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This article was written on 16 Oct 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Ched Evans and the Forgettable Men

They are the forgettable men. They move among us, in their pointy leather shoes and shirts from TM Lewin, selling advertising space, or selling properties, but generally selling something, living wholly generic lives. They go out for lager on Saturday night and get drunk, play football on a Sunday and take part in ‘banter.’ Their hair is sometimes gelled into what looks like a hairy approximation of a shark’s fin, and they generally have an affable, but vapid smile, until someone ‘disrespects’ them. And they’re also one of the reasons why Ched Evans is halfway to being reinvented as a folk hero.

To make it clear, I hate Evans and everything he represents, but to say this on Twitter is to invite comments from the Forgettable Men in enough numbers for me to draw some similarities between all of them. Most notable is that their avatar generally shows them smiling inanely on holiday or surrounded by ‘mates,’ all of whom will be drunk and sporting expressions that are either sullen and belligerent, which they desperately want to make them look hard, rather than, say, like an estate agent having a shit, or leering inanely. Extra marks and probably some Air Miles if the photograph shows both mates AND a holiday.

What unites these people, this ghastly cohort of middlebrow idiocy, is that they will identify with a football team and then allow this identification to do their thinking for them. It will tell them who to like and who to loathe, while the group identity shapes them and their values, which explains why they like Ched Evans. Their friends like Ched Evans, because he’s a grotesquely superannuated version of themselves and once lived a life like they would like to live, making him into rather a role  model for these sad and disconnected men. They want to be having group sex with women in hotel rooms, so any intimation that this may be questionable strikes at the heart of their identity and anyone who dares to suggest that any criminality took place is beyond the pale.

The rape case, therefore, is a cause celebre for them. Where they see Evans, they may also see themselves. And ranged against Evans, with the exception of his girlfriend, who increasingly looks sad, and reduced and tragic, they see women. And these women, who are perhaps more vocal in asserting their rights than their mothers or their grandmothers, look terrifying. They lack the wit or the intellectual honesty to understand that these women simply want what anyone wants – to be treated like a human being who has autonomy and the right to decide, in this case, who she sleeps with and under what circumstances. What they see is people with an uncertain agenda who want to take away their divine right to behave like boors.

And that right to behave like boors should be taken off them. Women shouldn’t be grabbed or generally treated like pieces of meat whose sole purpose in life is as a receptacle for their semen or as the hapless, unspeaking target of male attention or crude advances. That much is obvious to anyone with a brain. But to the Forgettable Men, who think they are insulated from the potentially disastrous consequences of their posturing sexism by group identity or by the swaggering and brainless camaraderie of Saturday nights, it really isn’t. And what we need are high-profile court cases where any of the Forgettable Men who temporarily choose to blind themselves to the consequences of their actions are clearly and obviously exposed.

This is because, for the Forgettable Men, education hasn’t worked. They’ve gone through a largely tolerant education system and emerged thinking that any women who aren’t granny or My Dear Old Mum are second class citizens. We should regard them as unreachable. Perhaps later generations may show a better and more rounded idea of women, but these are beyond the pale. What we have to hope, to hope against hope, is that the worst excesses of their behaviour are curtailed by the police and the rest of the criminal justice system and by a fear of it. That needs more women to believe that, when they speak out against harassment or rape, they will be not only believed but that there is a realistic risk of prosecution.

Chen Evans’ court case and appeal have set that process back, but not, hopefully, as far as some of his foul supporters seem to think. There has been a groundswell of outrage about how the woman in the case was treated, about discussions around her sexual history that has, heaven help us all, even reached as far as The Sun and the Mail, both of whom condemned Evans in the strongest possible terms. An online attempt to raise funds for his victim has been started and is doing very brisk business at the time of writing. What the Forgettable Men hoped, that women would go quietly and that the case would mark an end of some kind, has not happened.

Instead, people are talking and taking action. Discussions about consent are taking place, about what constitutes assault are taking place and, glory be, women are starting to get angry with the way that the Forgettable Men choose to treat them. Once, on the public transport system of a country I choose not to reveal, a woman was groped by a man. She reached back and snapped his

fingers. When he appealed for witnesses, he was told that he deserved it. I really hope that something similar is starting to happen now.

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