When tolerance breeds violence
Growing up, Greenwood was the only girl on her first school’s football team and the only girl being taken to Man United games alongside her dad and brother.
“My experience was really fun,” she says. “It feels somewhat troubling to admit that now but being in that environment, where everyone’s pissed, and having a laugh… It’s a lot of fun to be involved. And you get kind of whipped into this frenzy – everyone is singing United songs and you feel like you're part of the gang.
“But then at a certain point, someone says something like ‘Manchester is brilliant, because it's full of beer, tits and fanny’, and you’re just sort of stunned into silence. Clearly, the appropriate thing to do in that instance is to turn around and say, ‘you can't say that!’. But in those moments, I’ve found myself feeling quite disempowered to act.”
This matters because the normalisation and tolerance of the sexist behaviour described by Greenwood and May, of the cat-calling, locker-room-banter variety, can serve to excuse and even support more serious behaviour patterns at the other sharper end of the scale, including rape and violence.
If this sounds far-fetched, just look at the recent murder of Sarah Everard. Mere days ago, during the trial of the man who recently pleaded guilty to her murder, Wayne Couzens, it was revealed that Couzens’s ex-colleagues had nick-named him ‘The Rapist’ because he made some female officers feel uncomfortable; that he was suspected of flashing twice within a few hours at a McDonald’s, in Kent, just days before killing Everard, but it was not investigated and that he was linked to an indecent exposure in Kent in 2015, but it was similarly not investigated.
Might events have unfolded differently had these less extreme displays of Couzens’s predatory nature not been systematically ignored and overlooked?
We cannot know for sure, but we must recognise how dangerous it is for a culture of tolerance to exist around male violence and intimidation. And we must stamp such a culture out where we see it.