Ok, men. We need to talk. It seems to me that you broadly fall into three categories. Twats, ‘Not all men’ men, and decent blokes. Decent blokes, you can go now, but I need you to come back in about five minutes, ok? Most of this won’t be relevant to you.
Right. Twats. I’m going to be blunt, because that seems the only way to get through to you. Fuck. Off. Don’t approach me in a pub, because I’m a woman on my own. Don’t try to read my notebook when I go to the loo. Don’t nick my phone and refuse to give it back until I give you my number. Don’t hassle me with texts and late night phone calls. Don’t lean out of your car windows and wink, gesture, or shout at me. Don’t grope me. I have a boyfriend, we’ve been together for fifteen years, I’m not interested, ok? And yes, it applies to all women, not just me, if you’re trying to be clever about it. We’re just getting on with our lives. We don’t need, want, or welcome your approval, your judgement, or your attention. So FUCK OFF.
Right. That’s that cleared up. Now the trickier part. The ‘not all men’ men. Back when I wrote ‘You don’t get it’ I had some comments that made me just about incandescent with age (yeah, quelle surprise…). One of those was from a man. Who read about a lifetime of harassment and said ‘Some men get it. I had unwelcome female attention. Once.’
And that response really isn’t all that unusual. It’s known as ‘not all men’. A woman recounts an unpleasant experience of male attention. And rather than respond to what she’s telling them, a man will pipe up with ‘Not all men are like that.’ It’s their way of trying to say ‘Hey, I’m a Nice Guy! Don’t blame me for what he did!’
To which the only possible response is ‘Excuse me? Were you listening to what I told you? Your response to some bloke being an arsehole is to tell me that YOU’RE a Nice Guy?’ Not ‘God, I’m so sorry that happened to you.’ Not ‘Fucking hell, some blokes are awful.’ Not ‘I just can’t understand why some men behave like that.’ But ‘Not all men!’
When you ‘not all men’ you’re belittling, you’re dismissing, you’re almost disbelieving. You’re saying ‘Not all men’ do this, so this experience is unusual, a blip, an aberration. Guess what? It’s not. It’s my life. I live it. I experience a lot of rubbish. I might not experience all men, but I do seem to come across plenty of twats.
I know it’s not all men. I. KNOW. I have a boyfriend, a father, two brothers, male friends. I KNOW IT’S NOT ALL MEN. But it is some men. Too many men. Too many men viewing women as public property. Too many men forcing women to interact with them when they don’t want to. Too many men thinking that they get to dictate what experiences women have. Too many men. Not all men. Some men. Not all men. But it’s still too many. And instead of becoming defensive and cross when women talk about some men, perhaps you should think about what these women are telling you. Perhaps you should realise it’s some men, instead of being offended and needing to establish you’re a Nice Guy.
And some women should listen up too. Just because you’ve not had the same experiences as me, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. And no, I don’t write about these things to stealthboast about how attractive I am, and have to beat men off with a shitty stick. I write about them because this is my life. And I only ever get hassled when I’m on my own. Never with other people. Because the twats see a woman on her own as vulnerable and easy prey. It's not because I'm attractive (I have a massive face for a start). It's because some men think they have the right to impose themselves on all women. And I’ve had enough.
And Decent Men, can you come back in now please? Right. You’re decent blokes, aren’t you? I mean, I like you. I like you very much. When you hear about bad things done by some men, you don’t instinctively preface your response with ‘Not all men’. You listen, you’re horrified, you express outrage on our behalf. But. Sometimes you let yourselves down a little. When you ask women if we’re flattered by the attention. When you make jokey responses to women talking seriously. When a woman tells you about being hassled, and you ask ‘Why didn’t you just tell him to fuck off?’ Shall I explain?
Firstly, it’s not her fault she attracted the attention, and the blame lies with the twat, not her. Perhaps she didn’t want make a scene. Perhaps she didn’t want to cause a fuss. Perhaps she wasn’t sure if she was overreacting by feeling threatened. Perhaps she was worried that if she did tell the twat to fuck off, he might turn nasty. Perhaps she felt intimidated by a bigger, stronger stranger. But asking her about her behaviour isn’t helpful, and reinforces the idea that she is in some way to blame. She isn’t.
That’s point 1. Point 2. When you see another man ‘Not all men’ing, CHALLENGE HIM. Because, Decent Blokes, it gets wearying, being told that we think a certain way because we own a vagina. Last time I checked, I think with my brain. It’d be nice if the Decent Blokes – and I think you’re probably a silent majority – could wade into the discussion every now and then. And if you’re not sure what to say, then say so. We’ll value your honesty. Let the ‘not all men’ men know that it’s not just women that feel like this. That it’s possible to have a ball sack and not feel the need to automatically defend other penis owners all the time. Truly.
And to the men who responded to me with ‘How was Friday your fault? FFS!’ I kiss you on both cheeks. YOU are the Decent Blokes. I am proud to know you and have you as my friends.
Now get out there and prove that not all men are ‘not all men’ men.