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The Profound Disconnect: #YesAllWomen vs. #NotAllMen

The Profound Disconnect: #YesAllWomen vs. #NotAllMen

There is a disconnect within our culture that needs to be addressed.

The #YesAllWomen tag, filled with everyday harassments and shocking stories of assault, has been making waves across social media. However, it wasn’t long before it found itself crashing against #NotAllMen, who were quick to rebuff any generalizations. Many pointing out that since they’re not like that, they don’t appreciate being viewed as a potential predator.

However, to properly dissect why these two headspaces work against each other, let’s take a look at the advice we give women on how ‘not to get attacked.’ Expert advice (from ABC News no less) tells women to avoid scarves (to avoid being strangled), necklaces and high heels. Women should make eye contact, keep your hands free, your ears open, take well-lit routes, vary their routine and don’t be too sympathetic. Other advice includes: Be paranoid and suspicious (seriously that’s verbatim). It also notes that women should be aware of men sitting in cars parked near them, evaluating every situation at all times.

To avoid being raped by that stranger in the dark alley (who really, makes up a small amount of total rapes, but let’s avoid that pesky fact) we must go out with our game face on. Shoes we can run in, hair up (but not in a ponytail, otherwise it can be grabbed), skirts or trousers we can kick in, and we must be prepared to fight. Women must ‘wear better armor,’ as one man once put it to me.

That same man also reminded me that life is filled with risks, such as driving a car. That we all have to watch out for drunk drivers, and that’s just part of being human. And yes, we all must be careful when we drive because bad things can happen. But I’ve yet to hear of someone hit by a drunk driver being asked “why were you even driving?,” “why did you drive by a bar?” or “why did you choose a car that wasn’t able to handle an impact?”

The onus is on women to protect ourselves from rape. So we must stay vigilant. And in this constant hyper-vigilance we must also let go of any personal trauma that would prejudice us against a well-meaning stranger who just wants to ‘talk.’

My father once told me a story about the Vietnam War. How every woman and child that wandered into camp was looked on with suspicion because sometimes women and children (not all women and children) would come in crying for help, right before blowing themselves up. Many of us can empathize that after this happens a few times, he and his fellow Marines would be more likely to aim their guns at innocents.

An article came out a few years ago, titled Schrödinger’s Rapist, detailing how men, perfectly lovely men just interested in meeting someone, ought to approach women in public. One example for men to consider: “’If I were dangerous, would this woman be safe in this space with me?’ If the answer is no, then it isn’t appropriate to approach her.”

The backlash was immense. Men were angered by the presumption that they should have to take extra care to not be thought of as rapists. They aren’t rapists; they’re normal guys just looking for love. Why should the burden be on them to consider all these things while just trying to have a normal conversation in a social setting?

Which is where the disconnect between what we teach women about men, and men about women, lies. It should come as no surprise that we can’t, as a society, maintain these two head spaces. That women need to be paranoid and suspicious, but men should not be treated like de facto rapists.

We need to come to a better solution.

Luckily there is one. Unfortunately, it involves accountability from all of us.

Let’s start out with some facts: culture influences the amount of violent sexual assaults against women. Studies have shown that when researching gender inequality, associated with access to education, income, occupation and legal status, across the decades, higher equality does correlate to fewer rapes in the long term.

What does this mean? In a nutshell, it means that as a culture we can control a large amount of harassment and violence against women. It’s an oddly controversial thing to say. We all like to think of ourselves as special snowflakes, making individualistic impacts amongst a few bad eggs. But our impacts, or lack of them, don’t occur in a vacuum. They are heaped upon mountains of accumulated culture that looms over us, dictating our daily lives.

If we want to change the way sexual violence occurs, and how women are told to look at men, we need to shift our society to one of accountability. We must stop dismissing the fears shared by hundreds of thousands of women. We must create a world where men who holler at women out of cars are shamed by their friends, where those who grab women are ganged up on and told to leave the bar. A world where not respecting a women’s space causes men more trouble than it’s worth, a world where people stop being friends with rapists.

“It takes one rapist to commit a rape, but it takes a village to create an environment where it happens over and over and over.”

