“Not all men” - the cliché response used as a rebuttal when a woman shares her experiences. It’s true, not all men are sexists, rapists, or have sexually assaulted someone, and we as women don’t believe that it is all men. But more times than not, the expression “not all men” is used to nullify a woman’s claims. Why? To give men comfort about their privilege, silencing and negating women.
WHY “NOT ALL MEN” MISSES THE POINT
There is a spot where “not all men” can and should be talked about in feminism. We can talk about how not all men act like the stereotypical man ― unemotional, unromantic, unnecessarily aggressive, and more. We can even talk about how not all men were assigned male at birth or are even attracted to women. Regardless, when women speak about their oppression, men tend to see themselves in their stories and don't like how they’re being characterized. When men say “not all men”, they’re often speaking defensively: these stories aren’t about them specifically, yet they take it like that. This is what created the stigma that causes so many people to refrain from sharing their stories without worrying about harming privileged people’s egos. Too often, and too naturally, conversations about feminism are derailed by saying “not all men”.
EVEN A FEW BAD STORIES CAN LEAVE MANY WOMEN FEELING UNSAFE
When you grow up in a world that is primarily social media-based, you hear stories about sexual violence that make you wonder if that will ever happen to you. And sadly, chances are, it will. Statistics shared by WHO, the World Health Organization, show that 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted, and as of 2018, in Canada, 30% of all women 15 and older reported that they experienced sexual assault ― that is approximately 4.7 million women. As a man, hearing these statistics will probably seem disturbing or distressing, you may even feel unsettled, but as a woman, these statistics are a reality. For myself, and for many young women as well, the idea that we could be that 1 out of 3 women is constantly in the back of our minds. Even walking down the street, day or night, can be a scary thing for a lot of women. We are constantly asking ourselves: do I have something I can defend myself with? Did I remember to share my location with my friends? Constantly being afraid that something might happen because it has happened to other people is draining, and women should be able to walk around without constant fear and paranoia.
SARAH EVERARD AND TRYSTIN BAILEY
On March 3rd, 2021, 33-year-old Sarah Everard vanished while walking home after visiting a friend’s house in South London; 7 days later, police found her remains. Her murderer? U.K police officer Wayne Couzens. On May 13th, 2021, 13-year-old Trystin Bailey was reported missing and 16 hours later, her body was found in the woods. Her murderer? Her 14-year-old classmate, Aiden Fucci. These two events were extremely tragic, gruesome, and undeserved, however, I couldn’t help but see a similarity. The suspect in both of these stories were people the victims trusted. Trystin Bailey went to school with Aiden Fucci every day and the night she was murdered started out as a harmless meeting with a friend. Sarah Everard’s murderer would’ve been the person she’d seek help and protection from, but instead, her walk home ended grievously. Grim stories like those of Sarah Everard and Trystin Bailey make you wonder, who can I trust? It’s hard for women to have faith in a world where men, whether they’re a stranger or someone you see on a daily basis, could make a detrimental impact on your life. If you can’t trust a police officer, who can you trust?
At the end of the day, this is not about men versus women. Women experience sexism from other women, women are capable of sexually assaulting people, and men are capable of being victims. But these issues are far larger than just men as a group, as toxic masculinity and learnt behaviours play a big role in it as well. We don’t want to fear or doubt every man we come across, but it is up to men to take it upon themselves to be better. Don’t protect your daughters, educate your sons. It may not be all men, but it is too close to being all women.
Connor, Tracy. “Cheerleader Tristyn Bailey Was Stabbed to Death by Teenage Boy, Cops Say.” The Daily Beast, The Daily Beast Company, 11 May 2021, www.thedailybeast.com/teenage-boy-charged-with-murdering-13-year-old-tristyn-bailey-florida-cheerleader.
Cotter, Adam, and Laura Savage. “This Juristat Article Provides an in-Depth Analysis on the Experiences of Inappropriate Behaviours in Public, Online and at Work, as Well as Information on Experiences and Characteristics of Violent Victimization. Using Data from the 2018 Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces, This Gender-Based Analysis Fills a Critical Gap by Measuring Behaviours That Have Not Previously Been a Focus of Other Surveys.” Government of Canada, Statistics Canada, Government of Canada, Statistics Canada, 5 Dec. 2019, www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2019001/article/00017-eng.htm.
“Death of Sarah Everard.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 May 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Sarah_Everard.
Diaz, Adriana. “Who Was Tristyn Bailey and How Did She Die?” The US Sun, The US Sun, 14 May 2021, www.the-sun.com/news/2859822/tristyn-bailey-missing-dead-florida/.
Khan, Aaminah. “Think It's #NotAllMen? These 4 Facts Prove You're Just Plain Wrong.” Everyday Feminism, 14 Aug. 2020, everydayfeminism.com/2016/10/yes-actually-it-is-all-men/.
Reuters, Thomson. “U.K. Police Officer Charged with Murder, Kidnapping in Sarah Everard's Death | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 13 Mar. 2021, www.cbc.ca/news/world/uk-missing-woman-found-dead-1.5947402.
Sandberg, Alivia, et al. “1 In 3 Women Will Be Sexually Assaulted.” The Odyssey Online, 15 Oct. 2019, www.theodysseyonline.com/1-in-3-and-me.