By Matthew Latter
“Not all men”. The first line of defence from men on the internet unwilling to grasp the reality of their world. Three little words that are a barrier between who they are and the latest horrific attack on a woman in Australia.
Yes, I know. Not all men.
The truth is, I have never sexually abused anyone in my life. Add to that list my father, my grandfather, my uncles and my closest friends. Perhaps I am just lucky in the sense that the men I have surrounded myself with are men who have grown up understanding that women are not a sexual fantasy that can be “chased after” for their own amusement. However, no matter how many good men there are in the world, there are still too many that sexually abuse women, make inappropriate jokes, and demean them.
Don’t think I fail to understand your frustration because believe me, I do. When women point out the terrible treatment they still face from men you don’t know, it can be hard sometimes to not take that as a direct attack against your character. It’s a way of removing yourself from reality that you do not wish to acknowledge. After all, you didn’t contribute to yet another horrendous murder of a woman in a Melbourne park. You are not willing to accept the blame for the deaths and assaults of young women all across the globe. But you should.
Yes, I know. Not all men. But here is the reality of the situation.
Being uncomfortable is a part of change. As someone who for years would loudly chant “not all men” on Twitter and Facebook while trying to play political limbo in a way that Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson would be proud of, it is a tough reality to face. The question used to rattle in my brain and infuriate me when I thought I knew the answer, but no-one else did.
Why am I blamed for the actions of others?
What changed for me was becoming close with a group of incredibly strong, kick–ass women who were nothing like the stereotypical, raging feminists my private–school–privileged ass envisioned. The amount of times they called me out for objectification, or inappropriate comments, or even just thinking I knew what they experienced is higher than I am proud of. However, it is even more embarrassing that every single time they politely told me to stop being a dick, it was over something I was not even aware was sexist. I was ignorant to the fact that these actions and comments have impact.
Being told your actions are sexist is not an action taken by women because they want to make you feel terrible. It is made because they know that those words and actions can hurt people, and they are doing something before you hurt others. They do it because they want you to be aware of what you don’t know.
Unfortunately, not every man has those women in his life to pull him into line, and nor should it be the duty of every single woman in the world to crack down on men for their bad antics. That is why the men aware of our toxic culture are the most important. If you are saying “not all men”, then that at the very least shows you acknowledge that these things for women are horrific.
The so called “locker room talk” is a lie. Mostly because it no longer stays within the confined walls of concrete and sweaty men showering after a footy game. It has extended to night clubs, work places, even here at QUT. And again, most men are not even aware that their actions are shitty.
When you hear your mate give explicit details about what he would do to the bartender, you probably just laugh it off and act like he’s being an ass. And while you internally may know that you would never, ever do something heinous to women, the same cannot be said about your mate. To him that laughter is approval, a challenge almost.
Am I being dramatic for saying that even something as simple as telling your mate to not talk badly about women can prevent rape or murder? No, not at all.
If the line is never drawn, men will never know when it is crossed.
The line needs to be made clear and needs to be made early.
I am confident in saying that the majority of men reading this right now would never follow a young woman into a dark alley late at night. Nor would they take away an innocent person from their friends and family because they didn’t get their way.
But those men do exist. And sadly, those men could be your brother, your dad, your best mate, your boss. These men exist because awkward laughter and long silence has been the response to disgusting thoughts and discussions for too long. These men exist because instead of crying for change, men on Facebook cry “not all men”.
Yes, I know. Not all men.
Not all men have the privilege of being surrounded by incredibly strong women who will wake them up to their own ignorance. Not all men will be willing to acknowledge the toxic culture of “sexual victories” that exists. Not all men will speak up. However, even that one voice to speak up and pull your mate into line could be an influence for change. Prove to yourself, your mates and to those around you that it is indeed, not all men.