Someone gives you five apples. They tell you that one of those apples are so rotten that it could make you sick or even kill you. However, all the apples look exactly the same on the outside, it’s obvious that you’d be reluctant to eat any of those apples. But, your reluctance isn’t a personal attack on all apples, it is as a result of the circumstances that you and the apples find yourselves in.
So now, some of the apples feel offended by your reluctance. Why? Because, “Not All Apples Are Rotten”. This is not only a valid point, it is also a statistical fact; 80% of the apples are not rotten. Does this change your dilemma? No. The reason that this doesn’t change your dilemma is because you don’t just have the four healthy apples complaining, you have ALL five complaining. The bugger with the psychopathic worm that will land you in hospital, he is also complaining.
Now you are frustrated because if the rotten apple were obvious to see, this situation would have been avoided. On top of that, all that the apples care about is their innocence, they are all thinking about themselves and do not consider the fact that appeasing their hurt feelings means that you must gamble with your life. Even sadder is the fact that the apples know whom the rotten one is, but they will not say anything. So, you end up feeling like all apples are rotten, not because they actually are, but their self-centred behaviour is.
We are not talking about fruit. We are talking about human beings whom we want to deny the freedom to feel what they want to feel about their own bodies, simply because those feelings make us uncomfortable. Yes, generalised statements about “men are dogs” are deeply hurtful, but when something gruesome happens to a woman, it does impact on the collective psyche of many others. This is in the very same way how when a black person is violated as a result of racial brutality, it impacts on the collective psyche of many other black people and no one can tell you not to feel angry simply because it didn’t happen to you. So we cannot deny women their collective humanity by trying to isolate their experiences and compartmentalise them about it.
The fallacy of Not All Men lays in the fact that IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW YOU FEEL about women and how they deal with their fears. Taking offence to their frustrations doesn’t make you a better man. To say that black women have suffered more at the hands of black men than any other isn’t to cast all black men as bad. However, this is the reality. These days, our game is so slick that women have no idea who the bad apple is. ALL women are likely targets of gender or sexual violence in some form or another. This is not a situation that THEY created. They did not go out looking for insecurity. Yes, the are many women who hate men for unfounded reasons but their numbers are minuscule compared to those who genuinely fear walking home alone at night. We must stop taking personal the choices that women make for themselves, about themselves.
I am not, in any way, speaking on behalf of women. That is a lived experience that I have no comprehension of. I am, however, trying to listen to what they tell us every single day and trying to understand it from a human point of view. It is not wrong for anyone to have an opinion about someone else. You are entitled to have thoughts on any given subject. But those thoughts cannot override another person’s right to be, to exist, especially when their decisions do not involve you. Generalisations are always harmful; the sermon about men being dogs hurts especially those who are trying their best. At this stage of the gender dialogue, however, black men have a lot more reparations to concede. The relegation of the black woman to the lowest rungs of the societal ladder did not happen in our absence, or without consent, or in part, without our active participation. Sure, you’re good guy. You’d never violate a woman, sure. Unfortunately, there are no medals for being a decent man. It sucks, I know, but it is pretty standard practice for a human being. We need to accept that we do not understand gender relations as well as we thought we did. Just because the truth is uncomfortable doesn’t mean that it is a lie. At the end of the day, #NotAllMen doesn’t make a single woman safer.