Tag Archives: feminist

“NOT ALL MEN”

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Feminism is important to me both personally and politically. My last blog post sought to highlight my experiences of sexism. Since then I have only become more committed to the cause. However, the discussions I find myself in too often include the response, by many of my male friends, that it is “not all men”. They declare this indignantly and with a tone of moral superiority. They are adamant that they, personally, “are not like that” and are all  for “equality” [note: not ‘feminism’]. This trope is unhelpful and problematic for several reasons.

I am daily and continually disturbed by society. The rise of fascism is Europe is terrifying,  the unequal treatment of the LGBT+ community angers me and the presence of racism within the “developed” West is disgusting. All of these issues connect to a feminist understanding of society, where power is given to a select few [mainly white middle-class men] and therefore legitimises and reinforces the unequal treatment of certain groups. The retort “not all men” only perpetuates these inequalities.

I become incredibly disillusioned when men reply to feminist issues with “but not all men”. This is not helpful discourse. In fact, I would go as far to say it is fundamentally damaging to the plight of women. It is important to consider that, for many women, speaking out about mistreatment is an incredibly difficult thing to do. It is often accompanied by feelings of shame or guilt. When we feel empowered enough to point out sexism or misogyny your reply of ‘not all men’ only reinforces the idea that we are second class citizens. Our experiences are second to your assertions that ‘not all men are like that’. We must validate our oppression by ensuring you’re not offended. Should we accompany a disclaimer every time we discuss sexism? “I know not all men do this but…..” ? This is just another example of how women’s thoughts and feelings are regulated by how men experience them. We are unable to openly discuss our experiences without fear of Not-All-Man crashing through our window, politely reminding us that you’re not all the same. As if we could have possibly forgotten.

The recent shooting in America has sparked fierce debate by feminists as to the role misogyny played in the tragic deaths of 6 young people. The response has caused women to take to twitter seeking to highlight the systematic oppression faced by many every single day. The hashtag “YesAllWomen” reveals rather disturbing truths similar to that highlighted by the Everyday Sexism Project. For those of you sceptical to the extent of feminist issues, have a read through the twitter feed. However, this free and open discourse has been met by a “notallmen” hashtag. I really do believe that this exemplifies male entitlement. As women begin to discuss the failings of men they do so only under the very oppression they are trying to combat. Men do not think they should be criticised because it is not, personally, their fault. They didn’t go out and rape someone and these discussions are therefore not only irrelevant to them but also offensive. Again, this only serves to highlight how restricted the discourse surrounding feminism is. We are constantly battling against people who do not think it is their issue to deal with.

Instead of relegating discussions of feminism to the trope ‘not all men’ I instead urge you to say to each other “don’t be that guy”. Turn a negative and restrictive statement into one that can have positive ramifications. We know that not all men are like that. That is not what we are saying. We are not man-hating, bra-burning women. I love men. Men are fantastic. Just not when they are involved in oppression or hate. We need a more collective response to feminist issues (which are not exclusively women’s issues). We need men on board to help understand and combat inequality. Rather than declaring your blamelessness, instead ask how you can help be a part of changing things.

I think this tweet perhaps highlights why ‘not all men’ has become such a common response:

“Not all men” does not aid in the discussion of feminist issues, it serves to derail it and reinforces the idea that society’s main concern and focus should be on the feelings of men. Enough men are violent and sexist, that is the point.

 

The ‘F’ Word

Firstly, I would like you all to take a quick test: Are you a feminist? 

Congratulations!  Welcome to the feminist club!

Whilst the quiz is very simplistic, it serves to highlight the main idea: Women are people who are deserving of equality.

A lot of people see feminism as a dirty word, outdated and unnecessary in today’s society. Many regarded the plight of women’s rights over when we won the vote, or again when we saw the first female Prime Minister take charge. Even worse, some still regard women as undeserving of the top jobs or men as responsible for the equal care of children.

Louise_WeissI am a firm believer in promoting women’s rights. This encompasses everything from correct sex education (that discusses more than just using condoms) to educating men on their role in perpetuating the divide and how they can work to improve the situation. Girls out perform boys at every stage of the education system, yet the pay gap widened in 2013 with women earning an average of £5,000 less than men. The number of women in politics is disgustingly low, with the number of female MPs standing at 22%. The overarching patriarchy that prevents women from viewing their opinions as valid or necessary in society is enforced and perpetuated by the lack of female representation in politics and in the most competitive jobs.

I think it is important to realise that equality for women is still a long way off. It is a far away concept in the sense of equal pay and political representation. Inequality is also rife in the everyday lives of women. It is present in the catcalls in the street and in the pop song that blurs the line between consent and sexual assault. You only have to scroll down your facebook news feed to see examples of blatant sexism. Articles such as ‘10 Reasons Not to Give Him a Blow Job’ grace our screens and reinforce the idea that, for women, ‘no’ is simply not a correct response to sexual advances. We must instead weave an intricate web of lies, including our unfortunate ‘mouth fungus’ to get out of giving oral sex. There is a disparity between how men and women view sex. I am constantly shocked by the number of friends who can admit to things like being non-consensually choked during sex, or being asked to perform anal on the first date. Poor sex education and easy access to porn has created this disparity, where young men have unrealistic expectations of what sex is like.

My own experience of sexism shocked me into realising that some people do not regard women as equal, or their issues as important. When I attended a competitive, all-boys Grammar school I was shocked at the misogynistic attitudes of some of the students (and teachers). The ‘lad’ behaviour was sickening, with Year 13 boys placing a wager on who could sleep with one of the new Year 12 girls first, along with delightful recounts of their latest ‘conquests’ in the common room. What  shocked me the most was a hilarious, end-of-year facebook debate discussing whether or not “Most likely to beat their wife/child” should be included in our year book. What probably started off as a distasteful joke became and argument about attitudes to women, and how we couldn’t ‘take a joke‘. These boys attended the ‘best sixth form in the country’ and defended their right to make jokes about domestic violence.

The Everyday Sexism Project aims to highlight the experiences of women on a day to day basis and provides a window into the oppression that women experience every single day. Feminism should not be a ‘dirty word’, it does not mean unshaven armpits or burnt bras (unless, of course, that is your choice). Feminism is about promoting choice and equality for women. It is about educating everyone on rape culture and safe, consensual sex. It is about promoting choice to girls so that they do pursue careers in politics or engineering.  It is about teaching boys that ‘jokes’ about domestic violence are not okay. Feminism should be a subject everyone is familiar with and is discussed everywhere.