I was fourteen the first time I was sexually harassed. I was standing outside the high school, waiting for my school bus. Before that incident I believed that harassment was something that could be more or less easily avoided.
The inevitability of harassment was something I’d learn more than once after repeated experiences of being harassed walking down the street in the middle of the day. It’s a sentiment that I think is shared by the millions of women who posted under the #MeToo hashtag.
The scope of the #MeToo movement has certainly been impressive. It has been successful in a way that previous campaigns have not been. Why? Because it focuses on the victims rather than the abusers.
Previous campaigns tend to result in a chorus of “Not all men!” By shifting the focus, we’ve managed to find a way to talk about sexual harassment that doesn’t make men feel attacked.
Here’s the thing, though. The #MeToo movement isn’t fair to women. It requires us to relive experiences that range from unpleasant to traumatic. Women are not primarily responsible for sexual harassment, but we are the ones expected to fix the problem.
As powerful as the #MeToo movement is, it’s entirely unfair to women that they have to choose between remaining silent, exposing their own experiences, or not being listened to at all. I’m tired of coddling men at the expense of women. So here’s some truths about the Not All Men mentality.
This shouldn’t need to be said: NOBODY EVER MEANT ALL MEN. Yeah, we know that there are great guys out there. We have men in our lives who we love and respect and trust. That doesn’t negate the fact that some men, that too many men, are harassers and abusers.
And if you’re a woman, you’ll spend your whole life trying to figure out which men aren’t good. You’ll devote unmeasurable energy to trying to guess which men are going to hurt you. It will interfere with your ability to live life normally because when you leave the house you’ll have to carry pepper spray with you. You’ll constantly be looking over your shoulder while walking to your car. You won’t even be able to post a selfie without worrying what harassment you might experience there.
Saying that not all men are harassers prevents the men who actually are harassers from being exposed. Sexual harassment impacts us in very real ways, and it’s frustrating to have our attempts to discuss harassment shut down by “Not all men!” arguments.
When you use “Not all men” to distract from a conversation about harassment and abuse, you prioritize protecting men who haven’t been accused of anything over protecting women who have actually been harmed.
In the future let’s focus our discussions of sexual harassment around actually protecting women. We shouldn’t have to wave our trauma like a banner in order to be believed.