THE BLOG
04/02/2016 12:41 GMT | Updated 04/02/2017 05:12 GMT

Condemn the Likes of Roosh V, But Let's Go Further and End the Gender Stereotyping That Blights So Many Lives

A few misogynists on Tyneside may be disappointed that this weekends planned meet-up of the followers of the fleetingly infamous 'Return of Kings' has been cancelled. For everybody else - including the vast majority of men - it is the almost inevitable consequence of an ill-advised attempt to gain a foothold in a city known as one of the most friendly and welcoming in the country and where women have a proud tradition of loudly voicing our opinions on everything from football to feminism.

Whilst I doubt that RoK or its self-appointed high king and rape-advocate 'Roosh V' have any serious following in the city, I was upset to see Newcastle listed on their website as a location for one of the nine meets in the UK. Many constituents wrote to or tweeted me to voice their concerns about the event - particularly over the sinister and thinly-veiled threats to anybody who attempted to turn up and protest at it. One asked how she was going to explain such a movement to her daughters, another why he should be associated with such a sorry excuse for masculinity.

In Newcastle we have form in saying no to the minority who wish to spread their hatred to any group of people; when Pegida tried to bring their Islamophobia to the city last year, we rallied under the banner 'Newcastle Unites' and outnumbered them on the streets 10-1.

I suspect that Roosh will end up rather happy with the media attention he has received this week. He may even briefly increase the audience for his Neolithic views on women and so called "neo-masculinity" - there's nothing new about misogyny.

But the real winner is feminism, for it highlights firstly that the vast majority of men and women are disgusted by such opinions and those who carry them. And it also emphasises why feminism is so important and why it is needed, now, today, to help put an end to the idea and practise of violence against women.

Women have been marching in Newcastle - and across the country - for nearly four decades for greater security and equality. We have come a long way since that first 'Reclaim the Night' march set off from Monument in Newcastle in 1977 - ironically the same place Roosh planned to meet this weekend.

Back then, a man was fined £2,000 for raping a 17-year-old girl, and the girl was branded 'guilty of a great deal of contributory negligence' because she missed her last bus home and hitched a ride. Back then, a judge told his court he was freeing a rapist because "If she doesn't want it she had only to keep her legs closed".

I remember very clearly hearing that verdict in Newcastle, at the age of twelve. And feeling - violated. That my security, my autonomy, my right to my own space and my own body had been attacked.

Well we have made progress since then - and since 1991 when marital rape was finally made a criminal offence. But that progress must not be taken for granted. It has not happened on its own but because men and women fought for it. And there are still far, far too many women and girls whose behaviours and lives are constrained by the threat and the reality of violence and rape. Just today, as the House of Commons debates the role of men in preventing violence against women it was revealed that sex attacks on the tube in London have trebled in the last five years.

Cuts to domestic violence services and the lack of a long term government funding strategy for these vital services only exacerbates the problem of violence against women and girls at a time of great need for these services. As a constituency MP I see women afraid to leave brutal partners because they have nowhere to go, or they are afraid their already precarious financial or immigration status, or that of their children, will be harmed. It is essential that the resources and support are in place for these women, and that is one of the many reasons the UK must ratify the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women.

The Convention also includes measure to address the mentality that allows violence against women to be perpetrated or ignored. I am glad we are living at a society where people are outraged by Roosh V, but it is still a society which too often makes stereotyped assumptions about femininity which require an equally stereotyped masculinity to oppose it. Return of Kings followers clearly feel the need to compensate for inadequacies elsewhere in their lives. As well as condemning and ridiculing them, let's go further and end the gender-based stereotyping that blights so many hopes and lives. If we can do that then all genders then we will be a bit closer to a world where all genders can feel more secure in their bodies as well as on their street.

Chi Onwurah is the Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central