Written by Michael Wester
We’ve all heard it before: A woman is telling a story about an uncomfortable or traumatizing encounter with a man, and some well-meaning individual responds with some variation of “I’m sorry that happened to you, but you know most men are nice guys.”
Maybe it’s in response to the familiar refrain that “men are trash” or something along those lines, but the phrase “not all men” is commonly used as a rebuttal by people who seek to defend the good men out there and prove they would never be anything like those horrible men in those stories all of their female friends have.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 50% of women have experienced physical sexual violence in their lifetime, and another study reported that 90% of the sexual violence committed against women was done by men. Obviously, these stats don’t mean every man is a perpetrator, and that’s not the point I’m trying to make, but a question I think we need to ask ourselves is just how many are “not all men,” and what are they doing about it?
When looking at the realities of what women deal with in our society, I’m sure we would all agree that the majority of us reading this are not sexual predators, but is that really the ceiling we should be striving for? In a world where one in three women will most likely experience some form of sexual harassment, “not all men” isn’t good enough. It’s easy to sit back in outrage and point fingers at “those other men,” but if our moral superiority lies in simply not doing bad things to women, then maybe it’s time to take a look in the mirror.
Not harassing women is good, but being an ally to women means doing more than just the bare minimum. Rape culture can be more subtle than just physical violence and assault, and it’s perpetuated by every man when we allow sexist comments and jokes to flow unchecked by the other men in our circles. When another guy makes a sexist comment or joke, will we sit there and tell ourselves that we would never say something so awful, or will we speak up and say something about it? The next time a woman shares her experiences, will we take that opportunity to invalidate her, or will we truly sit, listen and internalize in order to change?
The time of sitting around and patting ourselves on the back for being “good guys” is over. If we continue to watch and do nothing, our silence becomes violence and our good intentions meaningless. Not all men? It’s time to prove it.