Image source: Sky News https://news.sky.com/story/clapham-vigil-for-sarah-everard-cancelled-organisers-say-12244410
Sarah Everard, 33 went missing on March 3rd. Her body was found but it took a few days to confirm the identity – she has just been identified as of March 12th. According to the reports, she was walking home from a friend’s house around Clapham Common where she was abducted by a man. It is not yet clear whatever else took place, but what we do know at this point is that he eventually killed her. I must stress that we still do not yet know if that was all he did to her as he is currently awaiting trial and her body was found in such a state that she had to be identified by dental records.
One of the many reasons why this story has taken the UK by storm is the fact that the perpetrator who committed the crimes against Sarah is an officer of the Metropolitan Police. It is worth noting that the same the officer has a history of accusation(s) of indecent exposure against him.
This story has of course brought up the conversation about the safety of women in the UK and all the ways in which women are vulnerable to these kinds of attacks from men. In having this conversation, you find a lot of people – most of whom are unfortunately men – raising dismissive and unconstructive arguments
‘Well, she was out late at night’
‘Women should stay at home’
‘What was she wearing’
‘It happens to men too’
‘Not all men are like that’
I won’t touch on the comments about her being out late, or what she was wearing. I will leave that to somebody with more patience than myself to better inform those with that manner of thinking, because I personally find those arguments obtuse and a particular one of them intellectually dishonest, which is something I often don’t bother entertaining in discussions like these.
What I will discuss is the argument that this male perpetrator is not reflective of men as a whole, and that the perpetrator is essentially an anomaly, a ‘psyco’, and a ‘lone wolf’. It is an argument that you will find a lot of men (and a few women) making. The problem here is this argument implies that there is no reason at all for women to worry about men in the general sense because the odds of a woman running into this particular kind of ‘lone wolf’ are miniscule. This is quite simply untrue.
The problem is that these ‘lone wolves’ are everywhere. They are your work colleagues. They are your family members. They are your friends. And as has been demonstrated with this case (and others), they even police our neighborhoods. Avoiding these ‘lone wolves’ while living a normal life at the same time is terrifyingly difficult. So much time is spent soothing the egos of men who feel personally attacked by the tone and language women use to discuss their real experiences and fears. Yet these same men will claim to have no personal involvement in such behavior against women because they are ‘good guys’. When talking about their experiences, women are being told that they need to learn how to do so in a way that doesn’t ‘devalue men’, as if making sure they aren’t hurting the feelings of random men is more important than speaking up about their experiences with predators.
‘I don’t know any guys who would do that’
While not all men will commit such heinous crimes against women, all men do not call out other men when they see or hear interactions that are problematic. There simply isn’t widespread outrage and vitriol among men when we are talking about men who demonstrate toxic mentalities about women and predators who attack them. Some predators are even popular among the communities of men they are part of. Plenty of men continue to maintain friendships with other men who they know have problematic interactions with and opinions about women.
‘Oh that’s just how he is, he’s not serious… he didn’t mean it like that’
And so sadly, nobody does anything until it’s too late.
The predator who abducted and killed Sarah had at least one allegation of indecent exposure against him, but we don’t know exactly how many allegations yet (as of the time this was written). What we do know is that he is only now being investigated for the allegation(s), even though it is reported that they are completely unrelated to the case of Sarah’s murder. That means there were other victims of his criminal, predatory behavior who were ignored and are only being heard now, because now he’s gone too far.
Allegations that should have been investigated at the time they were made are instead swept under the rug and ignored, unless one day the man goes too far. Only when he’s being investigated for rape or murder, here comes a wave of allegations of predatory behavior that were ignored at those times for one convenient reason or another. It’s okay to make misogynistic jokes with the boys. It’s okay to banter about toxic interactions with women. It’s: ‘oh nah he doesn’t mean it like that, he’s just got a dark sense of humor’. And when seeing friends with unhealthy relationships with women in their lives its: ‘yeah… but that’s between him and his girl though…’ or‘I don’t wanna get involved in that…’ and ‘that’s their business’.
It’s like everyone is waiting for the day he goes too far, but at that time it will be too late.
Because the thing about a lot of predators is that in a lot of ways, they groom acceptance in their communities of colleagues, family members and friends. Often, rape and murder aren’t how it starts, but how it ends. It starts with little ‘edgy’ comments and jokes, next you’re excusing problematic behaviors and conversational undertones, because ‘that’s (my) guy’ and ‘he’s not really like that’. Then the day he goes too far its: ‘wow, I didn’t think he was that kind of guy’, but plenty of men are happy to laugh off an ‘edgy’ joke, not understanding that every time they do, they are helping to foster acceptance of ideologies that are harmful to women.
‘Not all men’ is dismissive. It says: ‘we don’t have to address this because not all of us are like this’. But there are plenty of men like this. Plenty of men have problematic and dangerous mentalities about women, it’s just that not all will be brazen enough to take it far enough to whip out their genitals on public transport, or sexually assault a woman, or rape, or kill. But plenty of men will trivialize sexual harassment as ‘just being a bit persistent’ but that is how it begins. For a lot of men, misogynistic mentalities on their own are not enough of a red flag. This sets the bar far too low and means that we will inevitably only catch predators when its too late.
Rather than present the dismissive argument of #notallmen, I encourage men to be on the lookout for these kinds of men. They won’t be hard to find because as I mentioned previously: they are everywhere.
When you recognize them, Be vocal. Be proactive. Call it out. Wherever needed, call it in.
If women believed that all men were predators out to attack them, the rates at which women break laws around carrying concealed weapons would be significantly higher. Shouting ‘not all men’ online and in conversations like this offers no solutions at all, it is redundant. They are wasted words in a conversation where your words as a man matter. Men’s words and actions have the power to change the culture around how these types of men are handled in our communities. And quite frankly, men should be outraged at this behavior too, because unfortunately in a lot of ways, there is nothing unusual about the case of Sarah Everard.