Warning: contains information regarding sexual assault that may be triggering to some individuals
From keeping an eye on their drink to holding a key between their fingers as they walk to their car, women around the world have been raised to harbor constant situational awareness and adopt a cautious approach to daily tasks. These measures are taught in an attempt to keep them safe, yet, according to UN Women UK, 97 percent of women ages 18-24 have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime. Additionally, according to the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs (WCSAP), an American woman is sexually assaulted every two minutes. These appalling statistics are a testament to the widespread issue of sexual harassment and violence towards women and exemplify why preventative measures must be taken.
The overwhelming gender gap in sexual violation has been largely problematic for decades, but a recent movement — sparked by a fatal incident of gender driven violence in the UK — has encouraged a greater awareness towards the subject.
On March 3, 33-year-old Sarah Everard was walking to her home in Brixton, London, UK when a Metropolitan Police Officer abducted and murdered her. Six days after her disappearance, Everard’s remains were discovered in a woodland near Ashford, Kent and Officer Wayne Couzens was taken into custody.
The day after Everard’s body was discovered, many London citizens attended a vigil to honor her memory. Hundreds of community members mourned the 33-year-old before being torn away by London police officers attempting to keep COVID-19 safety measures afloat. London citizens were distraught by the way police officers disrupted the ceremony and forcefully scattered the mourners amid a peaceful honorary event. The next day, thousands of community members marched into Parliament Square to peacefully protest the brutalities of the night prior, connecting it to the brutality of Everard’s murder.
As a result of the horrific attack against Everard, UK police officers recommended that women refrain from going out at night. This suggestion led to extreme backlash as female rights supporters around the world argued that women are not the problem and should not be punished for a man’s supposed lack of self control.
In response, Baroness Jenny Jones of Moulsecoomb, a British politician, casually proposed a 6 p.m. curfew for all men. Many then began using the hashtag “not all men” on social media as a tool for voicing frustrations over male stereotypes. The faces behind the hashtag hold the viewpoint that although some men are rapists, sexual harassers, kidnappers, or murderers, others are respectful and appropriate individuals who should not be punished for the actions of “few.”
As this hashtag gained popularity, feminists further explained their point of view about how this trend was adding to the problem. Female rights activists around the world made it clear that they know not all men take advantage of women, but enough of them do to the point that while walking alone at night, it is hard to distinguish between a regular pedestrian and a man with wrongful intentions. Many social media influencers have compared the situation to a dangerous animal encounter: although the chances of getting attacked by a shark are about one in 11.5 million, the consequence of an attack make this statistic unlikely to prevent a swimmer from fearing for their life if they come in close contact with the predator. Similarly, although only about 6.5 percent of men are rapists, many individuals, primarily women, are scared to cross paths with any male.
As a result of the #NotAllMen movement, feminists on social media began the #NotAllMenButAllWomen campaign. The hashtag represents an extension of the “Me Too” movement, claiming that while not all men are predators, all women have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime. Around the globe, females have shared their traumatic stories and situational frustration through social media and support groups.
“So many young girls are given a talk about how to stay “safe” when outside, but where is the same talk for men? Why don’t men get a talk about how to do the bare minimum and just be […] respectful! #notallmenbutallwomen #RIPSarahEverard,” @1D_Tleaf778 said on Twitter.
“It might not be all men, but it is all women. Every single woman can tell you of a time they have felt uneasy, they have held their bag a little closer, have gripped their keys a little bit tighter and have felt that racing heart. #notallmenbutallwomen. I just want to walk home,” @philippalouisex tweeted.
Some individuals in support of the #NotAllMenButAllWomen movement have posted videos online explaining different methods to defend oneself, such as avoiding eye contact or keeping a portable weapon on hand. While this is a helpful suggestion, it should not be necessary. Women should not have to learn new, creative forms of self defense to go about their regular lives; instead, predatory men should practice managing their emotions in a way that does not endanger another individual.
Many males have also joined the fight for gender equality by posting unique ways to avoid a possibly life threatening encounter. Again, while this is currently useful information, utilizing these tactics should not be necessary for a woman’s present or future survival. Women should not be forced to change their ways in response to a man’s inappropriate act of violence or harassment. As a first step to fix these horrid circumstances which millions of women are forced to deal with, the male population as a whole —even the self-proclaimed “nice guys”— must be educated on the right ways to treat fellow human beings.
The #NotAllMenButAllWomen campaign aims to exemplify the commonality of females being placed in unwelcome situations. Supporters of the movement are focused on bringing awareness to the situation and change to the world, not chastising every man for the inappropriate work of a few. They acknowledge that not all men are to blame and that many have had similar experiences of sexual violence. While numerous men are also victims of sexual assault, men are still the primary suspect. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an estimated 91 percent of rape and sexual assault victims are female and 99 percent of the offenders are male. While only 9 percent of the victims are men, they still face similar pressure primarily from those of the same sex. According to a 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 93 percent of male victims reported that their abuser was a man.
This movement has helped bring awareness to this horrifying and constant issue while also encouraging victims of sexual assault to reveal their trauma, bringing the abused closer to one another and stronger as a whole. While this campaign is a strong stepping stone towards feminine respect and equality, the fight is far from over. Women continue to be harassed solely on the basis of gender and abusive individuals are constantly let off the hook for their mistreatment of others. In order to change the state of affairs and allow justice to prevail, supporters must continue to bring awareness, everyone must be further educated on the rules of consent and appropriate behavior, and national governments must play a greater role in the situation and put their efforts towards creating a safer and more equal society.