Not All Men, But Too Many Women

Every woman has taken the extra precautions to remain safe and out of danger. From a young age, we have learned to try and avoid walking home late at night, have keys in between our knuckles to act as a potential weapon, stay away from deserted streets. Some of us even carry pepper spray, text a trusted person our location, or remain vigilant of our surroundings.

For 33-year-old Sarah Everard, these precautions weren’t enough. On March 3, Everard was just walking home from a friend’s house and disappeared. Her body was found soon after on March 10, and 48-year-old police officer Wayne Couzens was arrested for her kidnapping and subsequent murder.

When I found out about this incident, it made me incredibly angry and sad, but also scared. Everard was just walking home and killed by the very person whose job is supposed to keep her safe.

However I was not surprised. The murder and abuse against women happens far too often. Last year, I remember reading an article published in The Claw that talked about the death of Tessa Majors, another woman brutally murdered while walking home.

These violent incidents are not isolated. The worst case scenario is horrifically more likely.

So many women every single day feel incredibly scared and worried to be alone in public because of the fear of something happening to them.

Verbal and physical sexual assault against women happens incredibly frequently. A study published by the United Nations Entity For Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women shortly after Everard’s death stated that “ 97 percent of women ages 18-24 in the United Kingdom have been victims of sexual harassment in public places.”

1 in 5 women have reporting being raped at least once in their lives and “over 90 percent of the perpetrators of sexual violence against women are male,” according to a National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey published in 2010.

The ways in which we approach talking about the epidemic of sexual assault and violence against women is incredibly important. Recently the hashtag “ not all men” was trending on Twitter. This hashtag was a direct male response to oppose the many women who were sharing their own stories about sexual assault and violence after the tragic passing of Sarah Everard. Even some male students at Campolindo conform to the problematic attitude that women are being overdramatic in their fear of men in general or that 1 bad seed like Couzens shouldn’t reflect on the population as a whole.

The primary issue with this counter-hashtag is that it draws attention away from the importance of addressing physical and verbal sexual assault by bringing up an entirely different topic. Women recognize that not every man in existence has sexually assaulted someone, however, it frankly doesn’t matter because far too many women have felt unsafe and uncomfortable in the presence of men and/or have been sexually assaulted by men.

When tweeting or saying “not all men,” you are not only dismissing the experiences and feelings of women who have suffered sexual assault, but you are saying that women’s experiences do not matter. Rather than become defensive and contribute to a hashtag that detracts from an important issue, be an ally to women during this time by remaining educated and dismantling the societal preconception that women are expendable.

“Not all men” also further perpetuates the ideas that if a man does the bare minimum–not raping or sexually asaulting women–that they deserve some recognition or acknowlegment. This is the expectation. Men shouldn’t receive any form of validation for merely being decent human beings.

While I realize that far too many men are also victims of sexual assault and the stories of these victims are just as important as those of women, the “not all men” countermovement was specifically derived to belittle and upset women. Men’s issues are incredibly important, but bringing them up only to try and diminish the importance of women’s issues does not help either gender whatsoever.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so we should be fostering an environment for people to have a safe place to share their experiences and feelings without their thoughts being dismissed and disregarded.

Everyone should be respectful and listen to people’s past experiences instead of becoming defensive.

Instead of saying not all men, men young and old need to check themselves. Rather than react defensively, take the time to reflect on your own behavior towards women. Have you ever said something sexist in the past or have ever made a woman feel uncomfortable? Has a woman ever crossed the street because you were waking too close behind her?

Yes, “not all men” have sexually assaulted women, however all men can be more conscientious of their actions and their words.