– Sasthika Das
Women do know that, of course not all men are assaulters or sexual abusers. However, how are we supposed to know which ones aren’t? How are we supposed to know who is saying hello in a friendly manner, or who actually just needs directions as opposed to just wanting to harass us? Women mostly assume the worst since they have most of the times, assumed the best. A stranger asking for directions that made her stop and give them, ended up following her because he mistook her kindness for interest. That man she casually chatted with at the bar when she thought he was being nice, ended up forcing himself on her.
We are not talking about men as individuals, we are talking about structural issues- patriarchal society, institutions, systems. For example, imagine you got stung by a bee as a child which caused you to have a fear of bees. Whenever you saw a bee swarming towards you, you would flee as fast as you can or shriek in horror or even hide behind someone to shield yourself, regardless of the bee’s intention to sting you or not. This is the same for women all over the world. They grow up in a patriarchal world, being told what they are capable of or how they should behave, being exploited and oppressed, being abused. Just like being stung by bees, we are stung by men. Since, we do not know what their intentions are, we are afraid of every single man.
We must never forget that one benefits from privilege by being part of a group, not because of anything they have done to earn or deserve it. Just by being a man, you are more privileged in a society than a woman. Similarly, for example, by being white, one is more privileged than people of color. These are accidents of nature- you did nothing to earn or deserve such privilege. When we do not acknowledge this, we are part of the problem.
When you are removing yourself from the discussions about the oppression of women by using the “not all men” slogan, you are the problem. When you interrupt a discussion on misogyny/rape culture/sexism to let us know that you are not like these men, you silence women and men having these discussions and derail the conversion from its initial purpose.
Most women AND men are assaulted by men. The fact that you never assaulted or harassed a woman or man, doesn’t negate the fact that most perpetrators of assault are men. This isn’t about you or your ego. Not assaulting someone or harassing someone is the bare minimum required by humans.
The saying “not all men” is a part of systematic and internalized patriarchy. This is the sad reality and the gateway to finding a solution only starts with the realization of this predicament.