Any of you feel the familiar tingle of the spine when male friends whose beliefs you didn’t view as harmful casually mention that they see nothing wrong with catcalling and that they think ‘not all men’ is a legitimate political movement? The faint echo of defeat as you realise that your opinion means nothing to them, because lived experience means shit all in comparison to the fact that They Are A Decent Man And That Means Not All Men?
It’s not even surprising to me anymore to be silenced by my closest male friends. The fact that they’re taught their opinions should be given more weight than mine – even thought they call themselves feminists or at the very least, that cop out, ‘in favour of equality’ – from an early age resonates in every conversation about feminism I’ve ever tried to instigate, and rapidly give up on.
I’ve written fairly extensively on social media about the resentment I feel, after being flashed at a bus stop, at being targeted in a move blatantly based around social power – I think it’s illustrative of much larger power imbalances based around sexual inequalities. I found out after my first post that a relatively large swathe of my friends have also been subject to similar trauma (and no, I don’t think it’s exaggerating to call it that: what I found faintly amusing would hardly evoke the same response in a survivor of sexual assault, or even someone suffering from anxiety).
Posting about how disgusting I find it that even in my social circle, there are multiple people who have been targeted by aggressions such as these, I used the typical ‘I hate men’ discourse to indicate my dissatisfaction of the power balance being such that this happens, daily, unchallenged. Only to be told ‘not all men’. By a man, obviously.
Maybe it’s not all men. But it’s enough men that I alone know ten or so girls who’ve been flashed. I probably know ten or so girls who have been subject to much worse assaults and survive these every day. If one in three girls is a victim of rape – fuck it, if one in an infinite amount is – then it’s some men. And that is enough to make me say it.
In a viral text post, it’s put forward that the ‘not all men’ rhetoric alone is a microaggression. One that proves in itself that men (as a gender that represents an oppressive institution of power) can be guilty of hating women. A man who is truly comfortable in his own masculinity doesn’t need to perpetuate microaggressions just to reassert his own position as not a threat.
To me and doubtless to others – ‘not all men’ marks you out as more of a threat than someone whose response to ‘I hate men’ is ‘I know, and I understand’. Much the same as white people defending whiteness as an institution marks them out as ignorant, so do men who defend their position in a horrendously unequal power structure. Maybe it’s time call out culture started hitting these guys where it hurts – right in their underdeveloped understanding of their own masculinity.