2007 - 2021

Where are the “Good Ones”? A Response to #notallmen

Elizabeth Campbell responds to the public debate provoked by Sarah Everard’s murder.

(Content warning: sexual assault, sexual harassment, violence)

One summer, before school started, I had my usually long hair cut short. It fell just below my chin, the shortest it had ever been, and I couldn’t wait to show my friends. I hopped on my bike to head to the neighborhood pool, riding along the same path I always did. But this time, a group of teenaged boys were sitting off to the side, smoking. “Hey! Are you a boy or a girl?” they shouted at me as I rode past. I could feel my face turn hot. “Why don’t you come and show us? Show us if you’re a girl!” they laughed. I peddled as fast and as hard as I could. I could feel my face burning, could hear them laughing, could still smell their smoke.

I was ten years old.

The thing about this story, is that there are billions of them. Women have a lifetime of stories: of men who made us feel uncomfortable; of men who embarrassed us; of men who were inappropriate with us; of men who made us feel afraid and unsafe; of men who hurt us, emotionally and physically; of men who violated us and broke our trust.

Friends. Relatives. Partners. Colleagues. Strangers.

All types of men.

I have more stories. The high school teacher who made me come to his office to make up an exam and stood behind me with his hands on my shoulders the entire time. The friend I had to physically push off of me while he told me, “I know you want it too” (he apologized the next day, but for “being too drunk”). The former mentor who sent me a shirtless selfie in response to a text I sent congratulating him on a promotion. The friend who, while celebrating the success of my first PhD annual review, suggested that my male advisor was only interested in my work because of the size of my chest. There are more. A lifetime of stories. Stories that we push down and try not to think about, yet they float to the surface like jetsam every time we have this conversation.

Have I been raped? No.

Have I been assaulted? No.

But this is what men don’t understand when we ask them to take some accountability and responsibility for change: there are so many levels that exist between not raping or killing a woman, and raping or killing a woman. There are the inappropriate comments disguised as jokes that we laugh off uncomfortably. There are the uninvited advances that we are conditioned to tread carefully with, lest the man become violent at our rejection. There are the catcalls and shouts from car windows and the “locker room talk.” The “boys will be boys.” These are the things that work together to create a culture in which women are objectified, reduced to their bodies and what their bodies can do for men. It’s a pervasive and global problem, and it’s one that men need to fix.

It’s hard not to feel hopeless or defeatist about this, because it’s overwhelming. The world watched while nearly 63 million people voted into office a man who said, “I just start kissing them…I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” The world watched while an entire political party dismissed it as “men being men” and “locker room talk.” The world watched while over 74 million people voted for him again.

Misogyny is everywhere—you barely need to look for it. And the statistics speak volumes. According to the World Health Organization, “violence against women is a major public health problem.”[1] In the United States, the leading cause of death among pregnant women is murder: 20% of women who die in pregnancy are murder victims.[2] Two women are killed by their partner every week in England and Wales. The UK police receive a call every minute about domestic violence—and these are just the cases that are reported: only 24% of domestic violence cases are actually reported.[3] In Scotland, sexual crimes are at their highest rate since 1971, the first year available for comparison. In 2016-17 there were 1,878 rapes and attempted rapes reported to the police, with only 98 convictions. In the same year, there were 58,810 domestic abuse incidents reported to the police. 30,630 were dealt with by prosecutors, with only 10,830 convictions.[4]

“Sure”, men say. “There are bad apples in every bunch. But it’s #notallmen; don’t lump the Good Ones in with the Bad Ones.” No one ever seems to want to use the complete phrase: “One bad apple spoils the bunch.” And this is true. Because of the lifetime of experiences with “bad men” that all women share, all men—yes, all men—are a potential threat. When we walk home at night (which we should be able to safely do) and we hear footsteps behind us, we don’t know whether they’re the footsteps of a Good One or a Bad One. And we wouldn’t know until it was too late. So, men, if those footsteps are yours, take them to the other side of the road so that we can, momentarily, breathe a small sigh of relief.

