Written By: Anusha
Edited By: Joaquin
Graphics By: Sarah
A recent study conducted by UN Women UK revealed that “97 percent of women aged 18 to 24 in the UK have experienced sexual harassment in public spaces, and more than 70 percent of women of all ages have endured such behaviour”. When this study went viral, some questioned its validity. Because the number was so appalling, people posed questions such as “well, what exactly is the definition of sexual harassment?” “But, exactly how many people were surveyed?” “How do we know who is telling the truth?” and more.
On the other hand, the publication of this study along with the abduction and murder of Sarah Everard caused a series of protests, classified as the 97% movement. Everard was reported missing on March 4th and 5 days later, police officer Wayne Couzens was arrested on the charge of kidnapping and murdering Everard. With the spread of the 97% statistic and Everards death, women all over the world have spoken up about their experiences with harassment. On Tik Tok, #SarahEverard has garnered 147.6 million views; one Tik Tok created by @elleflorencecarroll has a total of 4.5 million views with, “rest in peace sarah. your death marks a turning point for us. Things need to change and it’s not women that are the problem.” This, in turn, caused a response from men who felt they were being unfairly stereotyped or bracketed along with a few ‘bad apples’; they commented on the issue at hand with statements along the lines of “Not all men are like that” or “well, we would never do that”.
The #NotAllMen is a common justification used as a counter to when a woman speaks about sexual harassment. Men and women have opposed those standing up for gender equality by saying that most men would never behave in that manner and shouldn’t be roped in with the likes of rapists and sexual harassers. On the other hand, political writer, Kirsty S, counters, with “To ask us to hand out cookies and ‘Well Done For Not Raping Anybody’ badges to men who rush to tell us #NotAllMen, is unreasonable at best, and insulting at worst”.
Although #NotAllMen is an understandable response from men who don’t want to be roped into the same category as those accused of predatory behaviour, it distracts from the problematic issues that the 97% movement raises. There are other, more positive ways to avoid being classified into a general bracket; for instance, discussing sexist stereotypes and how we can redefine them. The response can be a proactive action rather than just a defensive response that seeks merely to share the blame.
So what are some things you can do to support women? Becoming aware of the challenges women face and engaging in conversation about sexual harassment with other men can be very effective. As we discuss the issue more and more, it becomes easier for women and men to be comfortable speaking about their experiences, and eventually the stigma surrounding sexual harassment disappears.
Dworak-Peck, Suzanne. “How Men Can Be Allies in the Fight against Sexual Harassment and Assault.” USC News, University of Southern California, 2 Aug. 2018, news.usc.edu/146575/how-man-can-be-allies-in-the-fight-against-sexual-harassment-and-assault/.
Hawley, Samantha. “As UK Police Searched for Sarah Everard’s Killer, They Zeroed in on a Man Hiding in Their Own Ranks.” ABC News, ABC News, 20 Mar. 2021, www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-20/sarah-everard-death-one-week-on/13261376.
Stricklan, Kirsty. “Why Men Should Stop Saying #NotAllMen. Immediately.” Medium, Medium, 25 Oct. 2017, medium.com/@KirstyStricklan/why-men-should-stop-saying-notallmen-immediately-f657e244f7a1.
Thompson , Rachel. “97% Of Young Women Have Been Sexually Harassed, Study Finds.” Mashable SEA, Mashable SEA, 10 Mar. 2021, sea.mashable.com/social-good/14873/97-of-young-women-have-been-sexually-harassed-study-finds.