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  • How the World Betrayed Afghanistan

    By Mariam. H In conversations about Afghanistan, happening now and for the last 20 years, Afghan lives and needs have been all but ignored in favour of perpetuating false narratives about the invasion. The current propaganda around the ‘Forever War’ and withdrawal of US troops in Afghanistan is infuriating in its attribution of heroism to the real instigators and perpetrators of Afghanistan’s situation today. The damage to the image of Afghanistan is such that the current situation is viewed by many in the West as “just another day in a country that is perpetually at war”. A lot of what we know about Afghanistan has been completely constructed by imperial forces to distract the conversation away from Afghans and what’s actually happening. Many of us don’t know that the Taliban was actually defeated and ousted from power 20 years ago, three months after the US initially invaded, or that our tax dollars have directly funded the oppression of Afghan civilians. We too easily first bought the narrative that we were there to get the terrorists, and then there to help their army, and then there (somehow) to give women rights. Now it has become all too apparent that we can no longer swallow these lies anymore. So why did the US stay in Afghanistan for 20 years? The Taliban have once again established themselves as the dominant power in Afghanistan, this time with even more of the country in their grasp. So here’s the truth about how we got here. The events of the last week have been reported as incredulous, unexpected and an overnight overthrow of one government into the unruly hands of the Taliban. However, it was not a taking of power, but a transfer of one. The plan for the US was to fully withdraw troops from Afghanistan by this year; that was not the surprise. As reiterated by NATO General Jens Stoltenberg it was the speed at which the Taliban took control that surprised them, not that they did take control. Was the US and its allies nation building? The short answer is: no, they were not. US President Biden confirmed as in his August 16th press conference stating: “the war in Afghanistan was never about nation-building”. Essentially backtracking on 20 years worth of lies, to rearrange the narrative to one only about protecting US national interest through the prevention of terrorist attacks on their homeland. But here’s why that doesn’t make sense. So what actually happened? How you create a war. What most people don’t know is that when the US invaded Afghanistan, they actually defeated the Taliban within three months and al-Qaeda not long after. A key reason this was so easy for them was because sentiment in Afghanistan at the time, even in its most rural areas, was very much against the Taliban. So the Taliban surrendered very early on, and fled. “In the aftermath of the 2001 ousting of the Taliban ... you had American special forces on the ground, with a mandate to fight a war against terror, but they had no enemies to fight.” - Anand Gopal, Pulitzer prize finalist and well-renowned journalist states in ‘No Good Men Among The Living’ So what do you do when you have to fight an enemy, but there isn't an enemy to fight? You create one. This is when US troops started incentivising Afghans to turn against each other. The US troops allied with warlords, who were known to have committed crimes against Afghans, and had been expelled from the country as a result. The US then paid these people to bring them Afghan civilians. They went on a rampage in which they arrested thousands of people, and committed crimes that are considered torture under both domestic and international law. Similarly, the US arrested and detained prisoners (many of whom were arrested on false grounds) in Guantanamo Bay Prison, which is infamous worldwide as one of the cruelest prisons on earth. . Kenneth G. Eade, a leading US Attorney and activist, described Guantanamo Bay as “the equivalent of any concentration camp in Nazi Germany, the most shameful example of the cruel and complete abolition of all human rights by the Government, all in the name of the war on terrorism.” Therefore what resulted for a few years was essentially a one-sided war as the US and its allies fought against innocent Afghan civilians and made their lives a living hell. Something imperative to understand is that 75% of Afghanistan is rural and this is where the majority of the war has been waged for 20 years. We are hearing primarily of what’s happening in metropolitan cities, specifically Kabul, but for most of the war you could visit the capital city and be unaware of the reality of the violence being waged in it’s countryside. Much of the carnage of this time, and the sheer number of deaths went unrecorded as they happened within an active warzone, where it’s near impossible to get a clear idea of the sheer size of these numbers. “It’s going to take us generations to truly understand what the real toll of this conflict was”, says Anand. The magnitude of this period of aggression lives in the memory and lived realities of Afghans who endured it. Why we need to care about war crimes The Human Rights Watch, an international body that tracks crimes committed during war, found that the coalition forces (made up primarily of the US, the UK and Australia) were committing war crimes from 2002. Even in the last few years, between late 2017 and mid 2019 there were 14 documented cases of CIA-backed Afghan strikes which committed