This has been a week of horrific violence, directed largely at women. As usual. And to me, it still boils down to the language used to describe it all. Men “allegedly” made a video of a young woman through her window at night. Senator Hamdullah “apparently” attacked a female activist on a television show. No, there is no doubt here. These events have incontrovertible proof of their having happened, so why are all things that happen to women still treated with this doubt? An athlete at Stanford “apparently” raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Either you did this, or you didn’t. Most of this really did happen. A mother did burn her sixteen year old daughter alive for marrying a boy of her choosing. A man did fatally shoot a transgender activist six times. Another man did brutally assault an old Hindu man for eating in Ramzan. What good reason has anyone to pussyfoot around these events by introducing an element of “maybe”?

Patriarchy, mostly. Because at the end of it all, as a friend expansively informed me the other day, it’s a man’s world, and there is nothing that they can do that won’t be excused by someone. The Stanford rapist’s parents are going blue in the face insisting the only thing their son did wrong was to be inebriated, ergo not responsible for his actions. The woman taped in her room? People wonder whether she knew those boys, and why she felt like it was okay to, in your own room with the window shut in the heat of June, spend a little too much time changing clothes. So now you aren’t even safe in your own home, and instead of rallying round this woman and speaking out against this invasion of her privacy and dignity, some people are actually half-witted enough to wonder what the “real” story is. This man’s world we live in will automatically privilege male actions and male narratives over female ones, no matter how awful the behaviour of the men. There will be excuses, justifications, lame arguments—anything, anything at hand that can be used to bolster oneself against the terrifying idea that a man could have done something horrible, thereby by extension making all men look bad. If someone calls you a tractor, then you should just whip right back and call them a truck! It’s so easy!

Except it isn’t, obviously. Men can be blithe about it because it doesn’t affect them in any real way. They don’t know what it is like to say something and immediately be dismissed, even by people who are their friends or family. A recent study showed that men are inclined to automatically second-guess the statements women make. If a man were to make the same statement, it would be accepted as truth immediately by other men. All women have people in their lives who will pooh-pooh something we say, only to completely agree with it when a man, any man, says the same. I can guarantee if I were to say, for example, that a troll once wrote to me saying I was a harridan who nobody would ever marry, someone would tell me “oh, but you probably annoyed them na”. So this column and my opinion is the problem, not a scabrous, anonymous pest. The victim of the Stanford assault woke up in a hospital, covered in bruises and cuts, and the best people can manage is “who knows what she wanted to do, before she passed out?” Alisha, the transgender woman who was shot dead, is dismissed because the man who shot her was a client, so why on earth should anyone expect a woman who entertains men to deserve any safety? Countless women speak up about their sexual harassment, their assault , the everyday indignities they have to bear at the hands of men and women alike, and everything is brushed aside with a casual “there must be more to it”. Of course it’s not possible for a girl to have acid thrown on her for no reason—she refused to marry a man, ergo she brought this upon herself. Of course she should have married a psychopath who thinks an acid attack is a perfectly acceptable response to rejection. The man sounds like a perfect prince. Why didn’t you change your clothes inside a locked basement with no windows and the lights off, if you think you’re safe in your own home then you’re obviously mistaken. It’s your fault. If your husband slapped you, you should have been a better wife and not provoked him. You say your boyfriend raped you? Well, you’re obviously a slut anyway so you had it coming.

There’s no respite. But the thing that encourages me, the thing that helps me push past my frustration and anger is that it is getting harder and harder for the patriarchy to control the women. Senator Hamdullah hurled a whole heap of sexist abuse at Marvi Sirmed, good for her that she responded in kind. She gave as good as she got, and the Senator couldn’t stand it, so he leapt out of his chair, fists ready. Whatever happened to that cute little idea of an eye for an eye? It’s never a fair fight, when it comes to any conflict between men and women, because our societies automatically put men five steps ahead of women. It was so easy for the senator to escalate the encounter, because he could, physically and socially. Part of it is biology—precious few women have the physical strength of a man, so countering violence with violence is out of the question. Part of it is social—the woman who fights back is faced with a tidal wave of patriarchal hysteria, trying to quash the ‘rebellion’ by making the statement of assault an accusation, implying injustice. By using words like “allegedly”, implying exaggeration, the possibility of it all being a big lie. The only lie here is the one women are told, that they are all hysterical, they overstate everything, they don’t know how to be rational. That lie is decimated every time we stand by the survivors, each time we support each other, every time we refuse to back down from a handful of people who would turn our society into some kind of barbarian’s playground. Do you think that a man who can attack a woman with acid won’t do the same to a man? If there is no punishment, then yes, he will. And that’s how we become complicit in making monsters, and it is on all of us to draw a line. No more.