Guest Post: Letter to Not All Men

by Kristen Shill

Dear NAM,

Hey. I come in peace. <ironically waves white hanky> I’m kind of a hippie pacifist, who has had to work really deliberately on direct and assertive communication.

Believe me, I get it that you are nice guys who believe that sexually assaulting women is morally objectionable. I believe you that you are freaked out about false allegations and their potential ramifications. (Let’s put aside for a moment that it’s statistically much more likely for a woman to be sexually assaulted than for a man to have false allegations made against him). I get it. I believe you.

Because see, part of being a feminist is that I believe that men are far more capable of controlling themselves than media, politics, and other people seem to think. I don’t believe that sexual assault is inherently gendered. I believe it is deeply rooted in power and politics, in systemic acceptance that “boys will be boys.”

You may have observed that many of the women in your life are on a reactive hair trigger right now. This may be confusing to you, NAM. You’re a nice guy. You haven’t assaulted anybody. You pay your taxes and mow your lawn and help lift heavy things sometimes.

What you’re failing to recognize is that a woman who reacts to something she would usually ignore, has been dealing with other nice NAM for years and lots of other men for her entire life and she’s finally fed up right now.

It began when she was a child, and she was told to sit nicely so she didn’t get her dress dirty while the boys moved their bodies.

It began when she started her first diet at age 8.

It began when she was mocked for her breasts.

It began when she was pressured to have sex and didn’t want to, but sort of said yes because she didn’t want to to make the boy angry.

It began when she was passed over for work advancements while less experienced, less qualified males received promotions for no articulable reason except for their maleness.

It began when she was sexually assaulted by a man the first time.

It began when she was sexually assaulted the second and third times.

It began when her body became a subject of national debate.

It began every time a woman has been belittled, threatened, harassed, or demeaned for existing in the world in a female body.

So is this about you, NAM? No. Not really. It’s not really about you.

It’s not really about you, you see.

It’s about us.

And your fragility, your defensiveness, and your reactivity to the bleeding, aching women in your life reinforces a narrative where your discomfort with our pain is more important than the anguish of generations of women who are fed up with swallowing their anger.

NAM, I believe you this is also hard for you.

Start believing us that this is, for many of us, literally a matter of life or death.

Please stop making this all about you.

Again.

Sincerely,

Yes, All Women

 

Kristen Shill is an attorney and writer with a passion for advocacy and activism. She lives with her craft beer enthusiast spouse and feral mancub. When not enjoying the great outdoors, Kristen enjoys knitting, coffee with friends, and spicy food.

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11 Responses

  1. Diane Villafane (author Anaya Roma) says:

    Thank you very much for this very eloquent post.

  2. Ziff says:

    Outstanding, Kristen!

  3. Jan Signore says:

    Actually, not all women feel exactly this way. Much of it, but not all of it.

    • DT says:

      But it is okay for those who do feel exactly this way, all of it,

      • Jan Signore says:

        DT,
        My comment was in response to the way the letter was closed as being from “all women”. My point is that we can all feel differently about things, and one should not try to speak for “Yes, All Women”. Because being empowered means we can all think the way that is true for ourselves, there isn’t just one way to think about any particular thing. Hope that helps clarify for you!

    • Kristen says:

      Hi Jan! Thank you for the comment. I am the author of this post. While I don’t presume to speak for all women, the closing line is inspired by the #yesallwomen social media hashtag. The concept is not that all women feel the way that I do precisely, but that yes, all women are subject to sexism and misogyny, and are vulnerable to sexual assault. For quick reference, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YesAllWomen.

      • Jan Signore says:

        Kristen, Thank you for that clarification, I understand your intent, it is perhaps a cultural shorthand. I do feel that words have power and it is important to use them carefully so intent is clear. It would be a sad thing if with all our getting of power we imply that there is only one way to feel about any important topic. This has happened in other very worthwhile movements and the unfortunate result can be that no diversity of thought is allowed to be viewed as a legitimate proponent of the cause at hand. To be clear, I am in agreement with most of what you have expressed, but not every single concept. Thank you for taking the time to reach out.

  4. Alisa Bolander says:

    Thank you so much, my friend. Thank you for making the invisible visible.

  5. Isa says:

    So many of us feel what you have articulated. I’m angry and sad about all of the hurt, injustice, violence and shame women have endured for so long. NAM truly does put the focus where it doesn’t belong. Thank you for your words ❤️.

  6. Marion says:

    I also don’t feel this way, and I don’t like the implication that all women do. The sign off may have been a hat tip to the yesallwomen hashtag but I still don’t think it works. I’m not asking that you not speak your own feelings, but many women do not feel this way. I’ve never experienced any of the items on your list, and in fact several of them I’ve experienced the exact opposite. You’re devaluing my lived experience with this post. I’m not being glib, it really is starting to feel like only certain viewpoints are welcome, and experiences different than the mainstream are invalid.

    • Kristen says:

      I appreciate the feedback that this post did not resonate with you and was not representative of your experience. I hear you that the use of the “Yes, All Women” cultural touchstone felt like an intrusion to your lived experienced. I am truly happy to hear that this has not been something that you have encountered. The statistical reality for most women is different, but I agree that doesn’t erase your life’s experiences.

      Thank you for taking the time to express your disagreement. I will endeavor to be more mindful of inclusive language in the future. I especially wish that I had highlighted that women of color are more vulnerable, that bisexual women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted, and that the being a trans* black woman in America is the most fatal demographic in terms of external violence.

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