I used to say it so often. Whenever women would be talking about their perfectly legitimate fears and experiences with men, I'd feel the bile rise up in me. "Hey!" I'd think, "I'm not like that. I've never done that. They're attacking me. They're calling me a [sexist/creepy/rapist]." I'd suddenly feel the need to get this conversation back in control. These silly women were making a very terrible mistake. And while, of course, I'm not a sexist and I quite agree with the principle, I need to make sure they know that not ALL men are like that. I'm not like that. Please don't think I'm like that.
But guess what, they weren't accusing me. They weren't saying every man is like that. They felt safe enough around me to talk about their fears and concerns and instead being respectful and using this as an opportunity to learn about my friends genuine concerns as women I did the worst thing I could have done. Taken over control of the conversation and make it all about me. All about men.
God forbid, I should respect the safe space of women to talk about being women. No, I had to make this a conversation about how I feel. How my slight concern that they were being unfair towards me was more important than the misogyny they face every day. I had become the patriarchy. And it sickens me to think that's true.
Because that is what "Not All Men" does. It shuts down women and their ideas and words and forces them to coddle the feelings of men. To temper their truth because it makes us uncomfortable.
We should feel uncomfortable. Maybe we haven't told a sexist joke, hit a woman, raped a woman. But if we think we've grown up in such a sexist society and not learned and internalised sexism then we are guilty of the most appalling hubris. We are all sexists to some degree. We need to face up to it, forgive ourselves and learn from it.
Guess what the best way to learn is? To learn how to not be sexist? It's simple: Listen. To. Women.
Don't immediately filter them through a lens of how it makes you feel. Honestly open your ears and challenge yourself to be changed by what women are telling you. Get past the personal conviction and hurt and respect the voices of the women in your life.
Trust me, it makes you a much better person. Yes, maybe ALL men don't do the things that you hear women saying. But guess what, not ALL men have to shut those conversations down. Some men (hopefully one day all of us) can shut up and listen with an open mind. Why not be one of those men?