It’s Not About Blame

[originally published on stephaniefaye.sbvtle.com]

I am a woman, and I have experienced a large amount of harassment, condescension, abuse and unfairness based on nothing but my gender. I’ve had legitimate reasons to fear walking home alone at night, I’ve had men feel like they were entitled to my body, and I’ve been made to feel like a lesser person because I’m a pretty girl. Worst of all, I’ve been made to feel ashamed of my own body, the clothes I chose to wear, the tone of my personality, and my intelligence because of how other people would react to me. And I don’t blame anyone for it.

I am not a man hater. I don’t blame men for the snap judgements and obstacles that have been placed in my life. Placing blame is not a productive approach to the very real struggles that women face on a daily bases.

#YesAllPeople
I don’t consider myself a feminist – if you need to put a label on it, you could call me an equalist. Part of that is because of the negative connotation that that word carries as of late, but mostly it’s because a lot of feminists I’ve met, whose blogs I’ve read, whose YouTube videos I’ve watched – I don’t agree with the way that they speak. They preach that the only way for women to achieve anything is to destroy men, and their contributions to the world we live in. I want to refrain from calling anyone’s opinions ‘incorrect’ or saying that anyone is wrong, but this is blatantly wrong. As a gender, we cannot step on men to rise above. We have to rise together, as people. We cannot empower one gender by tearing down another in the name of equality. That is counter-productive and hypocritical. Equality, by it’s very definition, is for every single person. It’s everyone’s fight. While it’s absolutely true that men will not understand everything that we go through as women, the feelings of shame, and the fear of harassment and rape are not experiences that are exclusive to us. Men too, are subject to body-shaming, and they understand the dread of walking downtown after dark. They get that it’s a healthy, necessary fear. Men are not our enemies. In fact, they could be our allies. They can help us combat the need to hold our keys as a weapon, we just need to let them.

#NotAllMen
An article put out by globeandmail.com recently suggested that the #notallmen movement was a “too-common tactic used to dismiss misogyny”. What we have to understand is that men are tired of having their gender berated for something that isn’t true of every single one of them. If the roles were reversed and men were angry, saying that women as a group are terrible, we would be objecting and saying the same thing, “not all women!”.
Men, instead of being quick to come to a defense, perhaps take a step back and look at the problem that lead you here. Take the energy you were going to use as a defense, and put it into finding a solution, instead of writing off a women’s concerns as an extremist feminist agenda. Individually, you might not be a part of the problem but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of the solution.
Women, it is too easy to generalize when looking for someone to blame. I repeat, men are not our enemies. We are not fighting this battle against every single man. In fact, we’re not even fighting this battle against men exclusively. Saying “not all men are pigs” isn’t about trivializing anything. It means exactly what it says – not all men are pigs, and that’s the truth.

Being a woman, I understand the struggle, and some days this truly is a terrifying world to live in, and be a female. I even understand the want to find someone to blame. It’s easier than trying to fix the issue. But the problem does not lie exclusively within one gender versus the other.  The problem is in all genders’ attitudes toward the issue, and while there is no way to change every person’s mind, we can all do our parts to find a solution – to find a way to make our world a safe and equal environment for every single person, because that’s what we are – we are all people.

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