#MeToo Has Shown Global Misogyny. #NotAllMen Once Again Makes the Debate About Men
Oh dear. It begins. The inevitable backlash of women defending men. Lena Dunham has accused a woman of lying about rape. Don’t believe the hype in her retraction. Dunham, in a published statement said: “Our insider knowledge of Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3% of assault cases that are misreported every year … We stand by Murray and this is all we’ll be saying about this issue.”
Well, obviously, it wasn’t all they were going to say once the hail of women’s justifiable fury started raining down on this dangerous and cruel statement. The worst element of this is not just that it marks Dunham out as a wince-inducing hypocrite, following her tweet in August of this year “Things women do lie about: what they ate for lunch. Things women don't lie about: rape.”
Unless, it seems, that person is a friend of yours.
The worst part isn’t even that Dunham is a person with 5.7m Twitter followers who has the ability to affect people’s thoughts on events like this. No, the worst part about all of this is that Dunham has, in one self-serving, misguided statement, undone the hard work of all the feminists and activists who have spent so long trying to dispel noxious and harmful rape myths.
To have the temerity to cite the ‘3%’ of misreported assaults is vile. This plays into every MRA, rape apologist, misogynist’s hands. It reaffirms the fallacy that women are liars. It negates the fact that, given the underreporting of rape generally, it is impossible to know how many may be ‘misreported’. A spineless get out in any case - how do you misreport a rape?
Yes, women do sometimes retract, often due to the emotional toll of reporting sexual violence, pressure from external sources or disbelief in the justice system. An even smaller percentage of women may fabricate allegations. This is not the lived reality of survivors of sexual violence.
Sadly, Dunham is not the only woman defending men from all us nasty women. Search the hashtag #NotAllMen and bear witness. Dare to comment and watch women come flooding to tell you that the men in their life are sweet, kind and thoughtful. Watch them refuse to accept the context in which this discussion appears. And weep at the harsh realisation that many would rather argue about a hashtag than the reality behind it.
These hashtags and the discussions they promote are not about men
Seeing women sell themselves and others out is exhausting. I made a conscious decision to stop debating men on the need for feminism or the existence of sexism and inequality in part to manage my own time and wellbeing but also because I got sick of getting riled up for free. To have someone who has no experience or expertise attempt to invalidate your lived experience by telling you that that you are wrong is infuriating. It is also draining.
I fought the good fight with women who disagreed with my refusal to sugar coat my feminism to encourage men to get involved rather than alienating them. No longer.
In the same way that it isn’t my job to make men feel good for being decent human beings, it is not my job to explain to women that I don’t think all men are abusive, misogynistic rapists. That. Isn’t. The. Fucking. Point. It was never the point. The point is that enough men do these things to promote a culture in which women feel that any man could be a potential threat. That enough women have experienced sexual violence from men whom they knew, even loved, to dispel the myth of the masked stranger in an alleyway.
These hashtags and the discussions they promote are not about men. They are about women sharing their experience and raising awareness about their reality. This steadfast belief in standing by your man, especially when that man is a friend at best, in direct opposition to your apparent feminist beliefs and in the face of serious allegations is confusing to me.
When was the last time you saw a group of men independently organising a march against the wage gap? For reproductive rights?
As the #MeToo campaign has shown, alongside #EverydaySexism, women across the globe are experiencing violence, sexism, harassment and misogyny on a daily basis. The active attempt to derail these conversations by making them about men has been widely discussed. The - often rabid - refusal to step back and let women take the lead in telling you about their reality has been debated and yet, we keep having these conversations.
It isn’t enough to accept Dunham’s apology, in the same way that it wasn’t enough to accept Louis CK’s trite, disgusting nonpology. While she may have since retracted her initial statement the damage is done, not only to Aurora Perrineau who’s experience she so swiftly disregarded, but to survivors everywhere.
In the same way, it is not enough to spout “but not all men!” in the face of discussions about widespread inequality. If the urge should begin to creep up on you, if you start to feel a burning desire to challenge critiques about men, ask yourself this - when was the last time a man stood up for you? When was the last time you saw a group of men independently organising a march against the wage gap? For reproductive rights?
I’m not talking about joining in with marches organised by women’s groups, I’m not referring to men furthering causes that also benefit them, I’m referring to the selfless sacrifice you are making, in defending men at the expense of your own lived reality as a woman. If you have examples, I’d love to hear and celebrate them. I certainly don’t have any. All men can do better. All women can stop setting the bar so low. But what do I know?
So, shine on all you anti-feminists, not quite ready to identify as feminists and everything in between. It is your right to support the structures that don’t support you, the movements that oppress you and to hold the opinions you choose to but if you think you’re helping anyone by contributing to the #NotAllMen debate then you ain’t been listening.
About the author
Born in Yorkshire and proudly working class, Megan is a PhD researcher and aspiring journalist. She enjoys writing about women's lives, injustice and inequality as well as working class, Northern culture. Her aim is to raise awareness about violence against women, spread her feminist killjoy message and promote Northern voices.
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