#NotAllMen: Gender Based Activism or Perpetuation of Violence Against Women?
By Kenza Bennani
On the evening of 3 March 2021, 33-year-old Sarah Everard called her boyfriend whilst walking home from a friend’s house in south London. When Everard didn’t show up the following morning, her boyfriend, fearing the worst, called the police. After almost a week of her disappearance, her body was discovered in the woods. Everard was murdered by Wayne Couzens, a serving police officer. Once the story broke, anger sparked across the globe prompting millions of women to spread awareness about violence against women on social media. The brutally honest discussions left several men feeling unjustifiably blamed for the matter, resulting in the start of the #NotAllMen movement.
Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a major increase in domestic violence and femicides in Montreal and other areas in Quebec. Given these tragedies, feminists argued that #NotAllMen was a subtle way to divert from the topic, while simultaneously conforming to misogynistic ideas. The so-called “meninist” campaign took over the internet as more men attested to their innocence. As a unifying response, people declared #AllMen, to further emphasize women’s realities. What started out as nonaggressive conversations about women’s rights ended in warlike exchanges between men and women.
Émilie DeGrandpré, a third semester Psychology student at Dawson, recalls having a heated debate on the topic. Her male friend claimed that categorizing all men as dangerous would only result in painting a negative image of them, without actually bettering women’s situations. She clarified that the generalization isn’t meant to attack men, but to showcase the fears of so many women. “When 93% of women get sexually assaulted in their lives, I rather consider the entire group as a threat,” DeGrandpé explains. Indeed, according to the World Health Organization, 1 in 3 women globally experience physical or sexual violence. “Assuming it’s all men is just survival in our society,” DeGranpré states.
Ziad Hafez, a Science student at André-Gasset, finds both movements annoying and pointless. “It’s basic semantics, even though people say they don't really mean all men when they say it, the reality is, they do,” Hafez states. However, he doesn’t believe that the issue of sexual harassment should be met with #NotAllMen either. He recalls seeing comments under sexual assault survivors’ TikToks, flooded with the hashtag. “That's not really the first reaction you're supposed to have when you hear those kinds of stories,” Hafez says.
Johanne Rabbat, the coordinator of Women’s and Gender Studies at Dawson, comments on the possible cause for men’s reactions. She theorizes that because they are part of a more privileged group, men may actually feel complicit to the problem. Looking at areas such as salaries, jobs, or violence, women are not at a level of equality with men. Rabbat mentioned that whilst it is normal for men to feel targeted, such defensiveness won’t help anyone move forward. She wants to encourage men to side for support and participate in important conversations. “That’s how we’re going to move forward and gain a better understanding of each other. It’s through that dialogue!” she says.
DeGrandpé mentions how out of all the #NotAllMen supporters she knows, none are actively engaging in other conversations about women’s rights. “The only way you're not a part of the problem is if you're actually outspoken about it,” she states, “saying ‘not all men’ just further justifies women’s points!” She compared the situation to someone witnessing a crime and not reporting it. Rabbat emphasizes the same point, explaining how men don’t always realize which of their actions cause acts of violence towards women to continue. “You are supporting the system by being silent or not doing anything. It’s a form of micro-aggression,” she says.
Indeed, many would argue that the violent forms of masculinity, embedded within society, are what creates unsafe environments for women. Contrarily, Hafez attributes harassment to inadequate parenting. “I was always taught to treat women with respect,” he explains. Hafez also believes that some people just simply cannot control themselves. “That can only be resolved at home, perhaps by another woman, like your mom.”
However, DeGrandpé thinks that blaming individuals for a systemic issue is misinformed. She alludes to the system’s damaging impact on men, specifically concerning societal pressures and discrimination towards femininity: “I just don't understand why this is an argument between men and women. We're all victims of the system and we could change it if more acknowledged the issues.”
Image via lifegate.com