This column only applies to a select few men
Why “not all men” is a dangerous statement
Note: This column contains sensitive content regarding assault that may be triggering.
We’ve all seen it before: someone tweets “men are trash.”
Women respond in solidarity, sharing their own –– often chilling and life-threatening –– experiences.
Then, it happens. An alarm goes off on a man’s phone. He sees the thread and is immediately fueled with rage.
The anonymous man crawls out of his sewer to respond.
“Not all men.”
Men who feel they do not fit the “male-predator” stereotype often repeat this statement. It is for those who believe they should be knighted for holding open a door for the woman behind them. For men like Drake, who is applauded for never physically trying to sleep with Nicki Minaj, despite repeatedly and publicly stating he wants to f––k her. (Chivalry is not dead, ladies!)
Or even Chris Brown, whose fans will still defend him on Twitter despite his physical assault of two — very famous — women.
The problem with the statement is it disregards the predominantly-male population which engages in such acts and invalidates the experiences of women who have been preyed on by men who are otherwise socially deemed as “safe.”
In defense of the sewer rat, he’s not wrong.
“Not all men” will feel it’s appropriate to verbally sexualize their female boss.
“Not all men” will follow a woman halfway home and wait until she’s secluded to ask for her Snapchat.
“Not all men” will seek out a female journalist, angry with her story, banging on office walls and shouting until they find them.
But some men will.
And when other men say “not all men,” that invalidates the experiences women have with “some men” every single week.
Maybe not all men will engage in this type of hostile behavior, but that doesn’t eliminate the large majority of men who regularly do.
The fixation on specifics does not take priority over the lived experiences of women.
In the last week, I have experienced each of these instances. They are not all sexual and they were not all experienced in solitude.
They don’t fit the assault prototype.
A friend of mine was physically assaulted in the workplace. A male coworker grabbed her, prohibited her from leaving the room and wouldn’t let go despite her physical resistance. She fears mentioning the instance will alter the workplace dynamic.
She is worried she will be considered a burden.
People who say “not all men” to defend themselves or their friends discount situational characteristics. While no one wants to believe their friends would harass someone, it is important to remember that people change depending on who they are interacting with.
Of course your bro would never slap your ass, he’s your bro.
But when he’s with a Tinder date behind closed doors or left alone with a female colleague, he might.
It is also crucial to note that no one presents themselves as a predator. And sometimes predators are “nice guys.”
They’re misunderstood. They’re just insecure. They’re really “teddy bears.”
In reality, people who catcall, harass or assault women in any way are typically those who routinely make demeaning and disrespectful comments that are brushed off by their peers as jokes.
Male aggression is seen as normal and is routinely rationalized as a result of emotional turbulence. It is seen as something to sympathize with and forgive.
Why don’t we hold men accountable for their emotions in the same ways that women are?
If a woman cries in the workplace she’s seen as unstable and incompetent. If a man walks around the office yelling, he’s just “going through s––t.”
But when people handle these situations dismissively, it perpetuates the norm of the assault prototype. There is no outline for how assault happens, and there are many ways that women face harassment.
So please know, when a woman tweets “men are trash,” we understand that “not all men” are, but nearly all women experience harassment on a regular basis. And until we change this norm, men are just going to have to silently scroll past these tweets, understanding the daily tribulations women face.
If you or someone you know fear or have experienced assault, there are a number of local resources. Students can on UB’s website, through the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (716-645-2266), Crisis Services of Erie County (716-834-3131) and UPD (716-645-2222). For off-campus emergencies call 911, Amherst PD (716-689-1311), Buffalo PD (716-851-4444) or the New York State police 24/7 sexual assault hotline for college campuses (1-844-845-7269).