All over London women, and men, are shaking their heads at our Mayor and his latest ‘say maaate to a mate’ and #HaveAWord campaign.
Designed to discourage ‘toxic masculinity’- from punching women in the face to sharing lascivious and disrespectful thoughts about women with their mates, the campaign aims to be a one-word roadblock for ‘lad culture’, encouraging men who feel uncomfortable with this sort of ‘banter’ to speak up when their friends step out of line.
Which would be, let’s make no mistake, A Good Thing. A detransitioner once told me, ‘you wouldn’t believe the horrible things men say about women when they think women can’t hear them,’ and while obviously Not All Men, it seems fair enough to observe that Quite A Lot of Men do behave like this.
How should a well-meaning Nigel stop his more neanderthal friends in their objectification tracks? Well, with a drawn out grunt of course. Try it. “Maaate!” See? A bit like a whinnying horse. Try again. Much better. Maybe toss your head as you whinny. Super. “Maaate!”
After all, “I say, old chap, objectifying women not only perpetuates the subjugation imposed on them by a dictatorial patriarchy but it can also be intimidating, upsetting and alienating,” probably wouldn’t go down too well after six pints of lager. So when Colin begins being a dick, grunt at him. Sorted. It does have a simple charm to it.
As part of Khan’s campaign, billbords have sprung up around London, declaring to the city the hitherto unfettered power of the word ‘maaate’.
“Maaate!” the interactive video game
On the london.gov website, men who wish to educate themselves can watch a 15 certificate video- viewer discretion is advised. A group of blokes are having a lads night in, eating popcorn & watching the footie. The testosterone is flowing freely. One of them gets leerier and leerier as the video goes on. The idea is you click on the ‘maaate’ button when you think he’s gone too far.
First time I watch it all the way through. The guy gets pretty vile. His friends give him side-eye but say nothing. At the end the protagonist looms over the camera and asks, ‘Mate. Are you just gonna let me keep going on like this? Maybe you should watch this again.’
The second time, I click when he says “At least we ain’t playing against girls this time.”
I’m congratulated. I play again, waiting until he complains about a female lineswoman.
“Nice one for stepping in. But you missed an earlier comment.”
I wait a bit longer the next time, until he makes a joke about a takeaway and ‘spicy breasts’.
“Great job for stepping in. But you missed a few cues earlier.”
This is utter madness. For a start, it treats men like complete idiots. Secondly, the guy in the video is an utter, utter dickwad. None of his friends seem comfortable around him. If I had a message for the other guys in the video it would be “Maaate. Dump this cockwomble.”
Beneath the video are a few paragraphs about violence against women and girls:
“In this country – and in our city – we currently face an epidemic of violence against women and girls. In the UK, a man kills a woman every three days. We can change this. We need to change this.”
In 2022, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan launched a new campaign, Have A Word, calling on men to reflect on our own attitudes and to say something when our friends behave inappropriately towards women.”
A link to a ‘Have A Word’ video on YouTube shows a group of lads behaving raucously in a corner shop before one of them starts hassling a woman at a taxi rank. He gets more and more aggressive until finally his friend steps in. This video is far more disturbing, the viewer really feels that the perp is about to hit or grab the young woman he is harassing. His friends stand by and watch. They stand there and watch.
Eventually one of them says, ‘What are you doing? That’s enough,” and off the lads all go, leaving the crying woman to get into her taxi.
What the fuck? That’s supposed to be a result? A solution? A resolution? That’s supposed to make everything ok? ARE YOU INSANE Mr Mayor? Maaate.
But wait, calm yourself. The magical word ‘maate’ is all you need. If only people would take the campaign seriously!
“‘Say maaate to a mate’ shows how a simple, familiar word can be all you need to interrupt when a friend is going too far without making things awkward, ruining the moment or putting your friendship at risk.” the blurb continues.
Well, we wouldn’t want to make things awkward, would we? Or ruin that joyful ‘harassing-a-woman’ moment.
“Mate is a word that needs no introduction. It’s familiar and universal. It can be used as a term of endearment and as a word of warning. This simple word, or a version of it, can be all you need to interrupt when a friend is going too far.
The blurb goes on to tell us “‘Say maaate to a mate’ has been developed in conjunction with behavioural scientists following in-depth research with men in London of different ages and backgrounds and in a variety of different settings. The message itself has been tested with men and women, validated with linguistic science and endorsed by experts in tackling violence against women and girls.”
