It’s Not All Men, But Shouldn’t We Act Like It Is?
A close friend of mine who we will call Ginger said to me last Monday, “I hate it when men do that.” We were talking about working in retail and the little things we didn’t like about it. I took a sip of my coffee that the barista had just placed there and continued with my story about how some men treated me as a shop worker.
While working as a pharmacy assistant and being a female, I’d experience a male customer’s sexist behaviour on occasion (which is every day). In this instance, I complained about getting called ‘gorgeous' regularly to Ginger. Many male customers who walk into the shop say to me, “hello gorgeous!”, or, “good morning, sweetheart!” And I can’t stand it.
Of course, they have been customers for years and don’t mean harm by it, but I never get called gorgeous or sweetheart in any other aspect of my life, so it’s cringy. You notice it. And it’s only men who do it. There have been more times than I can count as well when a man has meant for it to be more than just a greeting, and when you tell them no — you’re the bad guy.
“So many men do that to me too. I fucking hate it!” Ginger said after a few seconds of silence between us. The street was busy that day as we sat out on a tiny glass table with our coffees. There was plenty of noise around us to make up for our silence.
When she spoke again, I was deep into my mug of caffeine. “I know not all men are like that, but a lot of them bloody are. Which is enough for me.”
Sometimes it’s enough for me too I told her. Enough to make me fed up when any male comments. I have been one in the past to use the phrase, ‘not all men’ because I thought it was unfair to generalise, and it is unfair.
Just because one man says or does something, doesn’t mean that the next man follows the same thoughts and actions. I mean it’s obvious, isn’t it? We are all individuals, and I know this.
When we live in a male-dominated society as women, I’m not blaming every single man out there; instead, I’m blaming the male-dominated social structures that let things like this happen. You don’t see women walking into shops doing this to men. After hundreds of years of a male-dominated society, I’m still getting called gorgeous daily, and yet, if I complain about it, I have to slip in the ‘not all men' argument, just so that the person I’m talking to doesn’t think I’m anti-men.
I’m definitely not anti-men, because some of my favourite people are men. But I shouldn’t have to say not all men just so that others don’t think I’m a bitch or having a go at the entire male population.
I’m fed up with male dominance in society in general. Maybe that’s a reason we need to stop saying ‘not all men’. Because of course, it’s NOT ALL MEN. But there’s a reason some of us ‘blame' men as a collective.
As Deborah Cameron says in her book on feminism, “Individual men may choose to forego certain rights and privileges, but that doesn’t make men’s collective structural dominance disappear. A male-dominated/patriarchal society is one whose structures and institutions – legal, political, religious, economic – put men in a position of power over women.”
For hundreds of years, that’s all women have known: being second to men. And when a person greets me in my workplace with a combination of words like, “morning sweetheart,” or, “hello gorgeous,” it tends to make me feel like the male domination aspect is showing its ugly head.
So I guess in essence, saying not all men isn’t bad. But personally, it’s a phrase I want to discontinue using myself. I complained to Ginger, “I’m tired of having to explain that I don’t hate men, but I hate that now and then, one man thinks it’s okay to speak to a woman this way, innocently intended or otherwise.”
I don’t like explaining ‘not all men’, because it lets some men get away with that behavior, letting them off the hook slightly when we do.
Deborah Cameron says that women are capable of horrid things just like men and I have no disagreements there because we all know that to be true. But from the point of view of a woman who is continuously spoken down to by men, not all men needs to be scribbled out of my vocabulary.
After the lengthy conversation and shortly recalled memories with Ginger, she started to see my perspective. She saw that I didn’t want to say not all men anymore. I’m sick of saying not all men.
We don’t need people stating the obvious when we, as women, are fed up with the male structural dominance in society. It’s not each man personally, just the hold that the male population has above the rest of us.