother of four children was gunned down in New York just this past Sunday. The dog she was walking was also killed. In Queens, a woman who was stabbed was found dead in the street.
The men of the world are united in their efforts to crush or at the very least harm the world’s women—if only by holding on tenaciously to male power and privilege. If this “greatest hits” mash-up of misogyny is too overwhelming to read about, it is even more onerous to live through. Men as a collective and in most of their forms and their moods are hazardous to women’s emotional and physical health and ultimately to their very existence. A man who is not conforming to the general standard of depravity is a simp—that is, inadequately masculine. The Taliban and teenage men in suburban Detroit or New Jersey or London could agree about this; their primitive consensus illustrating perhaps how beyond rehabilitation they are.
The tumult in our world and the transformation of social relations to the virtual sphere means physical proximity need not be a fixture of human, specifically male and female, interactions. A severe and insistent limitation in the physical interaction with men—for those women who might desire an enforced respite—sounds drastic and dramatic, but our times require us to take such possibilities seriously. The irritant of the “not all men” response can be attended to easily by the fact that women in possession of these writs of restraint could grant exceptions that they judge to belong to the “not all men” category. Similarly, women could choose whether they wanted one at all. The difference would be that the power to decide would be with women and the exceptions would reinforce the presumption that most men are indeed nasty and the burden of their destructive capacities should lie squarely with them.