not-all-men-rossAfter Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree in Isla Vista because he was angry women wouldn’t have sex with him, a group of men on Twitter were quick to explain to the world that “not all men are like that”. In response to #NotAllMen a flood of women began sharing their experiences of violence, misogyny and harassment under the hashtag #YesAllWomen. Men might not all be like that, but yes, all women experience the consequences of sexism. We live in a world where “I have a boyfriend” is the best way to get rid of men who bother you, where sex workers say “I have a pimp” to get rid of pushy clients, because some men have more respect for other men’s ‘property’ than they do for women’s agency. It’s true not all men are like that, but when we’re talking about violence against women maybe this is not the time to be so defensive. When we’re talking about a racist murderer it’s not the appropriate time to go “not all white people are like that!”. We know you’re not like that, but this isn’t about you. And honestly, derailing discussions about violence against women by constantly changing the subject back to the feelings of men, you’re part of the problem.

However, after the #YesAllWomen hype it seems it’s become taboo to talk about the fact that #NotAllMen are sexually violent. It’s wasn’t the time and place to talk about it then, but we do need to talk about it. Not all men are sexually violent, and we’re creating a huge problem by approaching all men as if they are.yes-all-women-main

“We shouldn’t teach women not to get raped, we should teach men not to rape” has gotten, in a strange sense, out of hand. Men are taught that their sexual desires are disrespectful, that any sexual initiative is inherently potentially violent. I know men whose mothers gave them a stern warning not to treat women as sexual objects, not to go straight for the boobs, be careful you don’t pressure her, so much that they’ve become afraid of being sexual with women. Men are
taught they are so dangerous, they should never be alone with a woman, they shouldn’t be left alone with kids. Men are told “boys will be boys” when other men do things they find morally objectionable, as if those evils are part of what it means to be a man. Men are mistrusted when they invite someone over for coffee, are mistrusted when traveling alone with a child, are perceived as violent when they even so much as look at a woman. Men are there when women are told not to leave them alone with their drinks, men are there when women are told not to be alone with a man, men are there when women are told it’s dangerous to be drunk in the presence of men. Men are bombarded with stories of how men victimise women, how men are predators, how men have oppressed women. The trafficking myth is based on the offensive perception that men are so vile there is actually a huge market for abused crying sex slaves in dark little prisons. After all this slander, we should have the respect to listen when men tell us “I’m not like that”.

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people, but perhaps we should give the radical notion that men are people a try.

19 thoughts on “#NotAllMen

  1. Robert

    Even without my mother saying so, media in general gave me the impression that it’s great for a guy (and difficult) to be non-sexual. It wasn’t until my third girlfriend that I started realizing that it’s okay for a male to take any initiative.
    All the things you mention, like seeming violent for looking at a woman, are indeed true. Thanks for giving these issues a heads up and mentioning them coherently!

  2. Nic

    Let me phrase it in my own words, then. If upon hearing about the atrocities a woman has endured by the hand of a man (not “all” men, “a” man), or even by the hand of several men throughout her life, the first thing that comes to a (completely different) man’s mind to say is a kneejerk defensive reaction such as “well, not all men are like that” or “I’m a man and I’m not like that” rather than something that validates her experience, something that acknowledges that such things happen, that man has not been anything but selfish.

    Nobody here is talking about every man on the planet and to act like people are is a very effective way of derailing the conversation and avoiding having to validate and acknowledge the experiences women have. It’s taking the focus away from the abuse and to the man’s hurt feelings. We’re talking about a society in which men and male opinion and male power is dominant in every way, and women have to conform in order to be to survive – have to try to “not get raped” and often enough end up being raped anyway by no fault of their own, only to have the police and their peers and their parents asking what she was wearing, who she was with – in short, what she had done to prevent the abuse from happening. I’m not saying “all men” are rapists. I am saying all women could potentially be rapists, and it is up to them to be or not to be one. How are women supposed to know which one you are? It is too unsafe to take the risk every time. It is only logical, then, that both women and men have to be on their guard.

    You claim, in your article, that the “women shouldn’t be taught to not get raped, men should be taught not to rape” view has gone too far. I disagree. The men and women on YesAllWomen disagree with you, as well. I am not going to feel sorry for men who complain they now have to watch their behaviour, double guess their every action, hope to God a strange woman won’t consider him a threat. It’s exactly what women have been taught doing in our society for generations now.

    For people who say “not all men,” the experiences of women are not what’s most important; what’s most important is to excuse some men from the issue entirely.

  3. Nic

    Pff, was typing too quickly. ” am saying all women could potentially be rapists, and it is up to them to be or not to be one. ” should of course be “all men”.

  4. Marijke Post author

    I understand what you’re saying and actually agree with most of it. There was an excellent article on Schrödinger’s Rapist that explained quite well how women in a sense have to consider every man a potential threat. I know from my own experience I am aware of the threat of violence every day and act/dress/react to avoid danger. I’m not denying this problem in any way.

