Not All Men – But Close Enough

Girls: Be honest — how many times has a guy made you uncomfortable? How many times have you been afraid to walk away or say no for fear of upsetting them? How many times have you felt the need to hold your tongue or laugh uneasily in the presence of a man?

Be honest — how many times has this guy been your friend?

It’s almost worse when it’s your friend, isn’t it? This is your pal, someone you’re supposed to be comfortable with, right? 

Sometimes you have a friend that’s a little too flirty, a little too touchy. Usually, they’re the ones that don’t notice you trying to pull away or your awkward laughter as you try to joke off their approaches — while hoping they don’t get mad. Since you’re friends, you don’t want to upset them or make a scene.

Or maybe you have a guy friend that you’ve talked to about this kind of situation and he doesn’t understand why you wouldn’t just say no or stop. Maybe your friend is the kind of guy that would respect the words “no” and “stop,” but he isn’t the kind of guy to understand why women can be afraid to use those words. 

Even if your friend is a great guy who you could never see harassing a woman, does that “great guy” characteristic always hold true? Even if he would never harass or assault someone, would he defend the women who’ve experienced this? How often do men express microaggressions against our plight or not believe what we go through? Often, men will believe other men over women. Even in a recent conversation with a male friend about this topic, I could see how, despite multiple females giving real-life examples and explanations, he listened to the opinion of another male over ours. 

There’s this saying that “your experience is not universal.” This is not exactly true for women. Our experiences are pretty common when it comes to men. We’ve all felt afraid to walk alone at night; we’ve all felt afraid when a strange man approached us. We’ve all been afraid to say no to a man because God knows what their reaction will be. We’ve all even felt nervous around our male friends at some point, afraid to say no or stop when we’re uncomfortable for fear of their pride or anger. We’ve all been apprehensive to talk about this subject in front of men because of what kind of reaction they might have, be it anger, annoyance, disbelief or the *sarcasm alert* wonderful and always productive “not all men” response. 

It’s baffling the responses you see when a sexual assault or rape case comes out in the media. Take for example the “This is Not Consent” movement going around social media this week where pictures of thongs are being posted to show solidarity against victim blaming after a 27-year-old was acquitted of rape because the victim was wearing a lacy thong. Almost everyone I have seen joining this movement is a woman. Women will often rally together and show their support for fellow women. Because we know. We know these kinds of things happen because we have either experienced them ourselves, come close to or know someone who has. 

Men don’t know — at least, not to the same extent. I am in no way trying to undermine the issues that men go through — that’s a topic for a whole other article — but they don’t experience harassment or fear the same way that we do. They just don’t. if you’re confused or unsure of what I’m talking about, read this article by my fellow HC writer. It will explain all the ways in which being a woman can suck or be scary. 

I don’t write this with malicious intentions or because I’m a “man hater.” There are plenty of wonderful men in my life. There are also plenty of ignorant men in my life who, despite being wonderful, have this “not all men” notion that hurts women. 
The speed at which guys will jump to defend themselves and their fellow men is crazy. “Not all men!” they shout, their brows coming together and faces turning red. They’ll defend themselves, saying they would never rape or harass a woman, so how could it be common? If they don’t rape and their friends don’t rape, then how can assault be so common? Or they’ll question the validity of the charges with “maybe she’s doing it for attention” or “she changed her mind later.” While false rape claims do happen, and I believe those people should be charged to the fullest extent, the fact is that only 2 to 8 per cent of rape claims are false. And while I don’t exactly think most guys say these things to purposely upset women or belittle their views, their ability to ignore the facts is pure ignorance. 

So, men — be honest. How many times have you made a girl uncomfortable? How many times have you spoken over a girl or rolled your eyes and considered her dramatic? How many times have you ignored the world around you and ignored how truly scary it is to be a woman? 

By not believing women or by saying that since you don’t see it or experience it then it must not be true, you are being willfully ignorant. By ignoring the facts, you are coming from a place of privilege and invalidating those who do struggle. 

When you say, “not all men!” you’re not defending yourself or fellow men, you are making women’s experiences about you. You are taking a problem that a girl has experienced, ignoring what it means to her and twisting it to fit your narrative. Thank you for not being “one of those guys,” but that doesn’t solve my problems. And let’s face it, the statistics don’t lie: 82 per cent of sexual assaults against women are by someone they know — and most perpetrators don’t even consider themselves perpetrators. 

I am in no way arguing that all men are predators. What I want is for more men to take accountability for themselves and their gender. I want them to understand that, yes, there is a problem with our society and yes, you being aware of that fact does help. Things are not going to change unless you make a conscious choice to be aware of what’s going on. Be an ally, don’t speak over women — and listen. 

I know it must be frustrating to hear when girls say things like “men are trash.” What you need to understand is that we’re not necessarily targeting you or even a specific person. We’re expressing our anger at society, at the patriarchy, at whatever kind of system allows women to be harassed, expecting that they accept it because “that’s just how it is” — and having doubt placed on their experiences. 

So, men, next time a girl is telling you about a negative experience with a man, repress your urge to defend your gender and instead listen. Because while it may be “not all men,” it certainly is “yes all women.” 

A final note on my feelings surrounding this topic:

Statistics from http://sacha.ca/resources/statistics