Diplomacy is something I’ve learnt from being on social media. When I write something, I know it has the potential to be read by a large number of people, an amount of people that I can’t even really conceptualise. I am very careful about using inclusive language, and never intentionally want to make someone feel upset, attacked or excluded. I will often edit or check myself publicly when someone calls me out on something and I recognise my error. Humans are fallible, people are not black and white, and as an intelligent woman I have never once said that I believe any homogenous group to be any singular thing. In fact, I often discuss and recognise my own hypocrisies, privileges, inadequacies and short-comings.
In this instance, I wrote from a place of honesty and exasperation. It is my own lived experience, and that of countless others, that sexism is prevalent and relentless. Not once did it occur to me to caveat that, ‘not all men’ are sexist, because I genuinely thought that would be obvious, not least to the men that claim not to be sexist.
I cannot quantify which men have sexually abused, harassed, raped, murdered, hit or hurt women. I do know that sometimes it’s a stranger, sometimes it’s their dad, often it’s their boyfriend and often it’s their husband. I knew this before I wrote that caption, I know it from my own experience, from friends, from statistics, from the news - and I know it even more clearly now after receiving countless messages from women who have been abused or know people who have been abused, raped or killed by their partners.
There is no unifying sector of society which is the sole perpetrator. However because I am talking about acts of violence against women, performed by men, it seemed fit to say I want ‘men’ to do better. I am talking to all men, including the ones who don’t believe that they are part of the problem. Because we can all, always, do better.
When a person of colour says that, ‘white people are racist’, it doesn’t offend me. I understand the context of what they’re saying, because in our society white people have privileges that people of colour don’t. Because of this, I as a white woman profit off structural racism - whether or not that is conscious. For instance; I can go into a shop and know that they will sell foundation the same colour as my skin and whilst I’m there, I know I am less likely to be followed around said shop.
I can do much better in the fight against racism. I can also do better in the fight against transphobia, homophobia and ablism; as I have privileges that people of colour, people who are not born as the gender they identify with, people who are gay and people who have disabilities, do not. I have privileges over other groups too, whom I also wish to see elevated and heard. That being said, because sexism directly effects me, I selfishly have more affinity and more drive to fight against those oppressive forces. I am more incentivised when I hear stories of young girls who’s rape cases are overturned, or who commit suicide when they can’t get an abortion, because I find it easy to empathise with those girls and women. I may not have lived those experiences, but I understand them.
As much as it really is an exhausting exercise to try and go round in circles about how saying “men” instead of “some men” surely pales in comparison to the crimes committed by the men I was referring to, I can’t help but think it was in some ways useful. Would men have cared as much if they could have popped themselves in the ‘not all men’ category?
If I say, ‘not all men’, then all men could take it that they are excused. Someone may say that by me saying, ‘all men could take it that they are excused’, is another generalisation. What I am saying is that there is the possibility that all men could then decide this conversation was one which didn’t include them. I want to include all men in this conversation.
I think there is a merit to something making you feel uncomfortable. I think there is a merit to people challenging your beliefs. I am open to criticism, I am open to hearing a different points of view and happy to be proven wrong.
However yesterday I spoke up about a real case happening to a real young woman, because of structural sexism and I am being challenged for the language that I used to approach this subject.
It’s interesting because it seems very similar to the way that that young girl was challenged for the underwear she chose to wear.
For the record, I don’t hate men - at least not all men.