This isn’t to suggest that women live in a perpetual state of victimhood. Women are the strongest, most resilient people I know. We have to be. But yes, we are aware of all men. It’s a constant vigilance: “Am I being overly friendly? Will my smile or laugh be mis-interpreted as interest? Have my words or actions suggested in any way I’d be open to advances?” It’s so second-nature, sometimes we’re not even aware that we’re doing it.

When seeing women share these experiences, I have seen men reply, “stop living your life as if you’re going to be a victim.” But men don’t understand. This is not a victim-mentality; it’s one of self-preservation, one that has been ingrained into us our whole entire lives. Society tells us that it’s our responsibility to ensure our own safety: tell someone where you are; text when you get home; don’t walk alone; don’t walk at night; don’t wear headphones while walking; don’t wear revealing clothing; keep your keys splayed between your fingers; don’t wear a ponytail; be alert.

It’s exhausting.

I understand why men’s first reaction in this conversation is one of defense. I understand why they feel the need to insist, “not all men,” or “what about the Good Ones?” I get it. I do. No one wants to sit with the uneasy question of whether they might have been the cause of someone else’s discomfort, fear, or pain. It’s far easier, and certainly less traumatic, to distance oneself from “the Bad Ones.” All of the men in my stories would say they’re one of “the Good Ones”: they would call themselves allies, say they support women, say they have sisters and daughters, say they’d never do any of those awful things. Men delude themselves into thinking that women are only ever harassed or attacked by some unknown boogeyman lurking in the shadows because it’s easier to believe. It’s easier to think that it isn’t your friends, your brothers, your colleagues, your relatives, doing these things. It’s more comfortable than acknowledging the reality: at some point in your life, however unintentionally, you have made a woman feel uncomfortable.

I’m tired of listening to men tell me they’re allies. That they’re not dangerous. That they’re one of “the Good Ones.” When I see my timelines and newsfeeds flooded with women sharing, yet again, their encounters with men, I always wonder, where are the “Good Ones” in all of this? Good Men, what specific actions are you taking in your daily life to help make this world a safer and better place for women? Are you aware of how your physical presence might feel threatening to a woman? Do you refrain from sexist language and jokes? Do you hold the men in your life accountable for their words, their actions, their attitudes? Because it’s not enough anymore to just be “Good.” It’s not enough to sit by while other men perpetuate sexist attitudes and make sexist and sexual jokes at women’s expense. It’s not enough to simply not participate in “locker room talk.” You have to be proactive. You have to do better. You have to do something.

All of you.

Sarah Everard walked home from a friend’s house, like she had hundreds of times before. It doesn’t matter where she was. It doesn’t matter what time of day it was, or what she was wearing, or whether she was wearing headphones, or if she was on the phone. It doesn’t matter, because none of those things killed her.

A man did.

A police officer.

One of the “Good Ones.”

*

There’s a socially-distanced vigil this Saturday, details are here.

 

[1] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-women

[2] https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=3316485&page=1&GMA=true; Am J Public Health. 2005 November; 95(11): 1879.

[3] https://www.amnesty.org.uk/violence-against-women

[4] https://www.zerotolerance.org.uk/vaw-facts/

Comments (30)

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  1. florian albert says:

    ‘none of those things killed her (Sarah Everard). A man did. A police officer.’

    Bella Caledonia is on dangerous ground here. Nobody has been charged over this young woman’s death. There has been no trial; still less a guilty verdict.

    Overall, women are better protected by the rule of law than in its absence – imperfect as it may be.

    Robert Bolt’s famous lines in the play ‘A Man for All Seasons’ make the point that the rule of law is the best – possibly the only – protection the weak and powerless have.

      1. Gerry McN says:

        Seriously Mike, What happened to “innocent until proved guilty” in a court of law?

        I guess if it is not enough to be actually found ‘not guilty’ by an Edinburgh jury to be guilty in they eyes of Bella – then it’s no stretch to be ‘guilty’ without even the trouble of a trial.

        It’s a serious point though; how does anyone get a fair trial if their guilt is established merely by being charged by the police!

        If this man is found guilty, then I hope her rots.

