“Not all men” has become such a ubiquitous social media response over the last few years that it’s now largely become ironic. Yet, still, wherever a woman takes to social media to say something negative about men (or even just a man), you stand a good chance of seeing a straight-up #NotAllMen appearing in her mentions, like a drunk with a pizza stumbling into an episode of Autumn Watch.
To be honest, as a man I see the appeal of NAMing. I belong to the sex that is responsible for most of the violence against women, almost all of the sexual abuse in the world, and at least 104% of the general, everyday creepiness. Who the hell wouldn’t want to set themselves apart from that?
Unfortunately, because of a few hundred billion isolated and unrepresentative incidents over the past ten thousand years, women have formed the opinion that, collectively, men aren’t to be trusted. Individual men can, of course, form relationships with individual women and, one-by-one, earn their trust, but none of us gets to flash a smile, say, “Hey, not me. I’m a nice guy,” and claim their free pass.
For some this bar to automatic acceptance has gnawed at their soul. They cling to the belief that all men should be seen as benign, until their actions prove otherwise, like they cling to their Lolicon pillows.
Not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with believing that our first instincts should be to trust each other. It’s a nice thing to believe, a fragile glass ornament of human connection in a cynical world.
Thing about glass baubles is that you really don’t want to be holding one when it gets crushed.
If you’ve already done as much picking shards out of your hand with a pair of tweezers as you’re going to then you might start to get a little concerned that, over the past couple of years, social media has seen a real fashion for bearded men, who’ve never previously expressed any interest in Feminism suddenly take a pronounced interest in feminist discourse. Suddenly they’ve gone from claiming to be feminists, in the transparent hope that it would make them seem desirable, or at least less threatening, to being arbiters of what is and is not feminism and which women are, or are not, feminists.
Transgender politics has been the crucible of their conversion, even though none of them seem to be trans themselves. Instead they’ve declared themselves allies, and this has given them a slogan, “Trans-women are women”, and a goal, creating a world where the only requirement to be a woman is to say that you are one.
This goal is usually expressed through the progressive- and technical-sounding call to reform the Gender Recognition Act, the process by which one can become, in the eyes of the law, a different gender to that which you were at birth. This is a goal which would open new doorways to men, all of them marked “Women only”.
So successful has the call to reform the GRA been, having been picked up as a stated policy objective of several major political parties, that it’s been joined by campaigns to call out women for “gate-keeping” womanhood; demanding that the smooth road of transition from male to female is policed by the speed-bumps of surgery, hormone treatment or a requirement to look feminine.
These demands, like the erstwhile demands that unknown men be presumed benign, have come cloaked in the fabrication that they are a basic requirement of being kind and inclusive and, like their predecessors, they have been shown, time and again, to be only a single rejection away from becoming abuse and threat, plus-size ça change.
But this time they’re making headway. The people who said “Not all men” have discovered that the magic words aren’t, “I’m a nice guy”, but “I’m not a guy”.
Women are having their protections stripped away, and nobody seems ready to fight their corner. Certainly not all men.