In the wake of the death of Grace Millane, violence against women has prompted the usual round of complaints that not all men are violent. Shut it down, says Sophie Bateman for Newshub.
In this unpredictable, ever-changing world, a few things remain absolutely dependable. The sun will rise every morning. Babies will be born. Aucklanders will complain about our relatively mild weather.
And if you say something critical of male behaviour online, 8000 men will squirm out of the woodwork to bleat a single phrase: “Not all men.”
Those three words are bleaker than death and more unavoidable than taxes.
Like reclusive Gotham billionaires to a bat-signal, men of all shapes, sizes and creeds come leaping out of the ether to remind you it’s not nice to generalise.
No one likes being generalised. No one likes feeling blamed for another’s actions.
But if someone mentions the indisputable fact that men kill, rape and assault women on a horrific scale every day in every part of the world and have done for all of human existence, and your reaction is to point out only some men do that, I strongly suggest you reconsider your choices.
This is a breathtakingly selfish response. By diving into a discussion about gendered violence and saying “not all men”, you are preventing a useful and necessary conversation from happening because it hurts your feelings.
You’ve decided how you feel is more important than how women live their lives. You’ve decided your desire to feel like a good person trumps your desire to hear what men do to women – and what men can do to stop it.
For every thoughtful, sad, perceptive tweet a woman has posted in the last week, a man has helpfully popped into her mentions to remind her he’s one of the good guys.
Sometimes there are multiple men in one tweet thread, all chiming in like a smug Greek chorus. Sometimes they’re young, sometimes they’re old. Sometimes they’re the former comms person for The Opportunities Party.
But they’re all men, and they’re all determined to redirect the conversation away from anything that might force them to think about their own behaviour.
Here’s a good metaphor: If you’re at a pool and the lifeguard yells out “no running”, do you get offended because you personally weren’t running?
Or do you carry on as you were, knowing you did nothing wrong but glad the people ruining it for everyone else have had their behaviour corrected?
If it’s true that very few men do bad things to women, women wouldn’t be trained from a young age to avoid dark alleyways, to keep an eye on our drinks, to jam our keys between our fingers as we walk to our cars.
Either male violence is limited to a microscopic number of individual psychopaths, in which case women should logically be able to go where we want without fearing for our safety, or male violence is a systemic problem that impacts every facet of our lives. It can’t be both.
There’s a simple reason why women fear men. The average man could easily overpower most women if he wanted to.
Up to one in five New Zealand women experience sexual assault, and because so few cases are reported the real number is likely higher. NZ Police receive a domestic violence callout every four minutes.
Women have reason to fear men. Men have no rational need for an equivalent fear of women because we pose no systemic threat to them. Incidents of female-on-male violence are no less serious than the other way around, but they’re so rare that they become news events like Lorena Bobbitt or Sharon Edwards.
When a man yells something about a woman’s body as he drives past her, which happened to me last Friday, or a man makes his female colleague feel unsafe when they’re alone together, which happened to my friend a few weeks ago, or a man uses the excuse of a crowded dancefloor to rub his erect penis against a woman he doesn’t know, which has happened to me and probably every other woman every time we go out, it doesn’t feel like most men are good.
When we turn down a dark street and see a lone male figure, or have to walk past a group of drunk guys, or our Uber driver makes a weird comment as he locks the car doors, it really doesn’t matter that most men don’t do bad things to women.
In these situations, assuming all men are good until proven otherwise is a strategy that can get you killed.
When our lives are on the line, you all look the same. And quite frankly, I don’t care if that hurts your feelings.
This piece was originally published on Newshub.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed, free daily curated digest of all the most important stories from around New Zealand delivered directly to your inbox each morning.