As well as stopping your mad mate from attacking young women late at night, ‘maaate!’ should also be utilised if you hear a male friend using either of the following phrases: ‘my ex-girlfriend is crazy’ or ‘she’s such a drama queen’.
This is pretty much what we have come to expect from a mayor that forces the public to listen to a recorded voice intoning ‘see it, say it, sorted’ every time we get on the tube. There are 25 rapes a day reported in London- 9,275 in the year leading up to June 2022. Only one in six rape victims reports the crimes against them. Most women in London don’t trust the police to protect us. Why would we? Only 3% of rape claims in London result in a conviction, yet Khan is now putting up posters telling us to report it to the police if somebody stares at us on the tube.
It seems the mayor believes the word ‘maaate’ has magical properties, yet if Twitter’s response is anything to go by, the public is not impressed.
What is a woman?
One might be forgiven for thinking that an understanding of the dictionary definition of ‘woman’ was an essential building block on the path to eradicating violence against women and girls, but Mr Khan suffers from no such reservations. And it has been noted.
The ‘maaate’ campaign is part of the mayor’s Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy which aims to invest a whopping £17.7m for support services over the next few years. Presumably that will consist of making glossy videos featuring pasty, angry, red-haired young men and sticking posters up all over the place telling the Nigels of the city that it’s their job to police their mates’ behaviour by whinnying at them like a troubled horse.
Well, we all know the Mets will be nowhere to be found, obviously.
It’s about Violence Against Women & Girls… or is it?
Another link on the page leads to a downloadable resource for schools to tackle VAWG, and here that the waters become predictably and immediately muddied, with talk of ‘gender-based’ violence and ‘gender-based bullying’ which is ‘most commonly directed at girls, young people who identify as LGBTQ+ and children/young people who are perceived to be acting outside of ‘acceptable’ gender norms.’ Transphobia is mentioned, of course and the female who encounters VAWG has now been replaced with a generic ‘victim survivor’.
We have quickly moved away from the simplicity of ‘maaate’, and from discussing violence against women and girls, as we are launched almost immediately into a world of complex woowoo and endless distractions.
Given the current political climate, this is hardly surprising. What is surprising is that a mayor who refuses to define what a woman is would have the gall to launch an initiative combatting violence against women and girls in the first place. When a boy can be a girl and a woman can be a man, in a world where we are supposed to assume nothing and respect everything, the initiative just kind of falls apart. It become an initiative against violence, which is of course a Good Thing in itself but seems to focus in part in assuring school children that that women can be violent too and men are also victims of ‘gender based violence’.
The classroom resource informs the reader that 88% of girls and 83% of boys experience sexual bullying. On page 7 it mentions that in the UK there are 1.6 million female victim-survivors and 786,000 male victim-survivors’ of ‘gender-based’ abuse, suggesting that women are just twice as likely to be victims of domestic violence than men. (The ONS suggests the gap is larger.) I couldn’t find anywhere in the resource that clarified two important facts: that the majority of perpetrators remain male, nor that the levels of violence experienced by women at the hands of men are usually more extreme. It does however choose to refer to a gallup poll which suggests that 4/5 of lesbians have been victims of abuse by a female partner.
Now I’d like to be very clear here- I accept that some men are victims of violence at the hands of female partners. I have a friend whose wife hits him, shuts him out of their flat and threatens to move back to her own country with their baby if he doesn’t stay in line. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. I know it does.
But, maaate! I thought this was a resource developed to educate school kids about stopping male violence against women and girls?
Mr Mayor, maaate
Khan was recently in the news when he failed to condemn the actions of Alan ‘Sarah Jane’ Baker, a man who spent 30 years in prison for kidnapping, torture and attempted murder.
Baker also cut off his own testicles while in prison. I’ve seen this man protesting events and meetings, shouting ‘cunts!’ at women, and it scares me to see young women the same age as my daughters protesting about ‘transphobia’ alongside him.
Baker took to the stage at the London Trans Pride event a few weeks ago and told some 50,000 attendees:
“I was going to come here and be really fluffy and be really nice and say yeah, be really lovely and queer and gay… nah. If you see a TERF, punch them in the fucking face.”
