Why not “not all men”?
Some men rape, some assault, others harass and catcall, and still some others engage in other forms of sexual violence. Beyond them, we have the swaths of men who would rather question the women’s responses to the first group than the first group itself.
Women do not know which men fall into which of these groups until they identify themselves, which many do by questioning the women. That is why not “not all men”.
There are those who believe that feminists hate all men. Some feminists have explicitly said as much. Some men have a visceral, understandable reaction to this – they become defensive. That is often the catalyst for the “not all men” response to feminist arguments.
One of the critical focuses of feminism is the profound presence of sexual violence in which women are typically the victims and men typically the perpetrators. When feminists begin to discuss these issues, it occurs with general language that either explicitly or implicitly identifies men as the problem, and without further qualification it implicates all men.
As established in the opening, the problem facing women is that which men is problematic until after the man has revealed himself, and the revelation is, by its nature, one of “evil”. This is not, “All men are evil”. This is, “all men are. But in a world where so many (not “many”, “so many”) are guilty of this sexual violence and one cannot distinguish them until they have committed said violence, the ones who ‘reveal’ themselves are revealing as evil”. The rest simply remain in that ether of uncertainty – we are never revealed as “good”.
What about the men who are good allies? The men who do everything right and are “nice” guys? No, not even them. Because some of those “evil” guys love to act like the “nice” ones because they believe that entitles them to women.
And the bar for “nice” is insulting low, fellas. Don’t rape, assault, harass, or catcall – show basic respect and allow for her agency and autonomy. Plenty of men think hurdling that bar means that women owe them sex or a relationship.
Another thing men must bear in mind is that with this “not all men” thing, women have heard it. They hear it all the time. Someone says, “1 in 4 women reports being harassed in these situations” and implicates men as the ones doing it, and some guy replies, “Not all men”. She might then feel compelled to spend her time breaking all of this down – “Well, no, not all men, but [see the entirety of this piece]”. Then she has to do it again with another guy, and another…Some of them are trolls or sealions specifically wasting her energies. So when you come by with your well-intentioned, “To be fair, it isn’t all men” and receive that vitriolic response, try to have some empathy.
A critical component of “not all men” is the degree to which is absolves men of responsibility for their role. Perhaps you do not rape, assault, harass, catcall, belittle, or otherwise relegate women to the status of second-class citizen. Chances are that other men in your life do – your family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, etc. That we are not working to stop misogynistic behaviours in others is part of the problem.
“I’m not confronting an accused rapist”, is something I have heard, and completely understand. This is not about donning a cape and mask to hunt down the rapists. This is about the everyday misogyny that occurs in our society and our ability to intervene at that point – long before it escalates to sexual violence.
This is where the idea of “rape culture” originates. No, people are not celebrating rape (other than the f***ing incel community). We abhor it. We prefer to come down hard on those convicted of it (itself a problem as meeting the legal standard for conviction in these cases is onerous; and we do have those cases, like Brock Turner, where justice failed miserable).
We live in a culture where misogyny builds to the point that some men commit these acts. They often commit these acts under the stress of expectation that comes with masculinity – what it means to be a male. That definition is narrow and often warps into one of violence and sexual dominance, a need to control women more than even simply to engage in sex.
We, as males in this society, have a unique opportunity, responsibility even, to challenge those stereotypes, not for ourselves, but to free those men burdened by that unhealthy perspective of masculinity. This is where women need our help most, but we fail miserably on a regular basis. We allow our family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, and others to engage in those behaviours, possibly even laughing or encouraging it as harmless fun – but it’s not. The end of that path is sexual violence against women. This is our role in the process.
Too many men fail to even realise they are in this unhealthy perspective of masculinity. They polled college students over consent and if rape was ever permissible. Even among the students who agreed that rape was never okay (and, yes, there were people who had conditions where they believed it was) there was a failure to recognise that specific circumstances were, in fact, rape because both parties had not, could not, or had revoked consent.
And that is why not “not all men”. Every single man needs to self-reflect on his behaviour and sense of masculinity. If we are not one of the ones actively engaging in misogynistic behaviour, or have already crossed the line into sexual violence, we need to be active in identifying those misogynistic behaviours in others and working to correct them.
What women see and experience is a failure in these respects. An alarming number of people, mostly women, continue to experience sexual violence on a daily basis. People do not believe their accusations. When we do believe their accusations, convictions are hard to come by in cases that often involve little evidence or witnesses. When convictions do occur, we see laughably weak punishments. Women see men not holding other men accountable for misogynistic behaviour and then exerting all kinds of effort to respond to women with “not all men” and “why do feminists hate all men?”.
They have every right to hate all men. That is part of autonomy and agency. They do not even need a reason – I do not like the Pittsburgh Penguins because I’m a Philadelphia Flyers fan. I have no objective reason to dislike that team, but I do and I am free to do so. This idea that women “cannot hate all men” is to control their emotional responses to what they experience. What we can control is what they experience by working with them to change it.
“What if the feminists/women turn on you because you’re a man?”
I cannot control that. I simply cannot. It pains me to say that as someone who is non-confrontational and, frankly, seeks the approval and good graces of others. I cannot control how they respond to me. I cannot ask for their good graces for meeting the standard of basic human decency. They do not owe me their time, attention, or favour, and I cannot ask for it. What I can do is earn it but continuing to champion gender equality because it is the right thing to do. I would hope that you would, too.
Because the end result is that things are better for literally everyone.
26JULY2018 Update: Some people are misinterpreting a passage from this. I am not suggesting that misandry is okay or that women should get a pass to “hate all men”. Feminists do not hate men. They express a hatred frequently in a hyperbolic sense – many of these women have significant others and male friends. The paragraph is not a statement condoning hatred, it is a statement of empathy, understanding that men have giving women reason to hate (either by perpetrating acts against them or being remaining silent and complicit as others do – the point of this piece).
Taking issue with their emotional response rather than the underlying cause for that response is a failure on our part. That is with what the paragraph takes issue.