I was scrolling through Tik Tok when I stumbled upon a video from a young man talking about how tired he is with the #allmen and #notallmen trend and the debate that has been going around it on Tik Tok and other platforms recently. He seems like a decent guy and expresses how it is fair for women to be so afraid of most men because of how high the numbers and chances of them being assaulted are. But at the same time, he is also tired and somewhat resentful because of this, for he feels like the good guys who didn’t do anything wrong have to be dragged into the spiral.
The catalyst of all of this debate comes from a study stating that 97% of women have had experienced sexual harassment. The survey sampled 1400 women in the UK, and it turns out that 97% of them have experienced some type of sexual assault. The number, rightfully so, stirred up a storm in many social media and even in real-life conversations. Among many opinions, the one regarding how the study generalizes all men to be sexual offenders rang the loudest.
On the unpopular side of the argument, some people are trying to debunk the study by saying that 1400 women aren’t enough to represent all of the population or how the number 97% was rounded up. To that, I say, there is a difference between trying to understand research to gain a better insight into a matter and to actively try to invalidate research to silence a concerning matter that affects the lives of many people. If debunking a result of a study regarding a well-known and serious social issue is your priority rather than fixing it, then I don’t think you’re the most righteous hero that you think you are. And maybe, you need to check on your lack of empathy. 1400 women being put together in a group and anonymously result in such a high rate of sexual assault ISN’T supposed to be seen as a mere coincidence. Whether it is 97% or 12%, the numbers should ideally be 0%. Just like any criminal act against human rights should be.
Then there are the misandrists that see this as an opportunity to assert their ideology of men being the worse sex overall. I can say for certain that these groups of people are not helping women in any way. They’re here to create more unproductive wars, riding on the statistics without any intention of hearing any solution even to the issue itself. I understand that some of these people most likely have experienced traumatic experiences to be so resentful of men, and I sympathize with them. No one deserves to be assaulted in any way. But we have to keep in mind who is the actual enemy and stop shooting our shots in all directions yet missing the main target.
Now that we get that out of the way, let’s talk about why is #notallmen becoming such a controversial topic. One thing that we should ask is how does #notallmen become a thing?
Of course, it’ll be hard to trace down when and where this slogan originated. What we can do is ask both points of view, those who are using and those who are against this slogan, and ask why they are choosing their side of the argument.
Just like the guy that I mentioned in the beginning, people who are pro #notallmen would argue that generalizing half of the world’s population is not going to result in anything productive. It’s only going to worsen the gender conflict that has been going around since the dawn of social media. It is also not fair to generalize those who haven’t done anything with those who have. This notion is only going to create a division that will further hinder its problem-solving.
Now for those who actually disagree with the hashtag, here is the reality of the situation. When I asked those who often use this slogan, they said that there has never been the phrase “all men” being used in this topic. Instead, most of the time, they use the word “men” only, like how you would use the word “sharks” and not “some sharks” to put at a beach as a warning for the visitors. It was never all men catcall, but it’s usually men/most men catcall. So no one really ever said that all men are anything.
Even so, one would argue that although not all men are dangerous, there are enough men contributing to the high number of assaults against women. It is not all men, but enough men for fathers to be overprotective of their daughters, enough men for boyfriends or husbands to say, “I trust you, but I don’t trust them” when they see their female partner with their male friends together. It is not all men, but enough men for it to be normalized and expected for adult women to bring pepper sprays, self-defense devices, and tracking apps when they travel even in broad daylight.
In an ideal society, a woman shouldn’t be afraid of traveling alone or be wary when they walk at night around their OWN neighborhood. In an ideal world, the word consent should be clear enough for all genders and sexes to understand and respect. In an ideal world, this debate shouldn’t have existed in the first place.
Therefore comes the question, are we even doing something productive? Are we bringing awareness or negating the conversation from the actual issue? Which side is actually helping to fight for the cause? What are we fighting over actually, who to blame, or how to solve the problem?
If we’re talking about the side that wants to stay with the status quo, which doesn’t agree with the #notallmen tag, then one would argue that not changing the way campaigns and posts are written will create a bigger awareness. People will become more aware of not only the existence of the issue but also the severity of it. Saying not all men only negates the focus of the conversation and reduces it to who is to blame rather than what went wrong with our society, its system, and to something as small as how we teach our sons.
But then again, is creating more division really a solution? Isn’t our main aim to reach all men and women in the first case? How do we expect them to care if they feel excluded and convicted in the conversation regarding that subject?
The issue here lies in how we see this. A lot of us, from any point of view, tend to see this labeling act as something personal rather than an actual problem-solving conversation. When pro #notallmen express their opinion on how divisive the existing notion is, a lot of women (not all, of course) take this as an attack to invalidate their horrific experiences. When anti #notallmen state how this tag is irrelevant and negates the conversation, a lot of men express how this only further stigmatizes them as a whole and makes them reluctant to socialize with women they don’t know, for they are scared to be mistaken as the “bad one.”
At the end of the day, it all depends on the context of when and how this tag is used. When anyone is opening up their story about how they’ve been assaulted, then responding with “not all men” invalidates their struggles and negates the conversation. It is basic human decency to show empathy whenever someone is opening up and being vulnerable to the unfortunate things they have experienced, not invalidating them to quench your fragile ego. But when you actively perpetuate and generalize the notion of all men being predators and assaulters without any context, bashing them continuously, then you shouldn’t be surprised if people respond with the tag.
If you negatively generalize a group without considering the consequences of your actions, you’re only creating more harm than good. There are two reasons for this, especially in the context of calling out all men are predators. One, based on the labeling theory, if young boys grow up being exposed to posts saying “all men are trash,” “kill all men,” or “all men are predators,” then we are opening up to bigger possibilities of these boys being insecure and resentful of their identity and even their opposite sex and two, this creates another big division that would further hinder our progress inequality. One last thing to note. Not everyone has the nuance to understand all satires and sarcasm, and when these “jokes” arrive at these types of people, what made you think that they would not distance themselves from the movement further?
Nishat. (2021, March 16). Research finds that 97% of women in the UK have been sexually harassed. Retrieved March 29, 2021, from https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/97-of-women-in-the-uk/105940/