I have a problem with the #NotAllMen hashtag and misogynistic assholes. I plan to tackle these issues, perhaps not so succinctly, in this post.
First, #NotAllMen. It’s the trending topic that started when men wanted to point out that not all men are rapists. It’s true, according to numbers. According to numbers, however, it’s also true that most rapists are men and most victims are women.
The problem with #NotAllMen is it always comes across as “but I’m not a rapist.” Congratulations. Do you want a cookie? Not being a rapist isn’t good. It’s neutral. And you don’t get an award for being a human being who doesn’t hurt other human beings. This should be something we expect as society.
It’s the bare minimum you should be when it comes to not subscribing to sexism and rape culture. In fact, you can be “not a rapist” and absolutely be a douchebag. Men don’t even disagree with this point. After discussing this with a guy friend, he said that he wants to point out that #NotAllMen are rapists or sexist because he isn’t, because he is personally offended to be associated with them. On the one hand, being repulsed by rapists or the idea that someone could think you are one is good. It shows a moral compass. On the other hand, that behavior brings the discussion back around to men. If there’s one thing that human rights advocates and feminists have been fighting to say, it’s not about you, men. It’s not about you. You are not the victim.
It’s also not about men who are victim to predatory women. Yes, this happens. Yes, it’s awful. No, this is not the forum to discuss it. Because that isn’t a result of system-wide hatred and objectification of men — but the idea that a man shouldn’t be so “weak” to become a woman’s victim is a result of misogyny.
And if pointing out that systematic hatred for and objectification of women hurts your feelings, I am okay with it if it also helps put an end to the societal constructs and beliefs that treat women as less than human. Because your hurt feelings don’t even fall on the scale of terror when rape and murder make that scale. Think big picture. Do your hurt feelings pale in comparison to rape? I can live in a world where men are offended by this means women are safe.
Does defending yourself take attention away from the problem — a system that, at best, leaves women uncomfortable and worried about their safety for their entire lives? A system that, in reality, results in 1 in 8 women being a victim of rape in their lifetime and that fails to enact justice for rapists, some of whom are even able to continually harass their victims until their victims have to change their lives because they live in a world that does not protect them. Women live in a world where we are told to deal with harassment and abuse and then questioned as to what we did to cause it rather than a world that tells men not to harass or abuse women.
But maybe you’re not an abuser or a harasser. You’re a nice guy. At best, you’re #NotAllMen and you treat women as human beings and not objects. You are someone who everyone may describe as a nice guy. However, you’re still not helping to fix the problem. Ignoring the problem is the same as letting the problem persist.
What do I think men can and should do to help defeat rape culture?
- Don’t advertise that you’re not a rapist. Simply be a decent human being whom others, especially women, can trust. You can build trust by not raping.
- Don’t make rape/non-consent jokes. Call out inappropriate jokes whether it’s from your peers or a talk show host. Remember, in a room with 8 women, one of them is likely a victim or will be a victim. Your jokes could be triggering them again and again.
- Skip catcalling women. Forgo objectification in general, whether it’s online, in person or during a discussion with your buddies. Recognize that women are not there to look good for you. No one owes you that. Measure women on the merits of their character and skills, not their appearance. View women as complete human brings who do not just exist to get you something (sex, popularity, a cup of coffee).
- Teach your sons not to rape. Do not teach your daughters that a certain aspect of dressing means they are “asking” for rape. Do not “slut shame” women for the way they dress, which has nothing to do with their sexual activity. Ditch the words “slut” and “whore.” You might even do away with “bitch.” On that note, do not judge women who are sexually active or celibate. Whether a woman chooses to have sex or not, she does not deserve to be a victim of harassment or rape.
- Call out men who describe women who don’t want them as “bitches” or any other negative label. Explain to men that rejection is okay. Not every woman will be interested. This is a part of life. No one is entitled to another person’s affection or body. Let men know that they should leave women be who do not return their interest.
- Engage in conversations about behavior that may actually contribute to rape culture even if that is not your intent. Let women express themselves without going on the defensive.
Because subtle versions of all these things mean you still subscribe to rape culture and misogynistic views. Even if you’re just mimicking things you’ve heard, you’re contributing to the problem. If you let other people around you do these things, you are actively part of rape culture. I know many men — and even women — who are so immersed in these things that they don’t realize how entrenched it is in society. Just because you don’t see it or even think about it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
The problem is that while most men don’t think about these things, haven’t even considered them, no woman is ever allowed to not think about them. It might not be all men who are a danger to women, but all men need to hear the message until all men are on board and, then, when a woman is victim of violence or harassment, we’ll know it was because of one unwell person. Not a person who was taught these things every day of his life and just treating women in a way that society taught him was acceptable.