“Not all Men.”
If you’ve been active online these past couple of days and for the past few years, the phrase above would not be new to you. It has become the slogan that pops up whenever women talk about rape, misogyny, and when they share stories of their experiences with sexism and toxic male behavior. The responses they always get are “Not all men are rapists,” “Not all men grope women in public places,” “Not all men are sexist.”
Of course, this is true, but when the argument is there to swing the discussion away from the oppression of women, just to protect masculinity, we put a dent in the fight against the prevalent issues women.
It has become the norm for men to come out in droves to defend themselves and make clear that they are not to be counted amongst the men that hurt women, without actually addressing the fact that these issues exist, that there are men out there who rape, abuse, kill and treat women like trash, that misogyny and sexism are prevalent in our society.
A good example is when a woman comes out to share her rape story, some guy jumps in quickly to say, “#NotAllMen do this. In fact, I don’t know any guy in my circle of friends who would do such a thing. You need to be mindful of where you go. Why would you even come here to compare thugs to gentlemen?”
As usual, the discussion has been derailed. Now, the thing is that these men who jump in to defend their masculinity do not frankly believe that women talking about these issues have been treated like trash by every single man on earth. They know that’s not possible, and they also know that these women are sharing personal experiences. Yet, #NotAllMen pops up as the best response in the discussion.
Now, let’s face reality. The number of women who have experienced sexual violence, discrimination, sexism, and all forms of misogyny from men is high. Very high. I can bet you that if you randomly choose five ladies, four out of them have been sexually harassed in some way, and all five of them are affected by misogyny. And if this is the reality, then women asking men why they keep on preserving this culture and basking in toxic masculinity shouldn’t be seen as an attack on men, but an avenue to seeking solutions to a problem that has been old as time.
The rape culture is a living, breathing threat to girls and women. Women have always known this, because it is part of our reality. We live it. We have experienced it. We have suffered, and are suffering from it. And until recently, we have largely been quiet about it. Now, we are speaking up, painfully sharing our stories, boldly standing up to norms that give breeding grounds to the menace of sexual violence and hate against women. Why then should a man’s first reaction to this huge issue be to distance himself and point out that it is unfair to paint men in a bad light because #NotAllMen?
This is not to say that “not all men” should be thrown into the trash. We can have an all-inclusive discussion about it. For instance, how not all men are born genetically unemotional or insensitive to the emotions of others, how not all men are prone to cheating, how not all men are inept at running a home. Heck, we can even say not all men are rapists, when the conversation tackles the purpose of proving that sexual violence is not normal for men. But what we shouldn’t do is use the phrase to cancel women’s stories about abuse, gender inequality and misogyny. In those instances, it’s there just to silence women.
Men need to understand that the #MeToo, #ArewaMeToo movements, and other similar conversations that have sprung up to tackle violence against women are not there to fight men. Women are simply speaking from their experiences. Of course, these stories talk about men’s crimes against women, and show that our society and environments sum up our experiences, whether men around us have a hand in it or not.
Men also need to understand that this is not a women versus men thing. It’s not saying men are evil and women are angels. Women can be sexual predators too. Women can make other women suffer sexism as well. And it’s only when we have a holistic outlook on the problem and are not quick to dismiss real live experiences, that we’ll begin to unearth the ugly monsters that lurk underneath the surface. Certain cultural conducts and norms have kept men in the dark about the injustices they face that particularly affect their gender. And this brings me to the next point.
Men have to understand that toxic masculinity touches them as well. Too often we see men who have been bold enough to share their stories of abuse in the hands of women being mocked by other men. Women who have spoken up too would relate well to this. We see how gender inequality puts unnecessary afflictions on men. They bear superfluous responsibilities and sink under the weight of what masculinity is supposed to be, as described by cultural norms. Wonder why the suicide rate for men is higher? When we don’t give room for voices of the oppressed and abused to be heard, we shut down all other voices that have something significant to say.
Another point men need to know is that it doesn’t take a whole world of men to make one woman feel unsafe. It takes just one person to mess a person’s life drastically, and it won’t matter to the victim if not all men are sexual predators or sexists. The problem is that such men exist, and we should be talking about how to make certain they don’t hurt others or to ensure that we don’t have more of them by way of other males accepting their behavior as norm and protecting them under the umbrella of protecting masculinity.
There is no way women can know for sure who is a sexual predator or not. So, it’s only rational to be wary about becoming the next victim. Shutting women down when they bring up these concerns is expressly telling them that because not all men are dangerous, their guardedness is not valid.
In brief, whether we accept it or not, women are being raped daily. They are abused, violated, bullied, weakened, scorned, beaten, debased and killed. Any response to this that seeks to absolve certain men of the blame does nothing to turn things around for good.
It’s time for men to start listening and stop telling women what not to say. One of those ways is to curb the need to flourish the #NotAllMen wand as a response to when women share their experiences in the hands of toxic men. Men’s job in such moments is to listen, not to defend themselves, and to find a way to bring about solutions to the problem.
#StopRape #WeAreTired #JusticeForUwa