Not All Men, But ALL Women – Labour Article
TW: Themes of rape, sexual assault, and violence.
‘Not all men but ALL women’. This is what my placard read at the Exeter vigil for Sarah Everard last Saturday. Why? We’ve all seen the statement ‘not all men’ flying around social media these past weeks. It’s something a lot of women hear in normal life as a rebuttal to the debate around sexual violence and assault. But it misses the point entirely. While most women, myself included, don’t wish to blame all men, the more important point is that 97% of women between 18 and 24 have been sexually harassed. This is not something we can ignore.
This figure may shock you, but for most women, it screams reality. For me, it’s not a shock that I’ve received countless late-night phone calls from female friends walking home alone. It’s not a shock that a friend might ask me to accompany them to the toilet on a night out. And it’s certainly not a shock to utter the words “text me when you’re home”. It’s not a shock. But it’s terrifying.
Women and girls think of all of this and more on a daily basis: is my outfit too skimpy, what’s the best route home, who can I trust? The list goes on. So it’s not a shock that we’ve seen mass attendance at peaceful vigils across the UK; people are angry. They are angry at the existence of this harassment and assault and truly want to see effective change whether that be at a university or government level.
I can speak honestly about my experience at the Exeter vigil and say that it was a much-needed, safe environment for people to learn and share their stories, often for the first time. Many people who didn’t plan on speaking told their experiences of rape and assault. Many learnt to use the word ‘assault’ for the first time because they no longer have to sit in agonising silence and excuse the perpetrators. People are listening, and they will believe survivors.
What I learnt from this vigil is that we often lose sight of what’s important when discussing such sensitive topics. And while it was empowering to see the extent of support on this issue, there is still a contrasting reaction of ‘not all men’ that clearly misses the point.
If this is your initial reaction to hearing a story of sexual assault or reasons why things need to change, you’re pretty out of touch with reality. It is not discrimination against the entire male population. Rather, it is an attempt to open everyone’s eyes to the extent of sexual violence and to start conversations.
No, it’s not all men but we do need all men to do their bit. Turn to your peers, your mates, your family. Have a conversation about what you can do to better yourselves and your knowledge of this issue. Simply reaching out to your female friends in solidarity goes a long way. A male friend of mine recently did this and it goes a lot further than you may realise.
Here’s an alternative version of my title – not all men, but we don’t know which men. Sexual assault is not like you see in movies. It is not always a violent attack in a dark alley but often it is a friend or boyfriend who doesn’t know when to stop and an abuse of your feeling safe in a situation. And sometimes this extends to the police who we naturally feel like we can trust and turn to if someone needs help.
So if we can’t always trust those who are supposed to protect or love us, how can it be expected that women will trust all men. It is safer for women to put their guard up with all men because nobody knows who is capable of assault. While women don’t want men to feel unloved or unwanted at this time, I would argue avoiding a potential rape or assault is more important than protecting the statement of ‘not all men’.
Let’s look at another statement – ‘I don’t do it so it’s not my problem’. It should be everyone’s problem. How anyone can ignore the realness of this issue and the universal impact sexual assault has is beyond me. Nobody should expect a thank you for not raping someone, it’s as simple as that. So, move beyond this statement. Focus on educating yourself and others and ask what you can do beyond simply not assaulting someone.
Finally, let me reiterate that these statements are not going to win you the argument. They will never change the measures women take on a night out or the extensive list of considerations to simply leave the house. The threat is still very much there. Women live in fear and jump over hurdles every single day. Most of the time, we don’t even know we’re doing it. It’s just normality.
So the most important thing is to realise the impact of sexual assault, to listen to people’s experiences and fears, and to believe them without rebuttal. Only then is a decline in the 97% comprehensible. And only then will we even consider walking home alone.
Written by Chief Labour Writer, Abi Clargo
Point of Information
It may be all women, but does ‘#allmen’ really help? – A Conservative response
Firstly, I would like to applaud my colleague for capturing so aptly what that 97% actually means. I can only speak for myself, but I personally do not know any woman who falls under the 3% of women who have not experienced some kind of sexual harassment. And as Abi puts it, this is not shocking by any means, yet it is terrifying.
Quite frankly I am exhausted from having to constantly look over my shoulder when I walk home at night. I am fed up with not being able to have a night out with my friends (pre-Covid) without being groped. I am devastated to know so many women who have experienced sexual assault. This figure is not a joke.
I do, however, have a problem with a lot of the approaches that I have personally seen on social media. I agree with Abi, this is not discrimination against men and there is an evident issue here that needs to be addressed. But, I question whether a divide is being created with the ‘all men’ hashtag. Is it truly creating the synergy needed to tackle this staggering figure?
Before you start labelling me as a ‘pick me girl’ (which is an undeniably sexist term in itself), just try and consider this.
Take Extinction Rebellion as an example. Yes, the cause is an absolute necessity. The extreme approaches, however, arguably make people reluctant to change their ways or even educate themselves. I am not equating these issues, but what I am saying is that the solution is not as black and white as simply seeing ‘all women’ and then tweeting ‘all men’.
Yes, the issue is obviously not ‘all men’ but that we do not know which men. However, I am still not convinced that the current approaches on social media are as helpful as one might think. It is so easy for anyone to jump onto the virtue signalling train, particularly abusers. Education is key, but targeting 50% of the population on social media does not allow us to distinguish between who is dangerous and who is not.
Surely if we want effective change, driving men away from the cause cannot help?
Written by Junior Conservative Writer, Rebecca Selt
Why have men become the centre of a conversation about all women? – A Liberal Response
Abi’s article highlights the staggering scale of sexual harassment women go through daily. My colleague’s proposed ‘not all men but we don’t know WHICH men’ aligns with my feelings entirely.
Education doesn’t stop at 16, 18 or 21 – we learn, change and develop throughout our lives. We should continuously reflect on our behaviour. As our culture continuously plays catch up with our feelings and personal standards, I would hope all men are using this time to reflect on past interactions. That is the silver lining of these awful few weeks, I’ve never seen so many men partake in conversations, online activism and a genuine desire to help.
BUT, do not get me wrong, I am not rewarding the bare minimum. Walking your female friends home from a night out is not the solution, nor is it a man’s job done. Sadly, I think the most impactful conversations will happen where women are not in the room and it is men holding men accountable for their actions.
When speaking about an issue affecting 97% of women, it can be frustrating the tag line I think of first has men in the title. However, they are inherent to this issue, not just as perpetrators but allies. By drawing men into this conversation in such an obvious way, we are now at least managing to start these conversations of ‘not all men, but we don’t know which ones,’ which I feel have fallen on deaf ears in the past.
Written by Junior Liberal Writer, Lucy Severn