Column: “Not all men”: the build-up of unregulated misogyny


Reena Alsakaji

Content warning: the following media contains mention of sexual assault. 

For far too long, sexual harassment has been normalized in our society: Children taught to “cover up” in the presence of an older man, girls facing the unregulated and often-times ignored sexual harassment “games” in middle school, teenagers stripped of their education when told to change, told that they are “a distraction.” When women speak out against these tragedies, they are often met with the ignorant and useless phrase, “not all men.” 

Everyone’s heard the statistics—1 in 6 American women have been the victim of rape. For many people, sexual assault just means a quick Instagram post, and the activism stops there. Their words are read by adults who choose not to take action, by teenagers who have the privilege to laugh and by young boys who take offense, claiming that it isn’t all men, completely missing the point. 

The recent uprise of this statement resulted from Sarah Everard’s disappearance on March 3. Sarah was a 33 year-old woman working as a managing executive with years ahead of her. Her body was found a week following her disappearance. Women from all over began to speak up about their own trauma. Though the phrase “not all men” was rampant in its retaliation, the movement then threw back the phrase, “not all men, but all women.” 

The initial thought of “it’s not all men” when presented with incidents of sexual assault is a clear red flag. Far too often do people take personal offense when presented with a statement that insults a toxic and dangerous structure, not the actual individual they are speaking to. When standing up against sexual assault, women are not screaming, “every single individual man is at fault,” but rather the fact that the system allows many men to get away with their actions. 

Expressions such as this only lead to more harmful aspects of rape culture. They’re only an excuse designed by men used to not call out other men for sexual assault. That obstinate resistance towards truly understanding misogyny and what it can cause is something that needs to be fixed. The phrase “not all men’’ is merely a result of both flat-out ignorance and a complete lack of accountability.