To all the #NotAllMen tweeters,
The fact is, Sarah Everard is missing. A suspect has been arrested. The remains of a body have been found. And last night #NotAllMen was trending on Twitter.
Of course, not all men abduct, murder, rape, assault, stalk and abuse women. It goes without saying that not all men do this. Even the most ardent, bra-burning misandrist would have a hard time arguing that all men are guilty of these.
But unfortunately, so many men are guilty of this that when you stand back and listen to the every day actions taken by women to just make it through another day without falling victim to any of the above, it renders the defensive response of #NotAllMen to be really quite pathetic.
I get it. You don’t follow women who walk alone. You’ve never raped a woman. You’ve never left a woman wondering if this will be the time she doesn’t get home safely. I hear you. But what do you do to stop your friends who do all those things? 97% of the women in your life will have been harassed. Don’t you find it suspicious that supposedly 0% of your friends harass women? What have you done to help your female colleague who can’t report being sexually assaulted at work because she’ll be ostracized and ultimately lose her job? What have you done to defend the woman who your friends all cat-called as she passed? What have you done to help the woman who wanted your friend to stop grabbing her waist at the bar? What have you done to help the woman who was far too drunk but your friend took her home anyway?
There are men out there who do help the women in those situations. I know them. Most girls will know them. We love and respect those men because they emphasise the fact that there are some really good ones out there. But those good men are categorically not tweeting #NotAllMen, because they are abundantly aware of how many men are the issue, and what women go through to simply just survive.
You might like to see yourself as a bit old-fashioned – a man who likes to be chivalrous as opposed to treating women as equal. As someone who seeks out alpha-males like a pre-historic gatherer looking for my Neanderthalic hunter, even I would much much rather open my own door and pay for my own food than be dragged into the woods and raped. So if it means that to be safe, we need to shed this societal expectation that men will be masculine and women will be helpless, then so be it. Because the status quo just isn’t working.
On the night that the suspect in Sarah Everard disappearance was arrested, I was meeting someone for a (socially distanced) first date. I barely knew this man and as always there was a niggling concern that he could hurt me. When I was running through the possibilities of what could happen to me in my head, for some reason the hashtag #NotAllMen didn’t bring me any comfort. Friends knew I was going, and as per usual, we followed the protocol: I had to message my friend the minute I had got back in my car safely. She wouldn’t go to sleep until I messaged, and if I didn’t message by midnight then she’d know something was wrong. The horror of this whole rigmarole is that we didn’t follow this protocol because we were shook by Sarah Everard’s profoundly tragic story…we do this every single time. Sometimes we’ll share our coordinates. We even have an emoji code for when we feel unsafe but we don’t have time to explain. The measures we take to simply stay alive are not because we all of a sudden realise the danger we are in. We have known this for as long as we can remember, and we are exhausted.
I have a shared calendar with my family I keep up to date religiously. I especially go into detail when the calendar entry concerns me going away, including the full address of the AirBnB, post code, host name, hotel confirmation and any details that may be useful to track me if I were to be abducted. My family pay little to no notice of the calendar I diligently update, instead choosing to ask me four times where I’m staying, before forgetting I’m actually going away and then asking “oh it’s tomorrow you leave? I didn’t realise”. Whilst I might huff back “do you never check the calendar”, I know that organisation isn’t the reason for keeping the shared schedule. It’s so that my family would have something to refer to if I went missing. I include this calendar keeping in my day-to-day routine as if it is just daily admin.
- Get blazer dry-cleaned. Check.
- Buy food for the weekend. Check.
- Pay credit card. Check.
- Update the shared calendar so that the police and my parents would know where to start looking if I’m abducted. Check.
The mundanity of this, as if it is just a part of the female quotidian, is what renders #NotAllMen to be so pathetic. If enough men threaten women’s safety, that women have to take these measures every day – thus pre-empting their own possible death – then surely the problem has surpassed acceptability.
When I look at those young girls in my life who are reaching an age where they’re gaining independence, a small nagging fear eats away at me when I consider what kind of world is awaiting them. The hashtag #NotAllMen isn’t going to keep them safe. Not even the police can always keep them safe. Wearing an ugly turtle neck jumper and trousers down to their ankles isn’t going to keep them safe. I just have to pray helplessly that they never cross paths with a man who wants to hurt them. Or if they do, that there’s a good man there who will choose to help them.
Finally, presaging your tweet with ‘as a father’ or ‘as a husband’ does not make your use of #NotAllMen any more valid. If anything, it demonstrates that you’re not paying attention to the women in your life. Ask your daughter if she’d feel safe being alone with all of her male colleagues. Ask your wife why she never walks alone at night. You have one mouth and two ears – use them in that proportion.
We honestly know that there are good men out there. If you’re one them, and you’re feeling vilified or unfairly targeted, please take that passion you have for shouting #NotAllMen, and use it to help call out those bad men who are giving you all a bad name. If we had you on our side, we’d be that much safer that much sooner.