This is a very personal post, so feel free to skip if this isn’t your cup of tea. But, as you may have seen if you’re on social media, there is a lot of discussion going on, in reaction to the murder of Sarah Everard at the hand’s of a police officer, about many different topics in women’s lives; namely, women’s rights, women’s feelings about their safety and the reaction from men that “not all men” deserve to be feared by women as potential harassers, assailants, rapists or murders. The irony that all of this is happening during International Women’s Month is not lost on me. I haven’t spoken much about this online, aside from the occasional retweet. I needed to process all of this and I do that best through writing, so this is my reactions, thoughts and feelings in regards to the latest discussion.
CW for: feared rape, sexual harassment, death, assault
So, the biggest thing I want to address is the men who are upset that this “generalization” of women fearing men is uncalled for or immediately ignoring what is being said to quickly point out, “NOT ALL MEN,” as if clearing themselves from this discussion, making it clear that they would never do this. And of bloody course I recognize that not every man is going to hurt me.
Yet, it is because of men that I:
- Was terrified to walk the 10 minutes to my car every night (for FOUR YEARS) after my shift ended at 12am, always fearing I would be followed, attacked or raped
- Always park underneath a light post at night so I can clearly see underneath my car walking towards it, to ensure no one is hiding underneath it or in it
- Often walk with my key pinned between my fingers
- Buy new pepper spray each year
- Often wear tennis shoes at night, in case I need to run
- Outwardly wear earbuds as a sign to not bother me, but sometimes don’t listen to music, in case things seem sketchy and so I can hear if someone is chasing me
- Always carry a book with me and wear headphones while on public transport, hoping that the combination of the two will allow me to escape the ride unharassed
- Text friends or family where I’m at or when I arrive home
- Walk in groups
- Immediately lock my car doors after getting inside
- Fear (and avoid) answering the doorbell or a knock when I’m home alone, often going silent so hopefully no one knows I’m home
- Don’t take my dog for a walk outside at night
- Feared dressing “suggestively” growing up, because I didn’t want to “ask for it” (newsflash: we’re never asking for it, no matter what we wear)
- Had my outfits policed due to fear of boy’s reactions
I have never been raped, thank the gods. But, I have experienced:
- Being groped and kissed without consent (and an obvious plan to force more, before being interrupted)
- Being told to smile more, it’s a “joke” or you should take it as a “compliment”
- Continually flirted with after expressing disinterest
- Having to lie about being in a committed relationship to get a man to leave me alone
- Leered at while working
- Verbally assaulted for turning a man down
- Flirted with on social media (including even places like Goodreads)
So, it should be obvious that your “not all men” comment is completely unhelpful and avoids recognizing the fact that it doesn’t matter that not all men do this. Enough men do that it is a problem and it is something that I can say with full confidence that every woman fears, thinks about or has to change her own routines, patterns or life to avoid.
And this is me as a white woman. I can’t speak on the added layers of discrimination, racism, hate and violence that the BIPOC, queer and trans women experience.
Not only this, but then you have responses like: “Well, if we had to respond to every complaint of harassment by men towards women, we’d be overwhelmed,” as if that isn’t a giant fucking red flag in showing how commonplace this is and how massive a problem it is. Or, “she’s someone’s INSERT-RELATIONSHIP-HERE” in attempt to get people to care about an individual woman’s safety, instead of just recognizing that she is a PERSON and that ALONE is enough that she deserves to be safe and feel safe.
Yes, I recognize that I don’t need to fear every man on this planet; that not every single man wants to harass, assault, abuse or rape me. However, I can’t know a man’s intent without knowing him a person and these kinds of attacks and harassments against women (including those leading to murder) are commonplace enough that I have trained myself, after being told I need to train myself, to fear all men, until proven otherwise by individuals on a case-by-case basis.
If nothing else, that should be enough for men to realize that ALL MEN have a responsibility to end the attacks and danger against women by men. This can take many forms, including, but not limited to:
- Believing women
- Stepping in to call out male colleagues, friends and family when harassing women
- Teaching your sons, friends, family how to treat women with respect, dignity and to LISTEN to them
- Holding yourself accountable and listening when you’ve crossed a line and learning to do better
- STOP centering discussions on women’s safety on you. It isn’t ABOUT you. But you can be part of the solution to solving this crisis.
Men, I am tired. I am tired of fearing you, tired of having to limit my life (from my habits to the way I express myself to where I can go when) to make sure I’m safe. I am EXHAUSTED, overwhelmed and broken thanks to reading headlines and horror stories like Sarah Everard’s. It’s up to YOU to change this.
So, why aren’t you?