        But that needs to be decided by a jury that has heard all the evidence in open court.

        That’s how it is supposed to work.

        1. Pub Bore says:

          This is true. The presumption of innocence, though often inconvenient, is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11. We abandon it at our peril.

      2. florian albert says:

        I stand by my comment.

        I sincerely hope that you will leave it – and your response – on this website.

  2. Elizabeth Campbell says:

    Really disappointed to see the men in the comments directing their energy toward the “unfair” mention of the man currently being charged and held for her murder (who is not even named), rather than discussing or even acknowledging the myriad of infuriating unfair things women encounter daily which are written about here. You’re so incensed over 9 words about a man that you’re ignoring the other 1500 about women.

    1. PW says:

      Literally any time a woman writes an article on here, I expect to see these types of comments you describe. Not bringing any analysis, not bringing any real scrutiny, just hanging there, waiting for an article which calls out a man to any degree (*coughcough*Salmond*coughcough*) just so they can shout ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and then never address toxic masculinity or even extend any solidarity to the women that experience it every day.

      Sad and pathetic little boys.

      1. I share your dismay PW. In such tragic circumstances if people have nothing to say by way of solidarity and empathy they could at least you’d think manage some dignified silence

    2. Pub Bore says:

      This is true, Elizabeth/PW; but it doesn’t alter the fact that those nine words are unfair, insofar as they presume that Wayne Couzens, who has been arrested and charged with the murder and kidnap of Sarah Everard, is guilty before the case against him has even been tried. This is true not because the words happen to be about a man and all that his masculinity entails, but because they’re about a defendant as such, irrespective of its gender.

      But, of course, my saying this doesn’t bring any analysis or any real scrutiny to the article, just my toxic masculinity.

      1. In such tragic circumstances if people have nothing to say by way of solidarity and empathy you could at least (you’d think) manage some dignified silence.

        1. Pub Bore says:

          Yes, you would; but it still doesn’t alter the fact that those nine words are unjust, for the reasons given.

          1. You don’t even know I’m referring to you

          2. PW says:

            Your inability to even recognise your own arrogance is astounding. And you comment, like an insufferable devil’s advocate know-it-all, on nearly every article on this website with the same degree of arrogance.

          3. Pub Bore says:

            That may well be the case, PW; but it still doesn’t alter the fact that those nine words are unjust, for the reasons given.

          4. Desist or you’ll be removed. Your comments are completely inappropriate. Last warning.

        2. REAL equality says:

          Yes lets just put the 1% of criminals who will commit these horrific acts and throw the whole male gender in to that equation – lets send us all to the moon so the female population can feel safe. You simply do not grasp how hard it is to try even have a civilised conversation about this, 99% of us are trying to help but you won’t let us as if we are all born rapists and misogynistic criminals who are so stupid we need to essentially turn invisible to make females feel safe at all times. MGTOW all the way. Im sick of being blamed for being born male and now it’s just gone too far. I’ve been attacked and felt threatened and intimidated more times than you have had hot dinners, and yes mostly by men but women are just as capable especially emotionally destroying men who – like many women, have been attacked, scared, wanted to not walk home alone, the list goes on. Do your research first lady, men are equally worried and 3x more likely to be attacked. I personally have the knife scars to prove it. Stop blaming “toxic masculinity” as well. When enough men realise MGTOW is the best option you’ll wish you hadn’t tarred us all with the same brush. Goodbye and hopefully no man ever looks or talks to you for fear of accusations.

      2. Elizabeth Campbell says:

        I just wish you’d share some of that outrage over the murder and assault and harassment of millions of women, also mentioned in this article, which is also against the law and also unfair.

        Again, you’re focusing your attention on the one man in this article, who I didn’t even name, over the issues millions of women face on a daily basis.

        As Mike said, if you have nothing else to contribute to the conversation, some silence in solidarity would be most welcome.

        1. Pub Bore says:

          I don’t feel any outrage over either injustice. (As a matter of fact, I find the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard chilling and the presumption of Wayne Couzens’ guilt concerning. But that’s neither here nor there; whether or how suitably I’m emotionally affected by those events has no bearing whatsoever on the rights or wrongs of either of them.)