    And when we are talking about that problem, it shouldn’t be a priority to excuse some men from the issue entirely. Some idiot who cannot stop his kneejerk reaction “omg everything should always be about me and I’m not like that so we need to talk about how this isn’t fair to me because I’m a man” is an asshole. That kind of dude is part of the problem. Seriously.

    But I don’t think that means we can’t talk about men. We don’t have to choose – we can speak out against all injustice and sexism. And I think it’s important we listen to men too, because I do think sexism is hurting them. I don’t know what I’d do if society persistently portrayed me as potentially violent.

  5. Jens

    What I dearly miss in the discussions about #notallmen is my fellow men’s concern about the awful things (some) men do in the name of masculinity and thus in our name as well. The thing is, Elliot Rodger is not an incident, men’s contempt for femininity and violence against women is a structural thing in the socialization of men. And how wonderful it is that even in this situation so many men don’t behave like this! However, I miss their voices speaking out against other men’s misbehavior, their silence makes me sad. Like Martin Luther King said: In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. Please men, speak out against other men, against those dehumanizing and destructive images of masculinity, instead of feeling hurt by women (and men) who do so).

  6. Marijke Post author

    I think I must be lucky then – I hear men speaking out against these problems all the time. But I do agree it is important to keep talking about these issues, because they are indeed structural.

  7. Anonymous Man

    “It’s true not all men are like that, but when we’re talking about violence against women maybe this is not the time to be so defensive.” (main article)

    “not all men how discussing women’s issues gets derailed” (link by Nic)

    I would say the opposite is true.

    I’d say men’s issues get derailed by discussing women’s issues. The #notallmen hashtag is the one that was derailed after all.

    Marijke addresses this by saying amongst other things: “when we’re talking about violence against women”

    But why is this regarded as a ‘violence against women’ thing in the first place? Elliot rodger killed 6 people and 4 of those people were men.

    Why is this about ‘violence against women’, then?
    Why do we collectively view violence against women as worse than violence against men?

  8. men are getting a voice

    It’s starting… It took till 2014 but men are starting to get a voice. Now women rights are seen quite well we can begin with the male issues. First step is recognition that these men issues even exist. Then hopefully we can end in a future with gendertransition movement, treating men and women the same.

    Never has there been a men liberating movement. From survival to fullfilment also for men. The voice for men is a men liberating movement. Their is a systematic underated and unseen amount of issues of men.

    Some goals for the voice of men: The start of men studies, raising the issue that 80 of suicides are men, starting to recognize discrimination/sexism of men, child custody rights, against the shaming of boys emotional lives, the double standaards towards all men issues having to be strong making it hard to speak up about men issues, male rape, aggresive feminism, unequal sentencing. List is long and suprisingly unknown..

  9. men are getting a voice

    and yes anonymous men, men are valued less.. Men = strength women=lovable. The main stereotype is as easy as that. It sounds stupid, but it can be underbuilt with lots of examples in every part of life. Killing somebody that is lovable is of course worse than something that is strong..

  10. men are getting a voice

    don’t think speaking up about this stuff is simple. This conference needed protection of more than six policemen and has revieced terrorist threats. Offcourse also misrepresentation in the media and then the feminist derailing stuff. The mysoginist and weakness shaming. But it won’t stop these people, just speaking up about their human issues.

  11. Just a guy

    This struck a chord in me and I would like to share a personal perspective. First of all, I have the utmost sympathy and concern for anyone that has to deal with (sexual) violence. I can imagine women may experience more ‘fear’ as – forgive me for not having exact figures – I can understand they would have to deal with these issues more often. However, as a man I have experienced a personal conflict.

    On the one hand I did strive to be the idealtype of ‘gentleman’-prototype of a respectful, understanding, kind and patient man where any hint of sexism or underplaying these real problems is to be avoided. On the other hand, where I also have a healthy libido and enjoy bdsm, it sometimes felt like women were anything but sexual beings!

    So too much emphasis on how men are naturally horrible shallow and pushy creaturs actually instilled shame and guilt in me for in any way looking at an attractive woman, or even seeing her as beautiful or in any sexual way. And how do you combine that with (consensually) tying a woman up and hitting her? So to speak.

    In other words, for me rather than actually promoting healthy relationships with women and exploring my sexuality, It rather put women on a separate, almost mythical non-sexual superior position where I would avoid initiating anything because it might be inappropriate or some way non-consensual, and above all, keeping desires separately. I can tell you, that just leads to either being led-on or leading yourself on because you’re not engaging with women and flirting in an open way where possible romance is explored- i.e. women think I’m uninterested or uninteresting or I can’t tell what they’re thinking. Or settling for unfullfilling flings when bottled up sexual frustrations inevitably come out. This version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde isn’t healthy for anyone.

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