serious injuries and deaths to civilians. I just want to reiterate that these are the 14 documented cases, they are not the actual number of human rights abuses committed. Historically, we know the US and their allies will go to extraordinary lengths to cover these incidents up and protect their public image. A well-documented example of this is the atrocities committed by US soldiers at Abu-Ghraib during the Iraqi war, in which obscene photos of the torture drew international outrage before the US government gave (laughably minimal) punishment to only the head soldiers involved. They found that across the board from Afghan officials, activists, health workers, journalists to community elders all stated that indiscriminate airstrikes were a reality of their daily lives. Many of the houses that were targeted for night raids were chosen based on inaccurate intelligence advice that was related to local rivalries and false accusations. In August 2020 evidence was brought forward that proved how the British Military Unit in Afghanistan exercised a “deliberate policy” where they would “kill Afghans even if they did not pose a threat.” The UK responded to these allegations by making it harder to prosecute war crimes perpetrated by its troops overseas. How have we bought for so long that they were there to help people? Furthermore, the Afghan forces backed by the CIA and US special forces on the ground and with air support from the US military conducted continual clandestine operations, described as paramilitary resistance against Al-Qaeda and ISIS. These US-backed (physically and tactically) and ordered troops were responsible for “extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances, indiscriminate airstrikes, attacks on medical facilities, and other violations of international humanitarian law or the laws of war.” The coalition forces are known to use the law as a shield to protect their military from being prosecuted for crimes they commit overseas. Thus, only a few of these war crimes and human rights abuses were ever investigated. An example of this was in March 2020 when Australia’s defence department suspended an Australian Special Air service regiment soldier (SAS) “Soldier C” from service, due to an enormous amount of evidence that proved that they were responsible for killing Afghan civilians in 2001. Essentially, the US and their allies went on a rampage of human rights abuses which ultimately turned Afghan sentiment (specifically in rural and remote areas) in favour of the Taliban to protect them from external forces. Anand Gopal reiterates, “It was in the context of that that many people who had rejected the Taliban began to accept them back into their communities as a form of protection against what many Afghans have described to me as a form of terrorism. Breaking into people’s homes in the middle of the night, taking their loved ones away, sometimes never to be seen again.” This fostered the right environment for the Taliban to reform and reignite in a more powerful way, because this time, they were popular. This is the Taliban that we know and are in power now, a much stronger Taliban than what existed pre-US intervention. In the end, a twenty-year chapter of a country’s history was punctuated by President Biden "American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.” Who are the “new” Taliban? We’ve established that the Taliban did not come into power again by sheer force and happenstance. The Taliban originally emerged in the mid-90s, as a conservative group of student-warriors from the remaining Afghan mujahideen fighters and religious seminaries in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Their original promises of order and security (similar to the propaganda they are putting out now) quickly devolved into a violent regime that resulted in the brutalisation and persecution of much of the Afghan population. Most notably Afghan women, religious and ethnic minorities (primarily Hazara Shiites), LGBTQI+, and people with disabilities. Understandably in time their support wavered and dropped because of their viciousness and fanatic zealotry. They are able to sustain their efforts through ongoing economic and diplomatic support from Pakistan; with the Human Rights Watch declaring that “of all the foreign powers involved in efforts to sustain and manipulate the ongoing fighting, Pakistan is distinguished both by the sweep of its objectives and the scale of its efforts.” In these past 20 years, the Taliban have been consistently supported, funded, housed and trained by the Pakistani government. Pakistan’s role in furthering the Taliban’s objectives goes far beyond this, but is too convoluted to go into detail in this piece. If you want to learn specifically about that, Human Rights Watch is a good place to start. Anyway, the Taliban insist that, this time around, they have changed, with spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid asserting to national and international audiences, “Nobody will be harmed in Afghanistan. Of course, there is a huge difference between us now and 20 years ago”. This is not the first time the Taliban have pulled this move, they attempted to present a similarly reassuring face during the 1996 accession to power and their violent actions in the years and months before the takeover do not back this sentiment. What we can be certain of is the Taliban should not be underestimated. Contrary to popular belief, and among the most dangerous myths perpetuated about the Taliban is that they are