Written by Emily Dudley (@createdbyemilykate / @thatnastyfeminist)
CONTENT WARNING: Gender-based violence, rape, sexual harassment, 'notallmen', victim blaming, the Sarah Everard Case
Too many aspects of this news cycle and its sinister aftermath have been exhausting. The lack-luster sympathy. The impossible empathy. The performative posts that saturate our feeds. The empty promises cluttering our DMs. The covert misogyny that laces the media discourse. The victim-blaming. The slut-shaming. The #HimToo ’s and the #NotAllMen ‘s.
None of which is new to women, none of which is shocking. Yet somehow, this time it’s worse. The abuse from the men who don’t believe us is horrifying, the silence from the men we trusted is deafening and the unearned praise for the men who don’t rape us is sickening.
How dare they expect gratitude for not attacking us. How dare they await praise for doing exactly nothing while we mourn yet another sister. How dare they expect our trust, knowing that figure. How dare they patronise us, gaslight us, blame us!
How dare they counter our trauma with #NotAllMen.
For both my undergrad and postgrad thesis I decided to focus on gender politics, in my undergrad I examined digital feminist activism in the wake of #MeToo and my Master’s thesis focused on varying ideas of Western masculinity and how they manifest in contemporary culture. In both of these projects I couldn’t avoid #NotAllMen and the prevalence of ‘popular misogyny’ online.
As a hashtag, #NotAllMen debuted as the desperate counterattack by fragile men back in 2014 following the Isla Vista killings, where Elliot Rodgers murdered six people and wounded fourteen others as ‘retribution’ for his lifelong rejection from women. Prior to the killings, 22-year-old Rodgers sent a 141-page manifesto to his relatives and therapist detailing his reasons for the murders. He also uploaded a video to YouTube titled “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution” in which he claims to have ‘been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires’.
Although many media outlets blamed mental instability, – the go-to when attempting to justify acts of white terrorism – Rodger’s sense of male entitlement was too familiar to be brushed aside in the collateral. #NotAllMen came as a response to digital outpourings from women who, disgusted with the systems of rape culture that not only facilitated Rodger’s violence but protected his actions with an insanity defence, turned to online spaces to galvanize change.
But as usual, men couldn’t let us have space to heal. Women-owned spaces could mean collective momentum and potential revolution. Revolution could mean the end of the patriarchy where men would be forced to watch their power and privilege collapse. Enter #NotAllMen – a pre-loaded gun with ‘nice guys’ hovering on the trigger, waiting to ricochet against women’s collective trauma until we can no longer move.
So it was no surprise when nice guys’ favourite hashtag braced for battle once again following the murder of Sarah Everard, a reintroduction disturbingly sandwiched between International Women’s Day and Mothering Sunday.
Two occasions when self-proclaimed nice guys are the ones declaring to their 5 whole followers how much they love women, while behind closed doors are the ones ranking us on how hard we would be to fuck.
They’re the ones who laugh at rape jokes, justifying ‘boys will be boys’.
They’re the ones who think they can force us to smile in the street.
The ones who think relentless advances are flattering.
The ones who think ‘no’ isn’t a full sentence but an invitation to negotiate.
The ones who are ‘just being friendly’ while groping our bums.
The ones who are always in the ‘friendzone’.
The ones who think they’re owed sex and scream ‘slut’ when we don’t comply.
The ones who scream ‘she was asking for it’, when it was he who did not ask.
The ones who roll their eyes and call us hysterical.
The ones who say feminism has gone too far.
The ones who aren’t ‘political’. The ones who feel attacked. The ones who are terrified of being accused.
The ones who chant “Not All Men”.
Consciously or otherwise, those three words preserve rape culture. They undermine women’s lived experiences, they condone toxic behaviours because the men who utter those words aren’t under threat, they protect male privilege while simultaneously being a perfect example of it.
#NotAllMen has a dark history, and an even darker present. And sadly, it will have a future. Because spaces for women to collectively heal cannot be tolerated, we have too much shared rage, too much shared trauma and too much shared power.
Yet despite such pathetic attempts to derail important conversations, we won’t stop. We may feel exhausted, we may feel dejected, we may even feel doubtful at times, but we will never be hopeless. And when we need to rest, five of our sisters will act in our place until we’re ready to stand again.
If you wish to share your experiences of sexual harassment or sexual violence, you can have your voice heard within Mouthy Mag’s newest project, Stories Behind The Statistic: a safe space for women’s lived experiences to be shared and listened to without suspicion or backlash, only love and support.
You can submit your letter via email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading: ‘Stories Behind The Statistic’.