Not seven months after we mourned the death of Eurydice Dixon, we find ourselves, again, faced with another young woman’s senseless death at the hands of a man. The rape and murder of Aiia Maasarwe this week again highlights that women are not safe in our own streets. Once again, women are angry, and once again, we are met with the same ridiculous battle cry of “Not All Men.”
If you’re not a rapist or a murderer, then good on you! Congratulations, you are a moderately okay human. But that is a low standard, and certainly not a standard that warrants praise or even mention. Being a good man is so much more than refraining from violence or living neutrally; it’s about taking positive steps to improve the world around you. Being a good man requires reflection on your privilege, being a good man requires being brave enough to tell your mates that their attitudes against women are problematic, and being a good man requires listening to women in order to stand by their side and not in front of them.
You may consider yourself to be a decent block, a nice guy, a good man… but with each news broadcast of the latest act of rape and murder against a woman – what are you actually doing to prevent these atrocities from happening?
Every time you laugh at a rape joke, you are part of the problem. Every time you catcall a woman as you drive past her, you are part of the problem. Every time you use the darkness of a crowded dance floor to grind against a woman you don’t know, or a woman you do know for that matter, you are part of the problem. Every time you engage in casual sexism, every time you reduce women to a rating out of ten, every time you stay silent in the face of these kinds of behaviours, you are part of the problem.
You may not rape or murder women but you are complicit in the culture that allows this to continue.
The implication of “Not All Men” is that it’s women who must bear the weight of shifting this dynamic, when we already shoulder so much of the burden. As women, we are acutely aware of protective measures to take: we carry keys between our fingers, we lock our car doors, we are aware of our surroundings and we always carry a mobile phone. From a young age it’s drilled into us. We are told that when in doubt, yes, all men are dangerous.
We are caught in a bind in which we’re taught to assume all men are dangerous, for our safety. However, if we dare speak out, we’re generalizing – we’re in the wrong.
“Not all men are dangerous, so you don’t need to lock your car doors, but for God’s sake lock your car doors because you don’t know who could be out there.”
“Not all men are rapists, so wear whatever you want, but if it’s a plunging top or short skirt you’re asking for it.”
“Not all men are murderers, so feel free to walk by yourself at night, but if something happens why were you so careless for your safety?”
It really doesn’t matter that most men don’t do bad things to women when it only takes one of them to end my life.
The moment you say “Not All Men”, you derail an important conversation. You place more value on maintaining your ego than on women’s safety. You decide that feeling like a good person outweighs listening to the stories of women, and what men can do to prevent the violence we experience on a daily basis.
So the next time a woman shares her stories, listen. Raise her voice above those who wish to make it about them. Be critical of your own behaviour, and of your friends. Be a voice for women when the rest of the world wants to drown us out with “Not All Men.”
NB: The word “woman” in this article can be used interchangeably with non-binary people, trans and gender fluid people in their fight against cis-het males. Make sure you listen to their stories too.
Words by Bre Shanahan
Bre is the 2019 Women’s Officer. When she is not fighting the patriarchy, she is in the law library attempting to finish her law degree.