I have been saddened, but not at all surprised, to see #NotAllMen trending on social media. I won’t explain why this has saddened me, as I’m going to assume that you’re not a moron.
Like every woman I know, I can recall multiple incidents of sexual harassment – the first of which took place when I was 12 years old. I’ve been thinking about these incidents a lot recently.
The time that a man lifted up my skirt in a crowded pub and announced to his group of leering friends that he had ‘slept with girls with much better legs’ than mine. The time that a man groped me on a crowded train, I shouted, “can you stop touching me”, and a group of men sitting nearby laughed and proceeded to mock me for the rest of the journey. The time that a man sat next to me on an empty train and (obviously) without consent, put his phone between my legs and took a photo.
None of this is shocking to any woman. I’m so sick of it. We’re all so sick of it.
We desperately need men to change their behaviour, and whilst nOt aLL mEn are engaging in these behaviours, I would also hazard a guess that nOt aLL MeN are:
- Calling out sexist jokes
- Reading books on feminism and gender equality
- Having conversations, and ACTIVELY listening and learning
- Calling out sexual harassment when they see it
For things to get better, a huge societal shift is required. Now is not the time to be telling women “don’t walk at night, don’t use headphones when out alone, don’t wear that, well why didn’t you take a taxi?!”. We don’t need more safety advice.
Instead of victim blaming, perhaps we should focus on educating boys about consent and sexism. Instead of normalising sexist attitudes, perhaps we should (FINALLY) criminalise public sexual harassment in the UK.
Men really need to be better. Men really need to do better.
And men really need to contribute to and progress this conversation.