          Are you seriously suggesting that I ought to remain silent in the face of injustice? That I ought not to speak out when a fundamental safeguarding principle, like the presumption of innocence, is infringed?

          1. PW says:

            Same brand of arrogance, yet again. It’s takes like this that drive women away from participatory politics btw, just in case you haven’t figured it out. No matter what positive effect you think your replies are having, all they’re communicating to the people concerned about the case is that you don’t materially care about a murder, or that the ’emotional arguments’ (as you put it) have no bearing on political discussions. Despite the fact that emotion is a fundamental aspect of human behaviour – more fundamental than the law, at least.

            I don’t know how to get this through to you, because I suspect you’ll just ignore the substance of what I’ve said and simply reiterate what you’ve already said, that you think our emotional reactions to a murder of a woman is ‘neither here nor there’, and that it fundamentally doesn’t matter (even though that is the entire basis of the article).

            But please tell us again how you feel – cause god knows you’ll continue to reply, and not, you know, take the hint and be quiet.

      3. LAC says:

        I would argue that your post, which mentions a suspect by name, negates your entire argument about words being unfair. I would also argue that your response just proves the writer’s point. Please ask yourself what positive thing have you done today to make the women in your life feel valued, respected, and safe from harassment. That would be a much more productive use of your time.

        1. Elizabeth Campbell says:

          Exactly, thank you. The above commenter is the only one here who has named the individual currently charged with Sarah’s murder.

  3. Jenny says:

    Elizabeth Campbell writes:
    I’m tired of listening to men tell me they’re allies. That they’re not dangerous. That they’re one of “the Good Ones.” When I see my timelines and newsfeeds flooded with women sharing, yet again, their encounters with men, I always wonder, where are the “Good Ones” in all of this?

    We can see the answer: They’re in denial. Playing games, obscuring, scoring points.

    Great piece Elizabeth

    1. Pub Bore says:

      Aye, we’re all irredeemably cursed by male privilege. Only women can free themselves from their colonisation by that privilege. Good guys simply butt out and leave women unmolested to shape their own lives.

      1. Daniel Raphael says:

        Better yet: embrace feminism for what it is, a liberatory set of values and analysis that holds the promise of real equality and freedom for people of all genders.
        Become an active ally to feminists irrespective of gender, use your voice, your pen, and your energy to advocate and organize for a world free of patriarchy. We owe it to ourselves–and each other.

        A fine article, which I’m glad to tweet to some of the troublemakers I favor.

        1. Pub Bore says:

          Yep, one of my missions as a critical theorist is to unmask colonisation in all of its myriad guises. But the fact remains that only the colonised can free itself. Men involving themselves in womens’ liberation is itself just another form of colonisation. We should simply butt out and focus on liberating ourselves as men from our own colonisers.

          1. Daniel Raphael says:

            As bogus a stance/comment/perspective as I can recall in a long while. The oppressor has everything to do, and is responsible for one thing, front and center: cease and desist oppressing others. As has been repeatedly observed, it is not women’s actions that are needed to stop the pandemic of rape and abuse–it is the actions of the perpetrators that must cease/change.

  4. B. Lynne Zika says:

    Well written; well said.

  5. Matt says:

    I’ve read and re-read this article a few times… I’ve found it really help me put into context the discrepancy I was feeling between my view of myself as good, and my confliction with the allmen argument.

    The sad truth is I wasn’t aware this was a prevalent and as exhausting as it is… that’s on me and I’m going to do my best to be aware, to be supportive and to be active in changing what I can.

    Thank you.

  6. Wilma Grant says:

    Yes, it’s undeniable, all men are monsters.
    My dream of progress is bound up with the hope that some day my remote descendants will live in a global civilization in which toxic masculinity and its carriers have been eradicated by all means necessary.
    Misandry is ugly, and, yes, exhausting, but a vital first step.
    Women must revile and despise their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons until they learn to revile and despise themselves for merely existing.
    Any thought of men as individuated beings must be resisted.
    #groupguilt

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