Unpicking #MeninistTwitter – The Frustrated Male Backlash To Solange’s Attack On Jay-Z

They're part of the same crew who want you to remember that 'not all men' are rapists//paedophiles/violent psychopaths


by Daisy Buchanan |
Published on

It has been quite the week for memes, but in the last couple of days, one in particular keeps making me shriek with laughter. Actor and journalist Pia Glenn ‘reworked’ the *Game Of Thrones *‘All Men Must Die’ promo material to feature legendary US pop culture party crashing character Kool-Aid man bursting into view to say ‘Not all men!’

You know what this is about. You’ve been out in a mixed group, furiously recounting how a group of strange guys in a car beckoned you over to ask for a blowjob, and an old, well-meaning man friend will shout 'Not all men are like that!' Or you’ll be talking to your boyfriend and something newsy will come up about Boko Haram, or Unilad, or Operation Yewtree, and he’ll shake his head and say 'Not all men are rapists/paedophiles/violent psychopaths.'

Kelsey McKinney brilliantly summarized why these words have taken over the internet, and why this is not a helpful response.In summary, the 'Not all men' response hijacks important arguments about sexism, and gives its users a way to redirect the conversation away from the point and back to themselves. This week, we learned that women are much more likely to be interrupted when they're speaking than men are, so it's safe to say that even if people aren't using the expression itself, the spirit of the sentiment persists.

But it’s hard not to feel a little sympathy for ‘not all men’ guys. Some of them might be missing the point, but it can only be painful, saddening and frustrating to constantly hear people of your gender being spoken of as criminals and aggressors. I become furious when people make generalisations about women, and for the most part, that only extends to periods and shoes. We know that not all men are rapists and attackers, but thanks to 24 hour rolling news, we tend to hear about a lot of them. All the time. If this makes us, as women, feel endlessly vulnerable, sad and scared, most men are going to have an emotional reaction, too. Even feminism’s greatest male advocates and supporters are going to struggle not to feel as if they’re always being accused of hundreds of crimes they didn’t commit.

This week, when Jay-Z, one of the most high profile figures in the global entertainment industry was attacked, a lot of the internet laughed. Within minutes, #JayZSaidToSolange and #JayZs100thProblem were trending. A pair of my personal heroines, Debbie Harry and Anya Hindmarch were not above turning an act of violence into something that could be used for entertainment and profit. But assault should never, ever be trivialized, regardless of who hit who - and what gender they were. And so, some parts of the internet retaliated with #meninisttwitter.


Some of the tagged tweets made me laugh, some of them made me grind my teeth (there were plenty of references to being “more than just a wallet” and “how about you pay for dinner sometimes?” - making gold digger jokes is essentially responding to sexism with more sexism, and that’s not helping anyone.) And some made me feel genuinely puzzled. @Mellowtoo_hype who said ‘How much I make a year & how tall I am should not be factors on why I cannot get your phone number #MeninistTwitter’. I'm still staring at it and struggling to analyse it. Is he saying he's entitled to our phone numbers, even if we're not attracted to him for superficial reasons? Or that if we're going to withhold our details it should be because we haven't responded to his personality? I can't work out whether he's delivering super sharp satire or if he's part of the problem, but the point is that he felt compelled to add his voice to a challenging hashtag that seemed to be bourne out of a genuine sense of frustration. Other tweets are impossible to argue with. 'We are not your punching bags ladies. #MeninistTwitter' and 'We are men, not pieces of meat'. It seemed that the Jay-Z incident had triggered a visceral reaction from many men, who sounded hurt, alone and sick of feeling that their emotions and problems were invisible.

Obviously, socially, the scales are still tipped in favour of men, and we have to go a long way to redress and address the fact an average of 400,000 sexual attacks on women are reported every year, just one rape in 30 results in a conviction and at least 70 per cent of rapes are thought to go unreported. Women earn approximately £300,000 less than men over the course of our lifetimes, and worldwide, 125 million women are thought to be living with the consequences of FGC. With all that in mind, it’s hard to stay sympathetic and interested when men wail ‘But what about my feelings?!’ Still, I believe it’s definitely worth trying.

Misogyny hurts us all, and men and women are capable of it. A recent survey by the University of Sussex revealed that both sexes are just as likely to use sexual pejoratives to verbally abuse other women on Twitter. So we’re not blameless either. And I have plenty of male friends who are feminists in word and deed, who have spent a substantial amount of time on the Everyday Sexism feed for the sake of their education, only to come away feeling quite defensive, as well as fearing that all the women in the world must want them dead because their fellow fellas behave so reprehensively.

We need the ‘Not all men’ men to know we’re on their side, and we want them on ours. Feminism is not a fight against men. It is - or should be - women and men coming together to fight inequality, injustice and the legacy of a million historical misunderstandings. Sexism is almost never an informed decision, but the product of a lack of knowledge. It’s great that many men are enlightened enough to reject it. We know some of them have already joined us in challenging it, but we hope to see even more doing so.

Follow Daisy on Twitter @NotRollerGirl

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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