Why "Not All Men" Is The Wrong Response When Women Talk About Their Oppression And Abuse

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Man in shadows

The phrase “men are trash” is one I have used on more than one occasion.

I use it with my friends when we’re talking about horrible experiences we’ve had with men, or when we’re talking about men that have done questionable things that are then broadcasted in the media – i.e., Armie Hammer.

But, there have been moments when the phrase “men are trash” is sometimes followed by “not all men, though,” and it's usually said by a man who feels threatened by that phrase.

Of course, it’s not all men. Not every man in the history of mankind is a horrible human being — we know that. 

The phrase is supposed to be hyperbole. In a lot of ways, it’s supposed to be something funny that women can say when talking about all of the harmful things that they have endured at the hands of men, a way to gain some control over a very common form of oppression.

There is some truth to the statement, though. 

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It may not be all men, but all men benefit from the patriarchy. 

It might not be all men, but it’s enough men in this world that cause harm and spew oppressive behavior towards women that make it difficult for women to feel safe in their own bodies. Enough men for women to have to carry their keys in between their knuckles when walking home late at night. Enough men for women to have to take their drinks with them when they go to the bathroom at parties. 

It’s the same argument when talking about white privilege. All white people benefit from systems of racism, and as such, all white people are inherently racist until they tackle their internalized biases.

It’s the same thing with men. 

The phrase “men are trash” can allow men to confront their own internalized sexism. Instead of shouting from the rooftops that it’s “not all men,” they should instead examine why women say things like that. 

When we talk about our trauma and oppression at the hands of the patriarchy, we want men to be able to listen and start working on being allies to the feminist movement while also working to fix their own misogyny. 

Nearly one in five women in the United States have been sexually assaulted at some time in their lives while one in three women are subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence from a non-partner. 

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It’s no wonder women are so cautious around men. 

We need to start changing the narrative in favor of educating men, and not trying to silence women.

If you’re a man, and you witness an act of harm against a woman, it’s your duty to speak up and step in. You don’t have to always be the one that is perpetuating misogyny to be labeled a misogynist. 

Witnessing an act of discrimination without action is as bad as being the person committing the act. Speak up when you are the bystander to an act of injustice, especially against groups of marginalized communities, and people who are usually on the receiving end of horrible acts of prejudice.

Men everywhere need to do better so that women do not have to constantly live in this state of perpetually fear of what will happen once they walk out of their front doors. Then and only then will it truly be "not all men."

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Chicago. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.