Don’t let #Notallmen distract us from the fight for gender equality

I can remember all the early mornings getting ready for school, staring at myself in the mirror, while measuring the length of my shorts to see if they sat at an appropriate length. I’d place three fingers on the fabric of my top to make sure the straps didn’t reveal too much of my shoulder. […]
Photo: Tamara Condie
"As a 20-year-old journalism student at Algonquin College, I am tired of my femininity being a threat to your masculinity," writes the author. "It is time we hold men accountable."

I can remember all the early mornings getting ready for school, staring at myself in the mirror, while measuring the length of my shorts to see if they sat at an appropriate length. I’d place three fingers on the fabric of my top to make sure the straps didn’t reveal too much of my shoulder.

Because if that small amount of shoulder did show, I would be sent home to change. I’d seen this happen first hand. In 2016 my younger sister was sent home from school to change because she was wearing a sundress with thin straps in 30-degree weather.

She was six years old.

The message our teachers were sending: men and boys wouldn’t be able to control themselves around us and we should fear what they might do to us.

Growing up, I was taught this lesson again and again – not by my parents or the women surrounding me – but through my own lived experiences.

My brother could go out alone at night, but I always had to come in before dark. He could ride his bike to the park, while I couldn’t stray far from our driveway. Why are women sexualized from such a young age?

“When we were little, we were told if a boy pushes a girl or hits her, it just means he likes her,” said Sarah Crawford, sexual violence prevention and harm reduction coordinator at Algonquin College. “That’s not okay. When do we take a step back and say, ‘okay well no one should be pushing or hitting anyone?’”

Imagine a world where women don’t have to carry their keys between their knuckles, take longer routes to get places, worry their clothing is too revealing nor fear that they won’t get home safely at night.

A world where women could also rule workrooms and countries – where women aren’t objectified nor seen as less than.

Unfortunately, that is not the reality for many women in 2021 nor in decades past.

Data released on March 10, 2021, shows an alarming number of women and girls in the U.K. experience sexual harassment.

While the survey was conducted in the U.K., such happenings do not only occur there – the sad reality is that they happen every day, everywhere.

Studies conducted by YouGov and U.N. Women found 70 per cent of women of all ages and 97 per cent of women between 18 and 24 have experienced sexual harassment in public spaces.

This is an outstanding number for any survey, let alone a survey conducted on sexual harassment.

These studies were released following the death of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive in south London. She was reported missing on March 4, 2021, just a day after she went missing while walking home from a friend’s house.

Nine days later, news broke that a police officer had been charged with her murder and kidnapping. This was someone who was supposed to protect her.

Following her death, women in the U.K. were advised to stay home to keep safe from “danger,” a euphemism for men.

After this advisory went out, Jenny Jones, a politician, and member of the U.K. Green party released a statement suggesting a curfew for men, the perpetrators be put in place to make women feel safer.

This revolutionary moment started the #NotAllMen movement.

Many men were having a hard time accepting this curfew suggestion. They felt that not all men are responsible for these assaults and so not all men should be confined indoors after 6 p.m.

The #NotAllMen movement explained simply means that we know that not all ticks carry limes disease; however, we know to steer clear of ticks at the risk of being infected.

Much like while not all men abuse, harass or assault women, one in three women are assaulted in their lifetime. Making it clear to many women that to keep safe we must assume it is all men.

When a victim speaks up and a man’s first response is to say, “well not all men do that,” the discussion gets shifted from the oppression women face, to the protection of men.

The phrase “not all men” invalidates the voices of victims and the claims of gender inequality. It allows men to feel more comfortable living with their privilege.

I am tired of being discriminated against and objectified as a waitress, tired of having to be on a constant lookout for danger and tired of endlessly checking behind me to see if I am being followed.

I am tired of paying for cabs instead of walking because it’s deemed safer than walking in the dark of the night. Tired of living in fear of men and what they might do to me.

I remember at the age of 16, sitting in the lunchroom with my friends, allowing our male “friends” to make misogynistic comments in front of us. We didn’t do or say anything.

Now at 20, I continue to learn. Today, I would never allow comments like that to slide.

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