Updated: Jan 10
Does it matter that not all men rape women? Should we care that not all men actively harass or grope in public? Is it really important that not all men think of women as less important, capable, independent people? A whole lot of men seem to think so. The hashtag #NotAllMen originated around 2013: it was created as a parody of the men reacting to the feminist movement in a defensive or dismissive way. Despite this, it seems like this defensive reaction to feminism has only multiplied in recent years. I myself have had many conversations about gender inequality, and a lot of them did not end in a satisfactory way.
With some men you have to argue about whether gender inequality even exists. Today, in 2022, it is my firm belief that if you do not think men are willingly and repeatedly put above women you are choosing not to see this gap. The stats, the stories, the facts, the people, they’re all around us; to not notice means to not listen to them. Not all men believe in gender equality.
Other men talk about gender equality as a struggle of the past. They acknowledge the vast inequalities that are present in our history, and sometimes even recognize that a few ramifications may still linger in our society today, but overall, they say, the bulk of the problem has passed. The “radical feminists” are just wasting their time fighting the battles of yesterday. However, once again, the stories are out there: if you don’t hear them, you’re not listening. Not all men care enough about the women in their lives and beyond to hear them in their struggles.
Many, too many, men undeservedly proclaim themselves as feminists. They wholeheartedly believe in the equality of opportunity between genders, or so they say. Though when it comes down to it, their actions fall short. Although they say they would stand for women’s rights, they don’t do so when friends demean or make fun of a woman in their presence. They may state their allegiance to the feminist movement, but they mansplain without regard for the abuse of their unspoken power. In short, men don’t hold themselves up to their own standards.
I want to go ahead and include myself in this category: I am far from perfect, and I wholeheartedly believe all men are. After all, all men are raised in a patriarchal society, and this implants them with biases, which are hard to notice and harder to suppress. Not all men focus on their own biases and turn the word ‘feminist’ from ink on a page (the digital counterpart of the expression really does not do it justice) to a lived and felt reality.
Why are men so defensive about their hushed biases? Why do men run to defend themselves when statements are made about inequalities and how they’ve arisen? After all, stating Not All Men bears an alarming similarity to the statement All Lives Matter in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, and we all know what kind of alarming line of thinking that is. I think men feel threatened: honestly, they should. Their position of privilege and head start is under threat by a growing demand for equal opportunities.
The question is whether you embrace this change or oppose it. Whether you know it or not, you’ve made a choice: quietly standing at the sidelines is a choice of inaction; a silent cry of support for the patriarchal system that has been left alone for too long. Change requires action, decision, and boldness. By all men.
Men aren’t the focal point of the feminist movement, nor should they be. Gender inequalities today affect women and non-binary people way more, and so we must strive to embolden and empower those who suffer most in these circumstances. Choosing to be a feminist man implies working against our self-centered instincts to move towards empathy and understanding. We could strive to see the injustice of our current behavior and beliefs. Sure, not all men are rapists, but too many men foster a culture that is silent in the face of harassment. To stand against this wave has to be an active, audacious move, not just an intellectual stance. Never be a bystander in the fight for gender equality. Stand up for the women in your lives, listen to them, try your best.
By Marco Segantini