By Nana Aisha Salaudeen
We know that not all men are rapists… But the number of men who rape are enough to make it a social problem.
When a woman shares her sexual harassment story or talks about feeling unsafe around men, she’s quickly booed with boring retorts.
“Not all men are rapists.”
“Don’t box us all into a corner.”
“Not every man sexually harasses women.”
The conversation about her subjugation in the hands of men is quickly tossed aside and it becomes about “defending” men or protecting the image of the menfolk. The above responses and its likes are immediately used to nullify the experience of the woman in the hands of her rapist, her abuser or her cat caller. This is not exactly advantageous.
Why is it not helpful to say “not all men”? Well for starters, when a woman talks about being grabbed inappropriately on a bus or in a train it does not mean she thinks that every man on the planet is like her harasser. She’s merely speaking about her own reality and shouldn’t have to stay quiet because it makes men touchy. She already knows that not every man is violent or a murderer, she does not need you to remind her.
Then, It is defensive. When you’re defensive you are not paying attention to the other party, you’re thinking of ways to uphold yourself – even when you don’t particularly have to. My friend, Bintu, was raped by her boyfriend in our second year at University. Half the people meant to empathize with her thought a better option would be to constantly chip in “But not all men are like him”. It didn’t matter that she had crawled into depression and stayed on the hospital bed for months. Her mental health and recovery was not prioritized, it was apparently more significant for the men in her life to remind her that they were “good guys”.
When you yell “not all men” you’re evading the conversation and missing the point. The discussion is not about the men who are not the problem; it is about the men that are the problem. So, It doesn’t matter that not all men are rapists or sexists or harassers; it is that the ones that are these things are enough to make it a problem. Instead of derailing the conversation, how about listen to what hundreds of women have to say? And think up comprehensive solutions to wide spread sexual abuse? Telling women they should not worry or nag because not all men are unsafe gaslights them for having legit concerns.
When I am in an office alone with a man, walking down the road alone or even on a date, I panic. My panic stems from not knowing where the man belongs. I cannot tell if he is a predator or the most amazing man in the world. So, it’s rational for me to worry about being victimized even if there’s no harm intended. This is the tragic reality many women have to deal with every passing day.
What can you do as a man to alter this haunting actuality? Start by letting women speak their truth. Stop forcing them to minimize their traumatic life changing incidents because you want to feel better about yourself.