cavemen who got lucky. The Taliban, as of March 2020, was an almost 2 billion dollar organisation. The reason this is important to note, is to understand why they’re essential business partners, and exactly how much of Afghanistan’s precious natural resources they control. An economic policy analyst for the Centre for Afghanistan Studies, Hanif Sufizada, broke down the Taliban’s revenue: The biggest contributor to their coffers is illicit drug revenue. Afghanistan is responsible for 84% of global opium production, with many Afghan farmers not being allowed to farm anything else to ensure this money continues to be funneled into the Taliban’s pockets. The irony of music and women working being “too sinful” but having no qualms with global drug trafficking appears to be lost only on the Taliban themselves. The next big money maker is mining, with the Taliban taking a portion of the selling off of Afghanistan’s bountiful natural resources like iron ore, marble, and copper by mining companies. They do this by demanding payment under threat of death. Other funds are rounded up through extortion, imposition of taxes, among which in characteristic sick fashion they’ve included a “Zakat” tax on Afghans. They are also sent charitable donations from unnamed terrorist sympathisers around the world. They also earn around $80 million from real estate investments. In summary, while the US has been “nation-building” through illicit airstrikes the Taliban have been diversifying their investment portfolio. The US profited so much off this war and what is important to understand is that this was absolutely not a failed war for them. Fourteen years ago the United States Geological Service discovered nearly $1 trillion in mineral deposits in Afghanistan. At the time an internal Pentagon memo stated that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium.” Since then, US, British and Chinese-based mining and exploration companies have signed million dollar, and at times, billion dollar agreements to explore these untapped reserves. Northropp Gumman, General Dynamics, Raytheon Acres and Virginia are just a few companies that made millions, and close to billions. Centar Limited is a US-based mining and exploration company which signed contracts with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to develop two sites in Balkhab and Badakhshan with potentially significant copper and gold deposits. Together, these contracts represent the largest mining exploration effort in the history of Afghanistan. Similarly, National Petroleum Corporation, a China based mining and investment company, has a significant share in the extraction of iron ore and copper. How come this information is so difficult to find? It should not take hours to pull together a list of the military and mining companies that are profiting off Afghanistan, every second of every day. As perfectly described by journalist Anand Gopal, “Most of our money went into the coffers of warlords or defence contractors in America. There’s barely a paved road in the Afghan countryside. The invasion actually made life worse for Afghan women.” Why does this matter? Afghanistan's fate is often dismissed by stuffy political commentators as “the graveyard of empires”, making it seem like never-ending conflict is the country’s birthright. This kind of passive language and lack of attribution to the instigators and perpetrators of conflict allow us all to wash our hands clean of the injustice we allow to thrive there. The Taliban propagandise that they aim to foster a return to normal life after decades of war. The United States and allies (Australia among them) insist they still have leverage to utilise if need be. American military officials remain worried that Afghanistan may become a base for other extremist groups, and as we’ve established it’s never good for civilians anywhere when the US expresses their worry. In the northeastern part of the country, the last anti-Taliban outpost continues to stand in the Panjshir valley as of writing this article, headed by Ahmad Massoud, son of notable anti-Soviet resistance fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud. It remains to be seen if active fighting will break out in the region. The fact remains that many Afghans are rightfully distrustful and there is a strong fear that the Taliban’s regime will be oppressive and violent. There are also fears of security and potential revenge killings by the Taliban. Afghan women fear a severe rollback of the strides in women’s advancement that Afghan women have made in recent years. Past events and actions by the Taliban cannot be discounted no matter how many times they parrot their best intentions. They have a long and sordid history of targeting marginalised and minority groups within Afghanistan, and it is the people now that stand at significant risk. Afghan activists and voices who have been doing the work for decades need to be prioritised now moving forward. Though not an easy endeavour, we have to become more critical of the narratives we internalise surrounding intervention and more aware of what we are co-signing by remaining silent on where our tax dollars go, and what our elected governments do. Moving forward now it is important to understand that the Afghans who are trying to leave are doing so because of the failures of our policies. We cannot encourage sanctions on the new government that emerges, as it will only further disenfranchise Afghanistan’s people while their “leaders” remain unaffected. We cannot allow our