I hate men. There, I said it. And in come the deafening screams from men, claiming that “not all men” are dangerous, that “not all men” abuse and harass women and that, obviously, they are part of this special group called “not all men”. While this might be their way of forcing the blame onto someone else’s back and trying to tell us women that they are on our side, there is something that men, and I truly mean all men, don’t understand: This isn’t about you.
From a far too young age, women all around the world get told that men can sometimes be a danger to them. People tell us to not walk alone, to never trust strangers, to not go on walks at night, to never stand up against a man because he might just decide to become violent once he’s been provoked. We learn how to physically defend ourselves, where to walk in the evening, which numbers to call if we need help, what to do in an emergency situation. From day one, we are prepared for the worst. Prepared for men to put our lives in danger at any given point. While none of this should ever be our responsibility.
Men are the ones that should be educated. They should learn to not victimize women, to not see them as prey or an object they can own and use and exploit however they like. They should understand that women aren’t here to serve them or that they are some sort of helpless figures that need saving. And they should stop blaming women for their wrongdoings. Women don’t get abused or raped because of their actions, because of what they wear, how they look, what they say. Women get abused and raped because abusers and rapists exist. And while you would think that men understand what us women have to go through and would want to take action to help – seeing as they all have mothers, sisters, daughters, female relatives –, it seems to be a concept harder to grasp for some.
Even now, in 2021, millions of women are being punished by men every single day. Not for murder, not for burglary, not for breaking the law. But simply for stepping outside of the house, for going on a walk, for breathing, for existing. And while many of us thought that only the night was a time to avoid, not even the light can save us from the darkness anymore. Just mere weeks ago, a woman in Germany was raped while she was out for a run. It happened right next to the main bus station, at 8am in the morning. There was nobody to help her.
According to recent studies, just about every young woman in the UK has experienced sexual harassment at least once in her life. Among women aged between 18 and 24, 97% stated they had been sexually harassed before, while 80% of women of all ages said they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces. Until now, I have always counted myself as one of the lucky ones who have never had to go through sexual harassment like that. I have never been groped in a club, followed by a man at night, pushed or touched in inappropriate ways. What I seemed to have forgotten in all of this is that sexual harassment happens in millions of ways, some more discreet, some more extreme. It’s the group of men calling after you on the street, the old man grabbing you at the waist, the pictures you get sent without ever giving any form of consent. Sexual harassment has got countless faces, and I’m devastated to say that I have already encountered some of them in my life.
After all, it seems like there is no way out of this, like there is no hope. Just look at Sarah Everard. As a woman, you read through her case and think “she did everything right, she did exactly what we have always been taught to do”. She wore bright clothing, called her boyfriend, went down a route she had taken hundreds of times before. She did everything right – and died. And sadly, her case is just one amongst many, proving over and over again that the moment women take a step outside, they have to fear for their own lives.
Whenever I am somewhere by myself, my first instinct is to look for an escape route, to create a plan for what to do in case of. Some include running to the next house where lights are on, while some see me jumping down a railing and maybe even breaking a leg or an arm on the way. It’s what I’m willing to do to save my own life because anything is better than staying, right? When I was a child, I was terrified to take an empty bus, afraid of what might happen to me. I don’t take taxis alone, because what if the driver suddenly takes me down a wrong street and that is it for me. I automatically tense up when I pass a group of men, at night and day. I avoid dark streets, run through them if I must. I carry an alarm with me in case I have to push it against someone’s ear to earn just enough seconds to escape. I ask my friend to message me when she gets home. She lives five minutes away from me.
Every day, I wake up knowing that somewhere right this minute, a woman is being hurt just because she is a woman. She never wronged anyone, always kept quiet, always did the right thing. But it still didn’t save her, because there are men out there that will always take advantage of her, of the fear engrained in her. It’s a level of injustice that seems so immense, so suffocating to even begin to grasp. And there is always that one question of when will men finally change, when will they finally stop abusing us, raping us, killing us? When we say we hate men, we mean all men and no men at the same time. We might not mean our loving husbands, our brothers, our fathers. But after all, if they don’t call out and combat the false, hurtful actions of fellow men, they are part of the problem. We’ve come to a point where just not being part of the issue isn’t enough anymore, you have to actively get involved and do good. This is the only way this will ever be resolved.
What people need to understand is that we don’t want pity or more lessons on how to defend ourselves or a knight in a shiny armour on a white horse to come and rescue us. All women want is to be seen as equals and to be treated as such, simply because we deserve it. We deserve to leave the house without fear. We deserve to stand up for ourselves against men without that quiet voice in our heads telling us that we might be risking our lives right now. We deserve to walk home in peace. We deserve to exist. And we deserve to live.
Written by Laura Weingrill