** Content Warning: Discussions of rape culture, sexual assault and violence **
Everyone’s Invited, the Instagram page that everyone is talking about. Over 32,000 people to be exact. The page, created by 22-year-old Soma Sara, is a much-needed space designed for everyone and anyone to call out rape culture. The testimonials section, where people can anonymously publish their experiences as either a witness to or victim of rape culture has, finally and rightly, brought the engrained culture of misogyny out from the well-concealed enclaves of schools and universities.
Along with many others, the movement has prompted me to reflect upon my time at an independent girls school in London. Horrifically, misogyny and rape culture were part and parcel of the interaction with our neighbouring boys schools; a game called ‘Legend’, where the “legend” was the boy who pulled the highest number of “unattractive” girls at a party and afterwards the girls targeted were informed of their involvement in this grotesque game. You know, “just for bants”. Incessantly being the recipient of messages and in-person comments concerning jokes about miscarriages, women belonging in the kitchen and raping feminists. This was simply the norm for us. Of course, these things made us angry, but we internalised the attitude told to us that this was just a case of “boys being boys”, boys being “immature” and these boys just “weren’t nice.” Their behaviour was not, for one moment, questioned as something graver. Some actions were not, for one moment, thought of as illegal. My friends and I would sometimes discuss how we could publicise the boys’ messages to hold them accountable. Yet, we never went through with it because we didn’t believe the endless messages inciting rape culture and misogyny were “enough” of a problem. I am glad that we have been proven wrong and our gut instincts which told us that this behaviour was not right have finally been recognised and supported.
What the swathe of testimonials gathered on the Everyone’s Invited page attests to is that my school experience was not an isolated, “unlucky” instance involving a group of “unkind boys”. Reading through the testimonials, I can see that the boys’ behaviour I witnessed at school was simply the archetypal model. Perhaps it provides some sort of comfort to know that my friends and I were not alone, but I think it is more terrifying to be acutely aware of the extent of the problem. And this is what must be focused upon. The extent of the problem. A culture condoning misogyny and sexual violence is upsettingly and worryingly engrained into the very foundations of many schools and this must begin to be thoroughly, yet urgently, unpicked.
Unfortunately, the unpicking has provoked division not solidarity from some men, found behind the mass response of #NotAllMen, where boys and men have expressed their anger at being stereotyped as the “bad guys”. The statement, even gaining enough momentum to trend on Twitter, is not only unhelpful, but completely missing the point. This is the kind of statement that my friends and I were told, which made us question our intuition and stopped us from acting. This is the kind of statement which makes women feel that their calls for change are “dramatic” or “hysterical” because “not all men” are misogynists and rapists. This response is a defensive, knee-jerk reaction from the boys and men who, for some reason, feel that their individual character and person are being assaulted by this culturally-focused movement.
Yet, unfair labelling is something that I am all too familiar with. My friends and I were often christened “soap-box standing feminazis” if we mildly questioned a misogynistic comment or action. We know how it feels to be unfairly put into a category. We know how it feels to be labelled. Therefore, we know that binary, crude labelling and name-calling is not the answer but the Everyone’s Invited movement is not promoting this. Shouts of #NotAllMen only causes greater rifts, and as men concentrate on defending their personal image against women important attention is being diverted away from the real issue. If men are so eager to profess their innocence they should be tweeting unifying statements like #ImWithWomen, which stands them in solidarity with those calling for change and still sets them apart from the “bad guys”. I know that it would be unfair, wrong and unrepresentative to demonise all males. In my life, the men closest to me have attended a school at the very centre of many testimonials. I know that they are not misogynists. I know that they would never condone a culture of rape. I am all too aware that it is #NotAllMen. But this is irrelevant.
The movement is calling attention to a culturally embedded society of misogyny and sexual abuse. It is not about a few individuals. It is about institutionally condoned conduct. In History one sometimes takes a structural approach. This approach moves away from the traditional individualistic focus on the ‘great men’ of history, instead, assessing how external, socio-cultural factors influenced individual’s decisions and actions. The Everyone’s Invited movement requires the use of such a framework, which will stop people looking at the issue as being about an individual or group of individuals, or their personal guilt or innocence. Instead, focusing attention on the non-personal, long-standing culture of sexual violence and misogyny within institutions of education, which has sustained and nurtured individual instances of disgusting behaviour. This is not to deny agency to individual perpetrators or to ignore individual cases of sexual violence and assault. These must, and I repeat must, be addressed and dealt with, yet, privately in accordance with each individual victim’s wishes.
If men turn upon women, or if women turn upon men, and we continue to divisively approach sensitive topics of sex and gender equality then no improvements will be made. Solidarity, compassion and mutual understanding are required for such matters to even begin to be solved. The Everyone’s Invited movement is calling for camaraderie across gender, age, class and race lines. On their Instagram page they “urge our community to practice empathy“, commending those who “have stood up and spoken and all who have sat down and listened.” Everyone, in whatever capacity, is being called upon to come together to fix a culturally embedded issue, which has harmed and continues to harm too many young people. We might not know the answer to the best way to achieve this, however, I do know that societal unity and togetherness are mandatory for any solution.
To find out more about the Everyone’s Invited movement, click here.
– Ellen Hodges
If you feel as though you have been affected by any form of harassment, verbal offence, physical force, emotional blackmail or aggression, then please reach out. You can call the University’s estate patrol on 01392723999. Call 112 if you want to report a crime, or 999 if you’re in immediate danger. To talk to Rape Crisis then call 0808 802 9999, Women’s Aid Federation 0808 2000 247, or 02035983898 for Suvivors UK.
Below are some other useful services and resources:
Mind, Devon Rape Crisis, Survivors UK (for men, trans, and non-binary), Rape Crisis England & Wales (for women and girls), One in Four (offers advocacy and counselling services for victims), Galop (for LGBTQ+ survivors of hate crime, domestic abuse and sexual violence), Imkaan (women’s organisation dedicated to addressing violence against Black and minoritized women).
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