leaders to allow the country’s limited infrastructure to completely collapse, as a final betrayal of the Afghan people. In conclusion, the events of the last few weeks are one more betrayal of the Afghan people, just like the events of the past 20 years have been an ongoing betrayal. We cannot shy away from the fact that we all directly benefit from the same western capitalist systems that have plunged Afghanistan into its current state. Though the conversation of whether or not refugees should be accepted is unbelievable in it’s ignorance of how we continue to create refugees, this is where our effort needs to be channeled now. The biggest thing we can do now to help, is to shift our attention to the protection of Afghan asylum seekers who need refuge now and many years ahead. This is where our concentrated, collective effort needs to go, as the cause of their displacement is something that we have directly benefited from. This should be a cause we are all committed to Editor: Palwasha.A, Irisa. R, Lamisa.H References: Baldwin, C. 2020. “UK War Crime Revelations in Afghanistan Expose Justice Failings ‘Overseas Operations” Bill Risks Entrenching Impunity”. HRW.org. accessed at : https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/08/05/uk-war-crime-revelations-afghanistan-expose-justice-failings Bloch, H. 2021. “A Look At Afghanistan's 40 Years Of Crisis — From The Soviet War To Taliban Recapture”. NPR. Accessed at: https://www.npr.org/2021/08/19/1028472005/afghanistan-conflict-timeline Bowman, T & Evstatieva, M. 2021. “The Afghan Army Collapsed In Days. Here Are The Reasons Why”. NPR. Accessed at: https://www.npr.org/2021/08/20/1029451594/the-afghan-army-collapsed-in-days-here-are-the-reasons-why Doucet, L. 2020. “Afghan conflict: US and Taliban sign deal to end 18-year war”. BBC news. Accessed at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51689443 Gossman, P. 2020. “They’ve Shot Many Like This” Abusive Night Raids by CIA-Backed Afghan Strike Forces”. Hrw.org. accessed at: https://www.hrw.org/report/2019/10/31/theyve-shot-many/abusive-night-raids-cia-backed-afghan-strike-forces Human Rights Watch [HRW]. 2020. “Afghanistan Events of 2020”. HRW.org. accessed at: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2021/country-chapters/afghanistan Krauss, J. 2021. “Taliban take over Afghanistan: What we know and what’s next”. AP news. Accessed at: https://apnews.com/article/taliban-takeover-afghanistan-what-to-know-1a74c9cd866866f196c478aba21b60b6 Luce, D. 2021. “U.S. envoy's years of peace negotiations go up in flames in Afghanistan. What went wrong?” NBC news. Accessed at: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/u-s-envoy-touted-peace-afghanistan-18-months-later-peace-n1276811 Myre, G. 2021. “How Valuable Are The U.S. Weapons The Taliban Just Captured?” NPR. Accessed at: https://www.npr.org/2021/08/21/1029449432/taliban-afghanistan-us-weapons-captured Schwartz, M. 2020. “Afghanistan-Taliban Talks Begin In Attempt To End 19 Years Of Bloodshed”. NPR. Accessed at: https://www.npr.org/2020/09/12/912294791/afghan-taliban-talks-begin-as-long-warring-sides-seek-end-to-decades-of-bloodshe Seir, A., Faiez, R., Gannon, K., & Baldor, L.C. 2021. “IS threat forces US changes to evacuations at Kabul airport” Sufizadah, H. 2020. “The Taliban are megarich – here’s where they get the money they use to wage war in Afghanistan”. The conversation. Accessed at: https://theconversation.com/the-taliban-are-megarich-heres-where-they-get-the-money-they-use-to-wage-war-in-afghanistan-147411

  • What is Religious Trauma?

    Palwasha A. The topic of religious trauma is newly being explored, and there is not yet a lot of research on it’s effects, besides in extreme cases of victims of cults or sexual abuse within religious institutions. While we can get an idea of what extreme religious trauma looks like, it’s much harder to find discussion surrounding it’s quieter consequences. What we haven’t seen spoken about as much is trauma experienced by young people trying to find themselves in their religion with faulty teachers, who can go on to experience ostracism, anxiety and disillusionment with their faith. For context, I am a young Muslim woman who loves her faith but had many factors drive me away from it growing up, that negatively impacted my perception of my own religion. My experience is similar to so many young Muslim girls raised in environments where their individuality is constantly compromised for the sake of conforming, in the name of religion. The effects of religious trauma have been compared to Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ( C-PTSD), a kind of trauma characterised by long-term exposure to a traumatic circumstance such as prolonged abuse. This is not how I would characterise my experience, and it’s very worth noting that in many of the cases I’ll be discussing, the trauma doesn’t necessarily stem from religion so much as religion used as a front to promote personal agenda, a distinction that is difficult for a young person to recognise and navigate in their religious upbringing. What is Religious Trauma? Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) was coined by psychologist Dr Marlene Winell and is categorised as a “...condition experienced by people who are struggling with leaving an authoritarian, dogmatic religion and coping with the damage of indoctrination.” Dr Winell’s idea of RTS is predominantly built from the context of Evangelical Christian backgrounds and seeks to help those who have left those communities come to terms with their experiences of spiritual & emotional abuse. This definition does not encompass all experiences with religious trauma and we want to explore this from a more intersectional lens. The argument we put forth here is not necessarily that a person’s religion is always the cause of their religious trauma, but that figures in authority positions teaching the faith can do so in harmful and inaccurate, often repressive ways. Over time this can have the impact of alienating, ostracising and traumatising a person, causing them to distance themselves from their faith or in extreme cases, to leave it completely, if they find no other recourse. It is also not reasonable to compare a Muslim’s experience with religious trauma with an Evangelical Christian’s, for example, because the core beliefs, values, and institutions of the religions are so different. Yet one commonality between them is the impact and influence of a religious community itself. In that within religious communities there is the power to validate an individual’s sense of spirituality as well as dismiss and weaken it, should they prove to be below the expectations of the community or authority figures within it. What Can Religious Trauma Look Like? For myself, and many of the young Muslims that I grew up with, our biggest struggle was with the way that we were taught about punishment, death and consequence. Despite having an incredibly educated and well-informed mother, I was still exposed to religious figures that oftentimes relied on fear-mongering and unquestioned rigidity to keep us in line. They constantly reinforced the level at which Hell should be feared, while neglecting the all-important teachings of God’s mercy, kindness, compassion and encouraged repentance. The emphasis on Hell and ultimate and eternal punishment led to my believing, as a child, that I was a bad person because I couldn’t be a good Muslim in the way that I was taught that it mattered. Because I had too many questions, and couldn’t accept things as easily. Because we couldn’t measure up to the one-size-fits-all standard that was set, we believed that we were failures and feared eternal punishment. So much of our ensuing doubts as young people could have been avoided if we had been taught how messy the journey to one’s faith actually often is. Especially because for us as young Muslim women, the margin for error was much smaller, as it is in non-Muslim society, than it was for our male counterparts. The experience of Muslim women who wear hijab is also incredibly noteworthy in speaking about this kind of trauma because the policing of hijab is often so intense that it’s a constant battle for a Muslimah to maintain her own identity as her individuality is constantly attacked and critiqued. With hindsight, and greater understanding of my religion now as an adult, it’s incredibly clear that these teachings were less to do with religion (often outright contradicting it) and more so deeply misogynistic cultural traditions and personal agendas. These were fulfilled by men, women and institutions who sought to justify their bigotry with a smokescreen of adherence to religious teachings, giving verses without context and cherry-picking stories to suit their intentions. This kind of trauma often looks like a demand for a person to be just one way, with the threat of God’s punishment over their heads if they do not meet the ideal. Why Do We Need To Talk About This? Sometimes, when you can't meet the ideal, it's easier to distance yourself from it. Minority groups, such as the LGBTQ+ community, experience far greater and more consistent religious trauma than their cisgendered, heterosexual counterparts, not in the least due to the blinders of bigotry that are an ongoing issue when teaching religion. The potential for religious trauma to drive people from their faith is significant. It can lead to associating negativity and often backwardness with faith, which is an incredibly damaging outcome for all. Ex- Muslims tend to become some of the most outspoken opponents to the religion, so understanding religious trauma can promote empathy and constructive pathways to discussion. Struggling with your religion and the act of leaving a religion can in itself be a significant trauma. Such experiences come with life-altering consequences that affect the emotional, psychological and social stability of one's own self. It’s important for us to talk about this also because there is so little out there addressing religious trauma within the context of young people, especially young women, being misguided on their faith, at an impressionable age. My experience was in constantly being made small, told my limits and forced into a role that I knew I couldn’t fit. The negative associations with religion take years to unlearn and work through, which is in itself rewarding, but difficult and lonely. The driving factor in my battle with religion in my early years was what I saw promoted as the ideal one-size-fits-all mold that was presented to us as what women needed to be, and grow into, that always seemed to put us beneath men and always was just out of our reach. Education on this topic would have helped me and people like me when I was younger, to see God’s mercy and kindness and endless love, to avoid distancing themselves from their faith, or ongoing mental self-flagellation. Encouraging discussion about religious trauma and how it can occur separate from religion itself would have endless capacity to heal. Edited by: Jessica L.

