“Men are trash.”

“All men suck.”

“It’s always men.” These are common assertions many women make to express their frustrations with sexism and the patriarchy. Typically when a woman makes this type of all-encompassing statement, online or in real life, a swarm of men attack with the “not all men” rebuttal. They express frustration with such a sweeping generalization of every single man on this planet. How can one assert that half of the world’s population, almost four billion individuals, are all the same? And that they are all bad? There are good men out there as well. Why do the “bad ones” represent the entire male population? There are bad women out there as well. Why do women only focus on men’s negative behavior? How come these women aren’t being called out? Why is it sexist to say all women are trash? 

Let’s be honest, men feel this overgeneralizing statement is an attack on them because they feel it is not an accurate representation of their individual character. However, using this phrase is nothing more than a three-word demonstration of anger and frustration towards sexism.

A man might think to himself, “I’m not trash. I’m a good man.” “Of course sexism exists, but I’m not sexist. I treat women with respect.” “Women have wronged me before. My girlfriend cheated on me. Women’s actions have hurt me. Why can’t I say all women are trash?” Men take the “men are trash” statement as an individual attack on their personal character without acknowledging the full picture.  

The problem with the “not all men” argument is that statements such as “all men are trash” or “all men suck” do not reflect an individual man’s character. Rather, they point fingers at the patriarchal system that privileges men over women. Of course, every individual man is not inherently bad. But every man benefits from this system that encourages “manly” and “masculine” behaviour at the expense of women. A single incidence of domestic violence, rape, or sexual assault instills an enormous amount of fear in every woman. And this fear keeps women under the system of patriarchy that forces women to constantly live in fear of men’s actions or potential ones. 

1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner (slapping, shoving, pushing). 1 in 7 women and 1 in 25 men have been injured by an intimate partner. Women fear walking around alone at night, taking an Uber, going into bathrooms alone. Women constantly live in fear of men’s actions to a point that men could not even fathom. Not all men are rapists, not all men sexually assault women, not all men commit gender-based violence, but all men benefit from these violent actions and the global system of patriarchy.

Angela Davis has said, “In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” All white people benefit from racism and to be a true ally, one needs to be actively anti-racist. Like racism, sexism also creates a hierarchy of individuals. Every man benefits from sexism. One cannot just be “not sexist.” One needs to be actively working to dismantle the sexist system put in place.

Read also:
Patriarchy 101
Internalized Sexism: Why Some Women Find Comfort In Tearing Other Women Down
Men Need To Be Better Feminist Allies