Recently, the hashtag #NotAllMen was trending on social media. Upon first glance, I experienced a tremor of hope that this might be a backlash against the perennial male-bashing propped up by corporations and feminists, male and female alike. Perhaps, reasonable people had somehow managed to slip through the algorithms to express dissent.
I quickly realized my mistake when I stumbled upon a meme on Twitter. It had an image of various ticks on it, and said something like “We know not all ticks carry Lyme’s disease, but we don’t which ones. It’s the same with men. We know not all men are rapists, but we don’t know which ones.” Its essential message is that treating men primarily as imminent threats is justified; it’s apparently reasonable to approach them as if their intent is to harm you.
Besides the obvious problem of equating men to blood-sucking parasites (can you imagine the censure if a man said that about women?), the message is inane and destructive. It encourages women to project their condemnatory assumptions onto innocent men and to be chained to fear throughout their daily lives. It’s nothing other than a recipe for a life dictated by anxiety.
Fearing All Men Is Neither Realistic Nor Healthy
I’ve always been outspoken against feminism and #MeToo culture. This isn’t because I’m a naïve woman. I’m a survivor of a kidnapping, multiple sexual assaults, rape, blackmail, and manipulative, predatory grooming. I’ve suffered immensely at the hands of violent and malicious men. I nearly ended my own life as a result. Believe me, in the midst of these seemingly relentless encounters, I was utterly terrified of men.
As a survivor, I’ve lived in constant terror of violence from men.
When I began to reenter society after my kidnapping, it was often in a state of pure panic. My heart would race faster and faster; my palms would get sweaty. Hot tears would well over, and I was consumed with a sense of shame and vulnerability. Walking down the street sometimes felt as though I were going to war, willingly walking into my own death. My reaction was disproportionate to any actual threat I faced. The PTSD I had naturally developed in the aftermath of that life-threatening abduction had a hold over my mind and body. It was absolutely exhausting in every way.
As time went on and my healing progressed, my confidence and composure increased. Adhering to Jordan Peterson’s directive, I began to walk through the world with my head high and my shoulders back. To this day, there are times that panic can sweep over me, but I’ve learned to negotiate with it and ground myself in my surroundings. This took years of work and I have a lot left ahead of me. Living in constant terror of violence was torture, and I’m ever grateful that I was given the tools to free myself and to take full responsibility. I was encouraged to work through my fears and to recognize that they don’t necessarily indicate the safety of my actual surroundings. Slowly, I began to see men not as vague and threatening outlines, but as individuals.
Fearing all men is not liberating, merely anxiety-inducing.
In contradistinction, this treat-every-man-as-a-rapist movement impedes women from simply living our lives. It encourages us to place anxiety on a pedestal, treating it as though its presence is necessarily a reliable measure for what’s actually in front of us. Oftentimes, the men I reacted to as threats would simply smile and ask how my day was going. Reality did not match my feelings.
This treat-every-man-as-a-rapist movement impedes women from simply living our lives.
The more I began to reorient myself to my surroundings, the happier and more peaceful I became. Life became meaningful again, and my relationships with family, friends, and romantic prospects began to flourish. I could slowly release the hold terrible memories had over me. They were no longer in the forefront of my mind every time I walked through the door. I was liberated and no longer defined by the violence I had experienced. This would not have been possible had I embraced the mindset this activism espouses. Intentionally sustaining that kind of anxiety is draining and pointless, particularly if a woman is trying to heal from a traumatic encounter.
It’s Illogical To Punish a Group for an Individual’s Choices
Not only does this ensure unhappy women, but it also denies men the dignity they’re due. It validates holding a man guilty simply by virtue of being a man, and sets out arbitrary and generally performative hoops for him to jump through to prove his innocence. It’s entirely inconsistent with how we react to other crimes. We know it’s wrong to treat a Muslim as a terrorist until proven peaceful. Nor do we hold Muslims collectively responsible for either perpetrating or responding to terrorism. These are both irrational and morally abhorrent stances, and society should roundly condemn such destructive equivocations.
Individuals are moral agents, and projecting that culpability onto groups is utterly insane.
And yet, somehow, it’s perfectly acceptable for women to treat men in that manner and to demand that men accept it, lest they be labeled sexist. A man isn’t responsible for other men’s behavior. I don’t and can’t demand an apology for the crimes I have been a victim of from men writ large. Individuals are moral agents, and projecting that culpability onto groups is utterly insane. History bears this out.
We treat people according to our understanding of them. If I interact with someone who has proven themselves untrustworthy, I won’t divulge any deep secrets. That’s the only prudent and self-protective approach to take. This movement reframes our understanding of men not as dignified human beings, but as potential rapists. It encourages women to treat him thus until he appeases her, as if it were his responsibility to manage her presumptions.
Men can be victims of rape too.
I recently read an article on Elle in which a woman rebuked a man for bringing up that men are unfairly painted with a broad brush. She replied, “Quite a move to center yourself as the victim when women are not to be raped or killed.” Besides the obvious dramatics and the ever-frustrating co-option of survivors’ voices, she completely dismisses this grave injustice towards men. It’s deeply destructive, and perhaps traumatic, to impose the “man as rapist” trope indiscriminately and universally.
Men and women alike should be prudent and aware of threats that do realistically exist.
Can you imagine a world in which men treated all women as though we’re abusive? There are movements that do just that. They’re roundly and rightfully condemned as hateful and misogynistic. In reality, they’re merely the other side to the same coin and, just like feminism, back their beliefs up with stories of horrible and traumatic abuse. I personally have known men who have experienced heartbreaking and sickening situations, and yet, most of them have chosen to treat me as a dignified individual. They didn’t impugn my character simply because I’m also a woman. This is the basic template for dignified and peaceful human interaction. We should all be held to that standard.
The world is a dangerous place. Only a naïve person would deny this. Men and women alike should be prudent and aware of threats that do realistically exist. There’s no amount of policy or activism that can change this basic tenet of human nature; there will always be malicious and violent people. The response to this shouldn’t be a neurotic suspicion of individuals with shared characteristics.
This endless battle of the sexes is tiresome, vapid, and theatrical. It’s leading us nowhere nearer to realistically tackling real problems that our society faces. It creates resentment, delusion, and strife. If we embrace that mentality, we may very well turn into the very thing we supposedly hate and combat. Men and women deserve better.