Mason Greenwood sexual assault allegations have prompted outrage worldwide. The 20-year-old has serious charges of rape, sexual assault and threats levelled against him by a woman. The audio-visual content that has surfaced in connection to the case is disturbing, to say the least. But it has not stopped an overwhelming section of football 'dudebros' to come to Greenwood's defence.
An accomplished sportsman playing for Manchester United, Greenwood has a wide fan following both on and off the internet. While a part of this population has been able to dissociate the man from the sport, it is worrying to see that another part is unwilling to.
It paints a grim picture of women's safety in a culture where toxic masculinity has normalised the impunity with which men view and treat women as sex objects.
(Trigger Warning: The following contains details of violence that some may find disturbing. Reader discretion is advised.)
On January 30, a woman came forward with serious allegations that the young English footballer had brutally assaulted her. In videos, she showed her bloody and bruised body, alleging these were injuries caused by Greenwood. Further, audio surfaced of him allegedly coercing a woman for sex while she refused. Greenwood was consequently arrested and is now out on bail. More on the controversy here.
Mason Greenwood Sexual Assault Case: Read Comments Defending Him
"He's not done anything wrong? The voice note is just what every other lad acts like when they need a shag? What's up with that and the bruises are out of order but some girls do deserve a dead arm or 2 man," one deeply distressing Instagram comment read, in response to the audio shared by the accuser. "Innocent till proven guilty, that blood looks fake," another comment read.
"Control your ego people! I'm sure he will learn from this & prosper too! I hope his girlfriend & him both heal and move on from this situation," reads another.
"Don't criticise Mason Greenwood yet. Remember we live in a world where men are guilty till they are prove to be innocent and women are innocent until they are prove guilty," a tweet read. "Mason Greenwood is innocent . I don't care what you all have to say," another declared.
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It is not simply hero worship that provokes defensive responses when female sexual assault hits headlines or grabs the spotlight. Even the most low-profile rape cases carry the potential to evoke inflamed reactions from apologists screaming #NotAllMen. Definitely, the chorus is louder and support greater, when the accused is a fanboy favourite public figure.
Similar echoes rang back in the 2000s when ManU star Cristiano Ronaldo was accused of rape by more than one woman. A stream of football fanatics gathered to back Ronaldo, dismissing the charges against him before the courts had a chance to. More on footballers accused of sex assault.
People will rush to defend a man lest he faces undue criticism but not give importance to the alarming grievances of a woman that is part of a larger status quo of gender oppression.
Why is the alleged defamation of a rape-accused man raising more concern than the allegations of a woman claiming to have been assaulted? It just goes to show how much of a priority women's safety is on the agenda of public conscience.
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One is also hard-pressed to wonder how deep the rot runs especially in sporting circles where male machismo reigns supreme and women occupy second status. Thriving on frenzied loyalty and gatekept by chauvinist devotees blind to the faults of their celebrity favourites, testosterone-favouring sports like football have always encouraged gender violent behaviour.
A damning report published by The Economist last year showed that intimate partner violence surged following football matches, with alcohol playing a key role. The study quoted presents data from 5,23,546 domestic-abuse incidents reported between 2012 and 2019 in Greater Manchester, relating it to games played between Manchester City and Manchester United.
Further, data by Her Game Too, a campaign against sexism in football, showed that 63.1 percent female football fans reported being abused online. 58.4 percent also said they were abused offline - at games and in pubs - as well.
While the ultimate goal is to push back on violence against women, would it not serve the movement well if concerted efforts are made to curb misogynistic tendencies within fan groups? The most a woman flagging serious threats to life needs is justice. And the least, people not calling foul. Start by believing her.
Views expressed are the author's own.