By Sian Hopkins | Comment Editor
*trigger warning: mentions sexual assault and harassment*
This last month has been an emotional rollercoaster for all women, from International Women’s day, followed by criticism of Meghan Markle’s Oprah interview and then the death of Sarah Everard at the hands of a Met Police officer. Whilst this has brought to light and opened up the needed discussion about harassment and violence women can face on a daily basis, there is another half of the population that are more concerned about how men are coping in this situation.
The devastating discovery of Sarah Everard’s remains, after she went missing on the third of March, opened up the vocal protest about women’s safety in the hands of men. The fact that Sarah had been walking home after visiting her friend in South London and turned up dead at the hands of a met police officer demonstrated the on-going battle women face everyday in terms of harassment and their inability to feel safe when just leaving their homes. Whilst there may be arguments surrounding what Sarah was wearing, what time of night it was and whereabouts she was in South London, none of these factors are important. None of that information justifies why Sarah lost her life at the hands of a serving police officer and all this does is reduce women as being the problem, rather than the men who harass them. For 97% of women to experience sexual harassment in their lifetime, this statistic clearly points to the real problem: men.
Just in Cardiff recently, the amount of stories and posts documenting day to day harassment and unease felt by women on groups such as overheard cardiff and exposed cardiff has led to the creation of a women’s safety group on facebook and countless posts about apps and alarms that can aid a woman to just go on a walk, regardless of the time of day. So many accounts have described they were walking in public, in broad daylight, in groups of women and in clothing such as their pyjamas yet are still followed, leered at and harassed by men. If this doesn’t prove that women cannot prevent their harassment with their clothes or time of day, the main reason points to the failed education of the nation’s men.
The term ‘not all men’ has been a common response to the afflictions of women at the hands of men. Instead of offering support and remorse for the actions of their fellow sex, a popular response from men and women can be the defence of : ‘but it’s not all men.’
This term of phrase means nothing but ignorance against female harassment. Any experience a woman faces or suggests she is afraid of walking at night because of men, is not a demonisation of all men. Jenna Proudfoot in Marie Claire sums it up, ‘Of course we’re not saying that all men are dangerous, but we are saying that all women feel unsafe. And we need all men to stand with us to do something about it.
So, instead of getting defensive and deflecting the important conversation to focus on your own image perception, help us tackle the problem.’
Several posts have been circulating depicting images such as sharks, tics and other animals we consider to be dangerous to humans. Their point is to emphasise how not all sharks or tics are necessarily harmful to people, but we still avoid all of them because we cannot tell which ones are harmful or not. When applied to the current argument, when women talk about men in general, they cannot know whether a man will be dangerous or not when they see them on the street, so it is safer to avoid all men. This applies also to when men decide to join the argument that they also can feel scared to walk alone at night, in fear of being attacked. No woman is arguing against any experience a man may have been through as any less because he is a man, but their fear also comes down to the common denominator: other men.
Jameela Jamil summed up in a popular tweet: ‘It’s true that #notallmen harm women. But do all men work to make sure their fellow men do not harm women? Do they interrupt troubling language and behavior in others? Do they have conversations about women’s safety/consent with their sons? Are #allmen interested in our safety?’ Jameela expanded her point on instagram, If you allow it then you condone it. If you condone it, you’re part of the problem. It could not continue without the silent complicity of the majority.’ Jameela highlights the problem being not just the violent men who harass the women, but those who fight back with comments like ‘it’s not all men’, because by not actively fighting for female safety, they allow the problem to continue silently.
There have been plenty of celebrities and popular personalities who have spoken out in support of reclaiming the streets and given a voice to all women and people with vaginas, but there are also those who jump on the ‘it’s not all men’ bandwagon. TV personality Davina Mccall came under fire after tweeting that ‘female abduction/ murder is extremely rare’ relating to Sarah Everard’s disappearance. She continued: ‘Men’s mental health is an issue as well. Calling all men out as dangerous is bad for our sons, brothers, partners.’ Davina rightly received plenty of backlash for her insensitive tweet, pointing the finger back at women for speaking out about their experiences at the hands of men.
One reply added: Most of us have men in our lives that we love, so I can see where your post [comes from], your post was poorly timed and was like ‘all lives matter’ insensitive and unnecessary’ linking davina’s tweet to the inconsiderate comments that came in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Davina’s tweet, like many other #notallmen posts silence and demean the countless harassment accounts told by women and the statistics that prove the extreme likelihood of a woman experiencing a form of harassment, at the hands of a man, in her lifetime.