Friday, May 30, 2014
Why #NotAllMen is Not All That Helpful
You know, the “not all men are like that” argument…it isn’t as helpful as the many, many, many well-intentioned, good guys who say it want it to be.
I promise, every woman also knows men who aren’t like that; likely the men who say “not all men” are one of those men they know who isn’t like that. We know that there are many, many, many men who are not like that. What we want people—including those well-intentioned, good guys—to know is that the number who aren’t good guys isn’t as small as that phrase makes it sound.
As women, we can’t find as much comfort in the fact that most men won’t be threats to us than men can because we still have to live in a world where far too many men are threats. You won’t be aggressive toward us, great! Fantastic and thank you! But that’s not really stopping the guys who will.
When we hear “not all men are like that/I’m not like that,” what we hear is that, as a good guy, you’ve done your part. You know that there are men out there who are making the world unsafe for women, but you’re not one of them. So, as far as you’re concerned, you’re not a problem—the men you know aren’t a problem—so, unless it’s happening right in front of you, there’s nothing more to be done.
In other words, if it’s not happening right in front of me, ladies, you’re on your own. If it’s not happening right in front of me, I won’t stand up for you. If it’s not happening right in front of me, I don’t see the problem. If it’s not happening right in front of me, I don’t want to hear about it.
It’s the life equivalent of “Show, don’t tell.” Please, don’t feel like you have to tell us that not all men are like that. Show us. Instead of saying “not all men are like that,” that shifts the discussion away from the horrible things the men who are like that do and makes the women who speak up against them the people in the wrong who need to be corrected, tell us, “Those guys suck; I’m sorry. Is there something I can do to help?”
Keep the focus where it belongs, on the fact that those men who harass women are wrong. They’re the ones who need to be corrected. They’re the ones who need to change.
There is an “us vs them” relationships going on here, but it isn’t “men vs women.” It needs to be “harassers vs non-harassers.” That’s the framework that this needs to be viewed from. You want to show us that you are not them, then be part of us. Be part of the people trying to find ways to make this stop. Not just when you see it, not just in that one, singular moment you happen to witness. Show us that we have your support all the time. That harassment and entitlement are always unacceptable, not just when a man is there to step in.
Because we know not all men are like that. What we want is there to be less men like that. We want to live in a world where the men who would harass women, who feel like we’re prizes to be won or exist to provide them pleasure, don’t feel safe doing so. We want to live in a world where the men who would harass women or treat them as less won’t because they know that type of behavior won’t be tolerated. By anyone. We want to live in a world where we don’t have to be on guard for them, but where they have to be on guard for us. All of us, men and women alike.