#YesAllMen wouldn’t have been a surprising hashtag.

The violent rampage of a man whose hatred of women was so deep that it drove him to kill was the catalyst for one of the most heartbreaking, powerful and disturbing trends I’ve seen on Twitter. #YesAllWomen saw women from around the globe share their stories of harassment, abuse and various types of misogyny that they had endured. The hashtag demonstrated the many ways our societies allow men to somehow feel entitled to women, usually at the expense of women’s health and wellbeing, safety, and even lives.

Of course, #YesAllWomen was met with the inevitable cries of #NotAllMen from those who felt slighted that so many women had spoken out about their feelings of pain and terror at the hands of men. Now, in the tens of dozens of tweets that I read, I didn’t see one that actually claimed that all men harass and abuse. Not one.

But, and I say this without trying to be provocative or sensationalist, I would not be surprised if I had seen a tweet that read #YesAllMen.

I’ve written before about those “safety” messages we as women get: don’t drink too much, don’t wear that short skirt or low-cut top, don’t walk alone. To me, those messages not only tell me to try to make sure he rapes someone else, they also tell me #YesAllMen. Those messages – given by friends, family, the police, security personnel, teachers and others – are given with the implication that any male stranger I encounter is a potential rapist, who will strike should I be too drunk, or showing a little too much skin. Those messages don’t come with a disclaimer noting that #NotAllMen are a bad. They are blanket warnings, covering any and all men and we have heard them our entire lives.

#YesAllWomen demonstrated the myriad of ways in which women are harassed, abused and assaulted on a regular basis. When women are consistently subjected to men who are total strangers hurling sexually explicit remarks at them as they walk to the train station, another who rubs up against her in a suggestive way on the bus, or decides, mid-conversation, that sticking his hand up her dress in bar (all things that have happened to me fairly recently), I wouldn’t blame them for thinking #YesAllMen. There is absolutely nothing in these actions that would suggest that these men aren’t capable of taking their verbal and physical assaults one step further. Coupled with those “safety” messages, I think #YesAllMen could be an entirely reasonable thought.

Logically, I know that it’s #NotAllMen. We all do. But logical thinking can be a funny thing. I know, for example, that I’m more likely to be raped by someone I know in a private house, than I am by a stranger on the street. But it’s what Tom Meagher so brilliantly described as the “Monster Myth” that so often rules the way we think. The “how not to get raped” messages we get from the media, from authorities, from those who are concerned about our safety, is to always be prepared and to protect ourselves from strangers, because #YesAllMen are potential rapists. And those messages have been so pervasive, in my life at least, that even though I know better, I will still employ every tactic I can if I find myself walking through a park with a man behind – keys between my knuckles, phone in the other hand, perfume ready to be sprayed into someone’s eyes.

Those “safety” messages lend themselves to the Monster Myth. They tell us that if we follow a certain set of rules, we’ll stay safe from the stranger lurking in the bushes. They tell us #YesAllMen. Likewise, the Monster Myth tells us that it is those men we don’t know who rape. Any man. #YesAllMen. It’s a vicious and useless cycle.

#YesAllWomen was a glimpse into the terror and suffering of countless women around the world. #NotAllMen missed the point completely. It was a reactionary hashtag that didn’t show that those who used it hate men’s violence against women. It showed nothing more than childish defensiveness that buys in to the Monster Myth, thus perpetuating the idea of #YesAllMen. If those who continually cry #NotAllMen were so concerned about being tarred with the violent brush, they would be better off speaking out against the things that enable men’s violence against women in all its forms, whether it be a rape joke, or their friend groping a girl in a bar.

We know that it’s #NotAllMen. We really do. But the ever-present Monster Myth and behaviour-policing “safety” messages tell us otherwise.




5 thoughts on “#YesAllMen wouldn’t have been a surprising hashtag.

  1. Pingback: Being alone in parks doesn’t harm women | It's the people and places.

  2. I apologize for my prior comment in part. I was more reacting against a part of the feminist movement as a whole (and in a way falling victim to the thing I criticized you for. I understand your correlation between the idea that the “how not to get raped messages” do unfortunately come with an unfortunate underlying message of males all being rapists.

  3. Ugh. I don’t dislike women. In fact my best friends are women. And yet SOMEHOW you manage to frustrate me sooooooo much. Ok lets start with this: if a man gets abused by a women, is he not suffering the same horrible act that a women is? If not, then can you even say you are arguing for gender equality? Because it seems like you are saying that a woman and a man in the same situation should be treated differently. Hmmm, sounds like you are claiming there is a difference between the genders. More over, you are making labels and that is what really ticks me off. More importantly you are making labels and then getting angry at the group you just labeled. How bout this: every group of people has assholes. That includes men, women, black people, white people, transgenders, ext. So get mad at assholes. But don’t say that all men are assholes or that you can judge men based off a couple assholes. Jesus, I have been upset with my ex for doing some really mean and messed up stuff. Does that mean I get to hate women? No, because it is such a large group that there is no possible way that she represents all of them. It is frustrating as someone who legitimately wants gender equality to deal with stuff like this where women attack men because of one or two assholes. There are also women assholes (shocker, I know, if you haven’t seen it watch Mean Girls and be amazed). The point of #NotAllMen is that so often a person from one group (in this case women) judge another group (men) to be all one way. Not all feminists are like that, again, just like any group, there is diversity. But the point is they are reacting against a movement by saying stuff like: “Hey please don’t hate me because I was born male” and you say: “You don’t get the point.” They do, they just are reacting to things you can’t see. And #YesAllMen is a damned funny hashtag made by men who are not all misogynistic (again, shocker, people are different even if they carry some small similarity like using a similar hashtag once). And what if a man had experienced abuse and used that hashtag as such? Is that a legitimate use? And on the note of men stopping other men from messing with girls, OMG they do. It happens believe it or not. To wrap up my point, stop judging people by labels, especially if you don’t want to be judged by a label yourself (like seriously, if you can call all men pigs, then I can call all women snakes).

    • At the same time, I recognize that women’s rights are an issue, and I simply ask that your be more specific in your anger as opposed to attacking groups.

      • Thanks for your feedback, A man. I would like to point out that I explicitly stated that I don’t think it’s all men. I don’t know anyone that does, as a matter of fact.

        I wholeheartedly agree with you that anyone who is suffering from violence, irrespective of gender, suffers equally. I never said anything to the contrary. I also agree that every group has assholes within it, and never once claimed that all men were assholes. Not once.

        I think if you re-read my post, you will note that the point of it was that women continually receive the “how not to get raped” messages that require us to modify our behaviours – and come with the underlying message that all men are potential rapists – thus, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if there were indeed those who believe that all men are capable of harming them.

        Not once did I attack men. Not once did I get personal, in anyway. And I most definitely did not ever call anyone a pig, as your comment seems to imply. I think my “anger” as you call my opinion, was pretty specific and was related to the mixed messages of “safety” tips and the “Not All Men” hashtag.

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