#YesAllWomen

I don’t hate men.

Why does it feel like every time we talk about gender we need to clarify that we don’t hate men. Is there a lot of man-hating going around that most of us aren’t privy to? Why must being a feminist be conflated with hating men?

And why do we feel the need to shrug apologetically about being feminists anyway? I’m a feminist. I believe that men and women should be treated equally. And I believe that while most men don’t have a desire to treat women unfairly, there are institutions and long-standing customs that get in the way of fairness.

If you’re already bored by the #YesAllWomen hashtag doing the rounds on twitter, you may want to skip the rest of this post. But before you go, please take a moment to think about why it seems to have struck a chord with so many women–because this is what we live with on a daily basis. And yes, I am aware that most of us (who are reading this, anyway) aren’t in danger of being kidnapped by the Boko Haram, or of being stoned to death for marrying for love, or being prevented from driving.

But the fact that there are people suffering in the world does not diminish my right to complain about or shine a small spotlight on things that have us anxious or upset on a daily basis. So maybe it’s not All Women. But trust me, it’s a hell of a lot of women who can relate to the experiences being shared.

Feministing has a nice roundup of related reading, to which I wanted to add two pieces, both of which are well worth a read:

Rodger’s fantasies are so patently strange and so extreme that they’re easy to dismiss as simply crazy. But, reading his manifesto, you can make out, through the distortions of his raging mind, the outlines of mainstream American cultural values: Beauty and strength are rewarded. Women are prizes to be won, reflections of a man’s social capital. Wealth, a large house, and fame are the highest attainments. The lonely and the poor are invisible.

These are forms of male aggression that only women see. But even when men are afforded a front seat to harassment, they don’t always have the correct vantage point for recognizing the subtlety of its operation.

Even if I don’t hate men, and even if my deeper relationships with men–my partner, my colleagues, my male friends–have always been marked by mutual respect and affection, there is a low hum of ongoing anxiety that women just cannot shake.

When I first came across Leah Green’s everyday sexism project (where she catcalls men etc.) I felt bad for the men in the video. They weren’t the offenders who whistled at women (this happened to me), or positioned themselves in the bus stop outside an all-girls school to flash them on their way home (again happened), or jerked off on a bus across the aisle from a petrified 15 year old (and again), or felt up a young girl at a temple fair (for god’s sake!; and again). They all seem like nice everyday blokes who remind me of my dad, or my husband, who would never treat a woman this way. Was being nasty to them really the best way to make a point about sexism?

Now that I think about it though, my reaction stems from the feeling that these guys didn’t deserve to be treated this way. And that’s the point–neither do all the women for whom this is reality, every day.

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