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October 7, 2014

Not All Men

It’s Monday. I’m going home at 6pm and a middle aged man and a teenage boy are the only people left on the bus with me. I consider the fact that because the driver is also a man I am the only person left on the bus with the correct genetic makeup for boobs. I’m automatically scared, scared because of my own anatomy. I wonder how old I was when I realized that my own body was going to be the cause of the constant anxiety and fear I feel in situations like this. I get off at the last stop and the older man smiles at me while following me up the street. His smile drips, drips, drips and my heart is pounding, pounding, pounding. He turns off down another road, but I run the rest of the way home.

Not all men.

I’m at home on a Tuesday, beginning to plan the travels I want to go on next year. I dream of wandering the streets and meeting strangers. I just can’t wait to escape the city I’ve lived in for 17 long years. But… my mum is hesitant. She’s forever worried about the danger that being a young girl traveling alone can bring. I’ll be alone and she’s scared. Surely I’m invincible. I feel invincible. But I know, I know this danger is real and I can’t help but think to myself, if I feel unsafe in my own city, how am i going to feel in a strange place with strange men who don’t speak the same language as me? If I was my brother planning this, I would probably just be wondering if European girls are going to be hot.

Not all men.

Wednesday is a beautiful sunny day but I’ve always been told that I don’t have a “nice enough body” to wear a bikini on the beach. Ever since I was 6 years old I’ve thought that having tummy fat was ugly. That skin that doesn’t have a perfectly golden glow is undesirable. I amble to a clear patch of sand in my one piece and I can feel pairs of eyes latching onto me. Hairy men in speedos who I don’t look twice at eat into my body with their stares. I’m a piece of meat. I am a piece of meat? I am here for their amusement. Please don’t let me be eaten alive.

Not all men.

Thursday night two friends and I are walking to our god damn school dance when we hear “Jesus look at you! You sluts heading to a pole?” These words snarl out of the mouth of a respectably dressed man and we stop in horror. Shivers roll up my back in fear. It’s dark. We are alone. What. Do. We. Do??? One of us pulls the finger back. I can never be sure how quickly a sexist man can get angry so we walk quickly away. We’re angry, so so angry. But also so… deflated. I wonder if we deserve this shame.

Not all men.

Sitting on the internet, Friday night and scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed:

“Haha, good job at the game today bro. You RAPED them!”
“Damn with tits like that, you’re asking for it :P”
Another sexist comment…
Another sexist comment…
Another sexist comment…
I’m shrinking and shrinking and shrinking and I want to CRY because these boys don’t realize how small they make me feel with just pressing a few keys. I see these boys on the streets, I talk to these boys, I laugh with these boys. Dear GOD, dear GOD i hope these boys don’t think actions speak louder than words…

Not all men.

Three rules that have been drilled into me since I was young run through my mind at 1.30am on a Satur… Sunday Morning:

-Don’t ever talk to strange men
-Don’t ever be alone at night in a strange place
-Don’t ever get into a car with a stranger
I break all 3 of these laws as I pull open the taxi door. Making light conversation with the driver, he doesn’t see my sweaty hand clutching the small pocket knife I keep hidden on me at all times. He doesn’t even realize the fear I feel at his mere presence. He cannot comprehend it, he never will. How easy would this 15 minute car ride be if I was born a boy?

Not all men.
It comes to Sunday, another snoozy, sleepy, Sunday and someone has the AUDACITY to tell me not all men are rapists. I say nothing.

I’m a 17 year old girl.
When I am walking alone and it’s dark, it’s all men.
When I am in a car with a man I don’t know well, it’s all men.
When men drunkenly leer at me on the streets, it’s all men.
When a boy won’t leave me alone at a party, it’s all men.
Not all men are rapists. But for a young girl like me? Every one of them has the potential to be.


My sister, Sierra, found this on tumblr and shared it with me. The writer does an excellent job at articulating how as a women I know it's Not All Men who perpetuate sexism, violence against women,and who make public space a dangerous place for me as a women to occupy.

I recently got in an argument had a discussion with my 24 y/o brother who was frustrated with "being painted with the same brush" as men who are sexist and oppressive when he himself is not. He challenged me saying, "if people are going to assume I am sexist or oppressive simply because I'm white and male, then what's the incentive" for him to make sure that he is not. I had trouble articulating my thoughts with him aside from saying that it's the right thing to do, and that as a women I'm judged every day due to sexism, and we don't always get to decide how people see us or perceive us to be.

One of the differences being that my safety is constantly in question and top of mind, while his feelings may be the only thing to be harmed. He routinely walks home from work in the exchange and downtown to Wolesely and West Broadway at 2 am. An experience he finds calming, enjoyable, and freeing for me is experience filled with anxiety, concern for my safety leaving me hyper aware of my surroundings, going out of my way to stay on well lit streets, and switching to the opposite side of the street to avoid other groups of people. I'd like to think I'm overreacting, being more cautious then necessary, but on more then one hundreds of occasions I've been yelled at, grabbed, and made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe.

I remember one evening leaving Old Market Square after closing down the Jazz Festival and finishing my volunteer shift. I started walking towards my apartment at the corner of River and Donald feeling content with the evening, the fact that at 2:30am it was warm, people were milling about, and I was going to meet a friend and have a beer. As I approached portage avenue a man came up to me and started talking to me. I kept walking while being polite, making it clear that I was headed on my way. I wasn't scared until he grabbed my arm. He grabbed my arm forcefully saying something along the lines of "you're pretty, you're alone, and we should get to know each other."

I'm not small by any means, but I remember feeling terrified. Easily overpowered. I managed to yank my arm out of his hand, kept walking forward and he lost interest. A minuted later, shaken up, I saw a cab and jumped in not wanting to take any more chances that evening. I hoped in the back and as I was giving my address realized the male cab driver was accompanied by a male friend whom sat beside him in the front seat. Again, I immediately felt unsettled, outnumbered and that there was the potential for danger. Was I safer on the street? Or safer in a cab? The ride was short. I hopped out blocks before my apartment, figuring I would take my chances in my own neighbourhood. I remember getting home to my apartment, double locking the door, sliding down to the floor with my back against a wall...and I still didn't feel safe.

As this writer eloquently says, its Not All Men, but every man has the potential, and sometimes I'm not willing to take the chance so that someones feelings don't get hurt.

With anger and frustration,
Delaney C.

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