No, Not All Men but All The Women I Know
My name is Daniela. My friend group consists of 75% men and I love them dearly. I am 39 and this is me when for the seconds it takes to take a photo I without care smile for the camera.
When the ‘click’ has passed I am left to my own thoughts again and proceed with life as I know it. What life do I know you ask? Well, why don’t I tell you.
I remember warnings from my mother as I was a young child about the importance of being vigilant, especially when it comes to men. I was told when walking on my own to keep close to houses, watching each door in case I needed to ring that doorbell. “Don’t take sweets and if a man asks for directions in his car, make sure to keep a safe distance between you and the car.” My mum was asked directions as a young child and only due to her fighting back his grip on her hand, escaped a potential abduction.
Once an older gentleman walked towards us as we strolled through town, he handed me a rose and as he passed us said “red lips are for kissing”. I was about eight. My mum seemed perturbed by the encounter, as an innocent child I instead felt flattered. He walked on, no further engagement from that man — a fleeting moment such as this usually with time leaves a child’s memory as it reaches adulthood, for some reason it stuck.
My daughter and I, on holiday in Portugal, were taking in the exciting unknown surroundings as a 20 something old boy walked by and as he did, grabbed my thirteen-year-old daughter’s vagina walking away laughing. She immediately burst out in tears. Shock embracing her expression. I could do nothing but console her, and it struck me there and then, I can’t tell her that this was an isolated incident, and she would never have to worry about something like that happening again. I had to have that “talk” with her.
My daughter is now 17 and in a recent tweet supporting the #notallmenbutallwomen hashtag she disclosed how she had been cat-called, followed home, assaulted, and harassed by men. She hasn’t even reached adulthood yet, and her friends can echo her experiences.
A friend’s daughter was raped when working abroad.
Another friend was gang-raped.
Someone I know got sexually assaulted in a taxi, by the taxi man.
My mother was stalked and held captive in a hotel room for a few days in her early twenties. I can’t imagine the fear she must have felt but traumatizingly she was only too aware of a man’s potential threat growing up with a stepdad who used to molest her.
My younger sister has her own stories to tell and found herself in an abusive relationship.
My friend’s mother, my friend herself, her close relation, as well as her own friend have been in abusive relationships. All very different men, very different backgrounds, very different age groups and all very different girls.
My girlfriends don’t have enough hands to count the uninvited gropes on their bodies from men in nightclubs. So much so that it has become a normality, a quick “oi, don’t do that again” and then moving on to partying again. There have been occasions bouncers had to be called for help to remove the perpetual advances of a man who did not want to take ‘no’ for an answer.
One evening last summer, my daughter, my sister, my sister’s friends & I were walking through Frankfurt’s city centre. A clearly rather liquidated guy decided it would be a good idea to walk beside us asking whatever inappropriate question came to his mind. I told him to “f**k off” — he didn’t like that, and his rebuttal was to tell me how ugly I am, and that no one would go near me anyway, let alone him. My daughter started to cry in defence of me, reassuring me that I am not ugly and asking why men had to be such a**holes at times? I assured her that it does not affect me, and she shouldn’t let it get to her either. I told her I was used to it, my sister and her friends echoing this to a 17-year-old. “We just ignore it!”. My daughter was vividly angry at the fact that this will one day be her ‘norm’ — ignoring it.
I, myself had a man take a shine to me in my childhood. I didn’t even realise it, until my mother & stepdad reminded me of the holiday. I have been hugged a little too tightly, with hands moving towards my butt on multiple occasions at a former workplace. That particular man, in a much senior position than myself, assured me that surely I like a little flirt. I didn’t. I felt uncomfortable but still just simply laughed it off and walked away every single time not letting my discomfort show. Why? Because, throughout my years I have come to learn that if you say something people will merely brush it off as “ah that’s just Billy, he is harmless really, think nothing of it”. (Billy is not his real name).
So many times, when misogynistic jokes were made in a predominantly male work environment, they were followed by a dismissive “those new PC people would have something to say about that” — so I joined in with the laughter in order to not come across as one of those disliked PC people, the only girl in the room.
Did I mention the time a man flashed me as I walked home from a night out, or the inappropriate advances made as I was standing at the bar ordering a drink, followed by insults if I didn’t take the bait? I could go on, but I would never come to an end because the list is long.
Besides that, I survived two physically violent relationships. Another mentally abusive one and another in which I was sexually assaulted. All very different men, all very different backgrounds, all very different ages and even different nationalities — same girl. Would you be surprised when I tell you that most of their friends view these very men as good men because they have never learned of how they treat women in the comfort of their own home? Family members too. I never told them; do you think they did?
An ambulance driver once asked me, as I called them in fear of answering suicidal thoughts following a bad relationship, why I, such a pretty girl could even have problems like this?! A flippant remark, sure. No harm done. If you think about it though; I was crying on the doorsteps of my home, contemplating suicide and the first thing that came to the ambulance driver’s mind was to console me by objectifying me?
This is a recount of my immediate surroundings. There are so many other stories I have come to learn about, but again I would sit here for a very long time if I had to recall every single one.
So, dear men,
when you say ‘not all men’ — which men exactly are you telling me are with 100% certainty safe? Because I don’t know, and I don’t think you do either.
I watch a good friend of mine tell his teenage daughter to not do this, or that he worries because he knows what men are like! Why do you say that when you claim so loudly ‘not all men’? I don’t know one man who has a daughter that hasn’t used the line “I know what men are like!” when trying to convince their child to not go somewhere or do something. Why is that if you now are trying to reassure us all ‘not all men’ are to fear?
I have to be wary when I go meet my friends for drinks. My mother has to bring her phone when she walks her dog in her countryside surroundings. My daughter calls me if she is walking alone IN DAYLIGHT so I can offer her comfort and security. My friends tell me to text each other when having gotten home safely and to always note the taxi driver’s licence. Always!
With that in mind, I would like to ask you again, as you are so adamant that Sarah Everard’s horrifyingly heart-breaking murder was a “freak” incident and as I have given you accounts of a few different people in my immediate circle, experiences in four different countries, including your own — which men are safe for me to walk alongside, alone in the dark? Or if not that, which men can I point out to stand beside of when ordering a drink at the bar, without receiving a sleazy comment or being groped by? Which men would you leave your own daughter alone with?
I watch my friend who has a teenage son and a teenage daughter and how he celebrates his son’s success with women in a perhaps chauvinistic proud way, if you know what I mean — in the same breath he tells his daughter to be vigilant. Exactly the same conversation I had with my mum many years ago.
Change the dialogue with your sons because only then can we make a change for your daughters, and only then can we all join in with your hashtag #notallmen — believe it or not, #allwomen want that too to be the truth, more than anything! More than you!