- Thomas MacAulay Millar

We cannot continue to exist in a society that tells us to fear all men, but #NotAllMen. It simply doesn’t work. There are ways to unravel this mess. But first we must let go of this notion that on our individualistic levels, we aren’t complicit. We are. And the sooner we can admit it, the sooner we can move on from defensive ideologies into solutions.

It will never be 100% safe for men or women — after all, the world is a dangerous place. But we could  make it better, so why wouldn’t we?

 

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146 comments

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5:46AM PDT on Jun 5, 2014

contd

for being less than that. Both sides need to be retrained on what the expectations are.
Women are NEVER going to look at sex the same way men do. They CAN’T.
JUst like men can’t about women. WE ARE different like it or not. Like it or not, men need mosre adjustment than women in this arena because they have been given more of a free pass on the moral aspects. Thats not a value judgment on my part it is simpy a statement of reality. Men didnt have to carrry babies around for the rest of their lives if they didnt want to see the girl again. Just handing out birth control pills does NOT reprogram all of society overnight. Until men pay the same price for loose behavior they will never understand this. And they DONT pay the same price. So stop whining when women say there is a disconnect on this matter and they cant trust Men. WE are all a product of our culture and that culture sends VERY different messages to each sex.
When Men stop treating sex like a sporting event to leave behind when the ejaculation is done, then women will respond in a different way. MOre importantly when society stops teaching Men this is acceptable thinking then we may be on a level playing field.

5:32AM PDT on Jun 5, 2014

Well Scott, therin lays the problem. Seeing a woman or going on a date shouldnt be jsut about getting an orgasm. Yes all women have the proper equipment but they are people first and ONLY if everyone and evertything about the situation is acceoptable to both people does sex happen. Yes of course there is an element of society that is part of the hookup theme….but its not the norm.

Women DO have to be a LOT more careful. Women arent stupid. They can spot a socially awkward guy a mile away and it rarely does it affect their view of them. In fact sometimes they subtly persue to pull him over the edge.

Yes American cluture is different than Europe etc. Girls are not raised to see sex as mere exercise or tension relief. Guys ARE rasied that way. Complaining about it is meaningless. Understanding it and working around it is whats needed. Not every girl wants to marry every man she has sex with but that doesnt mean she wants to be direspected by never getting a call out again. WE tend to raise our daughters totally different than we do our sons. Its expected the guy will plant his seed as many times and in as many places as possible while at the same time reaising daughters to keep their legs closed. I have heard these very sentiments mentioned right in this blog. We need a change in views…….Men should have no more liscence to spew his seed everywhere than a woman does her eggs. WE cant hold virtuous women up as the model for marraige and then mock her

10:33PM PDT on Jun 4, 2014

Hogwash,women are just as guilty in attacks against other women. Which continues the problem. When the society tells women to be scared they will act in way that are anti-social. Manners and social skills that were once taught in schools are ignored. If a man is awkward in his reproach it's bashing time.
Yet, women who are sexual and not part of the upper class are equally bashed by peers and often confused because of the mixed messages. Women who say yes to sex are not treated well(lower sociology-economics) because other women have envy and fear.
Good sex education is in the US bland missing the important point of freeing women from their chains.

12:24PM PDT on Jun 4, 2014

noted

11:07AM PDT on Jun 4, 2014

I'm getting sick of the hashtags, but #allmencan is a good one.

9:53AM PDT on Jun 4, 2014

Oh, good grief!

THIEVES....

9:52AM PDT on Jun 4, 2014

THIEVS.....sorry

9:51AM PDT on Jun 4, 2014

Yes, men....we know that not ALL of you rape us.

But many of you DO rape us and it's meaningless to stamp your feet and feel offended when rape is discussed. Of COURSE we women have to view all men as possible rapists!

Would you walk down the street with your wallet exposed because ''not ALL men are theives?"

9:08AM PDT on Jun 4, 2014

I agree with Sarah M. 100% - she said everything I would want to say best!

3:19AM PDT on Jun 4, 2014

The fact that in most cases men are stronger than women and that almost every woman has experienced some type of sexual harassment or (fewer) assault does mean that all men need to be careful to not bully. Be as exciting or as boring as is natural for you, guys, but just don't be scary!

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