You can see a video of the challenge, here, on youTube. The crowd cheered.
Far from distancing themselves from the male call for violence against women, Transpride London, the organisers, posted this incitement to violence on their Instagram and issued a defiant statement: “Sarah and many others in our community hold a lot of rage and anger and they have the right to express that anger through their words.”
Initially the Metropolitan police seemed prepared to do nothing. A mumsnetter who complained to the police was told:
“This is not a hate crime. A TERF is not a protected characteristic under the legislation. A TERF would be a person’s opinion, whether this opinion is viewed as discriminatory in itself or not.
“The female is suggesting (inciting) members of the crowd to punch individuals who act on this belief. This is not targeted at an individual, this is in a hypothetical situation.”
After a public outcry, Baker was rearrested and will serve his time in a men’s prison, where he belongs.
Joan Smith wrote a piece in UnHerd pointing out that calls for violence in the trans debate seem to only come from one side, observing “Sometimes the threats erupt into actual physical violence, as evidenced in assaults on Posie Parker, Julie Bindel and Maria MacLachlan. That, let’s remind ourselves, is exactly what Baker was advocating at the weekend.”
A chance for Khan to stand up and say “maaate” you might be forgiven for thinking?
But of course not. Prior to the incident, Khan had tweeted his support for Trans Pride. In the light of his silence afterwards, Sex Matters wrote a letter to Khan, criticising his response.
“As Mayor of London, you gave the Trans Pride event your unstinting endorsement, tweeting that ‘as your Mayor, I will always be on your side’…
In response to what happened on Saturday, a spokesman for you made a general
statement against violence, while emphasising that you are a “a proud LGBTQI+ ally” and clear in your “support for the trans community”
I asked Maya Forstater of Sex Matters if Khan had responded.
“No.” she replied.
What’s the problem, maaate?
The problem is, of course, that nobody is supposed to admit they even know what a woman is anymore, least of all our somewhat confused mayor (he/him in case you weren’t sure).
In 2022 Joan Smith (mentioned above) was sacked by email from her role as independent Co-chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Board, a role she had held since 2013.
“For more than a year, I had been trying to get an assurance from senior figures at City Hall that women’s refuges would not lose funding if they excluded men.” she wrote in Unherd. The reassurance never came.
“Four and a half million women and girls live in London, where they face quite unacceptable levels of violence, yet the Mayor’s attachment to gender ideology appears to mean that no one at City Hall can talk about women without instantly adding ‘including trans women’,” wrote Smith at the time.
Last month it was revealed in a document leaked to the Sun newspaper that staff working for Khan had received a memo asking them to avoid ‘gender-specific’ phrases such as ‘ladies and gentleman’ and referring to the terms male and female as “dated and medicalised”.
In addition, they were asked to refer to ‘people affected by period poverty’ because “not all women have periods and some trans men or non-binary folk may have periods”.
Maaate. What else would you expect from a mayor who puts his pronouns in his bio?
I asked some friends what they thought of the Mayor’s initiative.
“I’m furious,” said Karrie. “Great to have a campaign against male violence against women, but only a few days ago, Khan refused to condemn a violent man who incited a crowd to punch women in the face.”
Jo agreed. “Khan can talk all he likes about protecting women, but while he refuses to respect our sex & denies us the right to women-only spaces, it’s just meaningless words. If he’s serious, he needs to rehire Joan Smith & put her in charge.”
“Khan is a man who treats women with absolute contempt,” replied Anna. “He refused to condemn a man who publicly invited violence against women when presented with video evidence. He is a man of no substance and this is just a pathetic attempt to pretend he has.”
“Weasel words,” reflected Jane. “If you’re someone like Khan, who doesn’t acknowledge that there are real and important differences between the two sexes and that nobody can change sex. Is someone that says ‘Maaate’ to a bloke in a dress who’s being misogynistic going to be accused of ‘ bigotry and transphobia’?”
But wait! Is it a bird? Is it a plane?
Never fear! Trailing clouds of glory as she comes – a little sanity in all the madness- Stickerwoman is here!
It appears that she has been visiting bus stops and tube stations around London and leaving behind a little message for our trusty mayor…
“If anyone wants to use this template to make their own posters or stickers, for personal or friends use, then please go ahead,” she told me. You can order sticker paper that will go through your printer here, on Amazon.