Numbers have never been my strong point — math class used to reduce me to tears on a semi-regular basis. But over the last few days, as more and more allegations against Harvey Weinstein have surfaced, and millions of women have shared their stories of harassment using the hashtag #metoo, I’ve started to have more faith in numbers. The sheer volume of stories makes the Harvey Weinstein scandal feel like a watershed moment. I’ve watched the media coverage with a mixture of sadness and relief: the pervasiveness of the problem is depressing, but now it’s dominating the news agenda, maybe we’ll actually start to see a change.
Somewhat predictably, however, there’s also been a spate of articles protesting that “it’s not all men”, and that we’re in danger of this moment turning into a witch hunt. I don’t think any women are surprised to see pieces like this — especially in the current media climate of extreme views and shock-value journalism — but we are so, so tired of it.
Here’s why: if your response is “not all men”, you’re either not listening or you’re deliberately missing the point. And worse, you’re actively choosing not to help address a serious, widespread problem. Claiming it’s not you, that you’re a good guy, is a way of ducking out of the dialogue and refusing to support the women around you. And being defensive only silences women who have found the extraordinary courage to speak out. Harassment thrives in silence and darkness. Don’t be complicit.
It’s not that we think it is all men – it’s just that all women have a story.
Most women have lost count of the number of times they’ve been catcalled on the street, or groped in a club, or made to feel less-than-human by a man. We carry these experiences with us, quietly, always. Every time we walk somewhere after 8pm, every time we step into a windowless meeting room with a male colleague, every time we accept a ride home from a male friend or acquaintance. It’s not that we think every one of our guy friends is a potential rapist, it’s just that we have learned to never feel truly safe.
For so long — for eternity, it feels like — women have modified their own behavior to prevent being attacked. We don’t walk home alone, we’ll cross the street to avoid a group of guys coming towards us, we tell men who approach us in bars that we have boyfriends, whether we do or don’t, because sometimes that’s all that works. Men, please believe us when we tell you we live in a world where your behavior is so often made out to be our responsibility. We still hear people say things like, “Dressed like that? She was asking for trouble” and “maybe she shouldn’t have got so drunk”. If you ask women what they would do if men had a curfew, the responses are so simple, they’re almost heart-breaking. Walking around after dark. Using headphones without a second thought. Moving through the world like it’s yours.
And saying, “but it’s not all men” is yet another way of making women adjust what they say to spare men’s feelings. We’re aware this conversation is hurtful for the many decent, kind guys we know and love, but we need to focus on who is acting in a misogynistic manner, not who isn’t. And if every woman has a story about being harassed by a man, might we politely suggest that right now, the good guys look like the exception, rather than the rule? I don’t know how many more times we have to say it: yes, obviously it’s not all men. It’s just too many men. The numbers don’t lie.
Kirsten is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click here.
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