Here’s why #NotAllMen deliberately misunderstands what women are saying

The hashtag NotAllMen deliberately seeks to misunderstand the anger brewing amongst women.


When the human remains were confirmed as those of Sarah Everard, my girlfriend came to me in tears. This has hit every woman across the country because Sarah did everything women are ‘supposed’ to do. She wore bright clothing, took the main road, and called her boyfriend, yet lost her life.

The horrific and disturbing reality about existing as a woman is the necessity of doing all of these things in order to make it to your destination unharmed. Do not walk through the park after dark. Always tell a friend where you are going and when you arrive home. Never wear both earphones and “for goodness’ sake, keep your wits about you” as I am sure nearly every daughter, sister, aunt, wife on the planet has been told.

It is immensely difficult as a young woman to hold men in any equal regard when sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination and “no it’s better if you do it like this” are just a normal part of normal days. But perhaps the most devastating response to today’s events has been the trending hashtag NotAllMen.

When some men take this movement as a direct and personal attack on themselves, women are left thinking, well what now? If some men can comfortably and outwardly position themselves as antagonists when women are sharing their experiences and voicing their fears, then something fundamental is going wrong. Immediately jumping to the defensive and resentfully attacking women online because they have expressed concerns for their safety after a young woman has been killed, requires immediate self-scrutiny. The phrase is over-used, but if this is you – check yourself.

A Facebook ‘friend’ of mine posted one of those statuses that instantly had my blood pumping, hands shaking, and headbanging. Everyone knows the feeling when you see that status you simply cannot scroll past. All if your brains cells are pleading with you not to engage with the stupidity but it is impossible to ignore because the anger is overwhelming.

He shared a post which read: ‘We are not saying all men, but we are saying we don’t know which men, so we are wary of all men’, to which he had added the caption: “imagine if people said the same thing about Muslims?”.

The tragic yet painfully blatant answer is that 97% of young women have experienced sexual harassment. To entertain his ridiculous comparison; I am unable to recall a single person I have ever met who has directly experienced harassment from someone of the Islamic faith. Unfortunately, there are no statistics to back up my claim because unsurprisingly, there has been little research into this particular comparison.

Of course, I commented and spoon feed him the incredibly obvious answer to his extraordinarily stupid question. A Facebook argument ensued but I held strong, determined I would make this man understand that he was deliberately misunderstanding what women are saying.

It is a tale as old as time to accuse women of exaggerating, getting angry, or to use my personal favourite which was used against me in this particular Facebook feud: ‘blowing things out of proportion’. Women can, however, hold their own, and I did.

Two comments later, I am ferociously stabbing away at the infuriatingly tiny iPhone keypad, and suddenly a giant red box appears around my text with a damning exclamation mark. ‘Try sending again’. Of course, he had blocked me.

The irony of this situation is that this guy, who was so intent on drilling it into me that he is not ‘one of those men’, proved himself to be absolutely one of those men. He silenced me. His inability to engage in a debate with me reflects his inability to respect me. After he had blocked me I could see in my notifications that he had made a further comment, but I was unable to click on it, unable to fight my corner.

No, it is not all men that commit such horrific crimes as the one that Sarah Everard suffered. However, the normalised behaviour of telling a woman that she is “blowing things out of proportion” and then silencing her, is clearly not uncommon. The normalised behaviour of women realising they will have to wait until tomorrow morning to run an errand because it’s dark and therefore unsafe, is clearly not uncommon.

The hashtag NotAllMen deliberately seeks to misunderstand the anger brewing amongst women. It is not the first time women have been purposefully misunderstood, accused of “blowing things out of proportion”, and silenced.

The issue being highlighted is the fundamental lack of respect that leads some men to believe they have the right to silence women. This lack of respect leads some men to harass women, it leads some men to disrespect women, and it leads some men to hurt women.

Image Credit: Elena Vrdn

Related articles recommended by this writer:

The police violence at Reclaim These Streets was an insult to women everywhere

Violence used at Sarah Everard vigil to disperse peaceful attendees

As women we should be able to walk home safely but these stories prove we can’t

‘I need to be proactive’: We asked boys what they’re doing to change their behaviour