I’m not going to make any apologies for the first part of this post, but unqualified gross generalisations are gender neutral. If it’s inappropriate for a man to make an unfounded generalisation about a woman, it stands to reason that the reverse is also true and that it is equally inappropriate for a woman to make such a comment about a man.
By way of example, if a man were to say something along the lines of: “women are opportunists who use their sex to trap men into getting what they want from them”, that man would, quite rightly, be called out for such a comment (even in the circumstances where, in that man’s experience, it happens to be true). On the other hand, however, if a woman says: “men are rapists in waiting and only ever after one thing”, woe betide anyone who dares to utter the dreaded “not all men…”, even where, again, in the experience of the woman concerned, what she is saying is factually correct.
There is, as there sadly so often is in life, a bit of a double standard here. The fact that for once it “favours” women, doesn’t make it any less of an issue.
So let us be clear on one thing, unfounded generalisations about either gender, by either gender are equally wrong.
Of course, it isn’t quite as easy as that.
When someone says, “Not all men…” we know that it doesn’t apply to all men. That’s the thing about generalisations, they include everyone, irrespective of whether or not they apply. But, and here is the rub, while it may not be all men, it could be any man; the problem is that the woman in question will never know for sure until the man in question reveals that they are, in fact, an abuser/rapist and, at that point, it is almost certainly too late. I get that “innocent” men can get fed up with being tarred with the same brush as those who do treat women like objects; those men who feel that sex is their right and women are obliged to provide it to them. I understand, because I get fed up too. Let us be completely honest though, if being verbally lumped in with rapists and abusers by means of liguistic shorthand is the only thing we have to get pissed off with then, actually, we’ve got it quite easy. I mean, however irksome being grouped with rapists is, it’s not really anything compared to actually being raped, is it? On the whole, and speaking as someone who has experienced physical and emotional violence in my past, if that’s my only worry, I’ll take a bit of inappropriate labeling over physical/emotional/sexual abuse every single time. Sadly though, for many women, they don’t get to make that choice, they only know the other person is abusive when it’s far too late to stop them.
Like generalisations, abuse is also colourblind to gender. Both men and women can be the perpetrators of abuse; both men and women can be the victims of abuse but, the simple facts are, irrespective of your gender, if you are the victim of abuse, it is more likely that you are female and that your abuser was male.
What #MeToo has achieved is that it has made it acceptable for women to speak out and speak up about the abuses they have had to endure. It should never have been unacceptable and, if we take it a step further, it shouldn’t even be necessary. Women shouldn’t need to play rape roulette with men, but unfortunately there are still far too many men who believe that sex is their right, there are far too many men that abuse their positions; but what is possibly worse still is that there are still far too many men who meekly say “Not all men…” rather than speak out against those in our midst who are the cause of the problem. It’s not enough for decent men to rail against the “injustice” of being tarred along with the abusers and rapists, they need to speak out against those men, not to hide behind “boys being boys” or “ladish” behaviour. Abuse, be it sexual, emotional, physical or in any other form or combination is wrong; it is never excusable or condoneable, and we need to join our voices with our sisters, daughters, wives, partners, mothers and all other women who have been subject to the worst effects of male privilege.
One last point is that perhaps #MeToo also has to be more welcoming to men who are victims too. While it has encouraged women to speak out, male victims of abuse still largely suffer in silence. Men are supposed to be tough and strong (there’s another of those double standards for you) and admitting you are a victim still, for many men, has the stigma of weakness attached to it; and even more so when the abuser is a woman.
So, let’s look at the positives #MeToo has made, and they are many; but the struggle has only just started. There is still much to overcome.