  • Yes, All Men

    written by Hebah A. (Contributor) TW: mentions of rape, assault, harrassment and rape culture. Yes, all men Disclaimer; when this piece mentions ‘women’ it is referring to anyone who has had lived experience as a woman, presently, or in the past. When this piece mentions ‘all men’ it is referring to all cisgendered men. I originally wrote this piece in March during a worldwide conversation about the safety of women, as a way to process what I was feeling at the time. However, every time I return to it, it only feels more pertinent. On March 10th, Sarah Everard had been missing for about a week until her remains were found and a London police officer was arrested for murdering her. I was finding it really hard to stay focused on anything, especially with the conversations Sarah’s case unearthed globally about sexual assault and violence perpetrated by men, towards women. Naturally my first reaction was to voice my thoughts on my thirty follower Tik Tok account. I spoke about ‘not all men’, why the phrase was being used and why it was incorrect. The video was thrust into Tik Tok’s unpredictable algorithm; it kept growing and now has 250 thousand views and a thousand-ish comments worth of discourse from people who agree and disagree. Of course, a sixty second tik tok is not nearly enough to unpack a topic as dense as sexual violence, so the following piece will attempt to do so with a focus on why the phrase ‘not all men’ is simply incorrect. The idea that a woman must be killed before we can believe that there is something deeply wrong with how society is conditioned to view women has not left my mind. I write ‘society’ and not ‘men’ because I’ve been reflecting on my own experiences with harassment and assault, and I haven’t been able to register some of these experiences as such until others came forward with stories similar to mine. Casting my mind back to primary school, I can think of moments where I was physically assaulted or groped by boys in my school, and how I excused their behaviour by blaming myself for causing it. Even as a child, I had already begun to assume the responsibility of ‘not being assaulted’ rather than understanding that assault should never happen in any context. My child brain would excuse assault as ‘boys being boys’, ‘I was getting on their nerves’, ‘they’re just having fun’, ‘I shouldn’t have worn that’- a victim-blaming sentiment I have seen carry through to sexual assault cases that have made the news. How did we get here? How did we excuse sexual harassment and violence- even in its most extreme manifestations? Violence against women and girls manifests so insidiously that we often seperate explicit acts of violence like murder, rape, and battery from implicit micro-aggressions like catcalls, ‘locker-room talk’, and slut-shaming. We treat the two as if they are independent of each other, when they are all interlocking pieces of a much larger problem. These ‘smaller’ issues that we have been socialised to view as normal, desensitise us to gender based violence, and so hearing of rape and murder in our own communities is received as an anomaly. If we were to unpack that thought; do you think that a man who has raped or murdered a woman has done so without feeling comfortable making ‘locker-room talk’ and rape jokes? The gap between how acts of violence are addressed is so apparent when we unpack the phrase ‘not all men’. It’s often used to derail and redirect conversations back to men, when women come forward with their stories of assault. When someone uses ‘not all men’ as a line of defence; they might mean “Not all men rape women,” which is largely true, but would they also comfortably say “Not all men have made (or laughed at) rape jokes,” or “Not all men have made women feel unsafe,”? That’s where we fall short as a society. We fail to recognise that rape culture runs so much deeper than just rape; it’s in the jokes we make, the unwarranted non-sexual touching, the catcalls, the stalking, the conversations that are had when it’s ‘just the boys’, it’s in the movies, music, and porn we consume, and it’s in the upbringings of young children when they see how women are treated. Young boys are inheriting the license to disrespect and hurt girls and women because of the culture they’re born and socialised into. All the while, young girls are learning that they must endure mistreatment because they ‘have it better’ than the more unfortunate girls and women who have been killed at the hands of rape culture. The truth is, it is all men. Because men do not get to decide if they have never made a woman feel unsafe or uncomfortable. The phrase ‘Not All Men’ is speaking on behalf of men; when it is women we should be listening to. How are we going to see a stat like 97% (of women in the UK experiencing sexual harassment/assault) and continue to say ‘Not all men’, when it is nearly every woman? Other flawed discussions surrounding gender based violence include the passive language we use to discuss it. Jackson Katz addresses this in his Ted Talk; ‘Violence against Women - It’s a Men’s Issue’. “Even the term violence against women is problematic. It’s a passive construction. There’s no active agent in the sentence…it’s a bad thing that happens to women…nobody’s doing it to them. It just happens. Men aren’t even a part of it!” (Katz, 2012) We’re all familiar with stats about how many women go missing, experience sexual assault, or are murdered; but we never get a stat on how many men kidnapped, raped or murdered women. In an aim to get men not to rape; we are always having to humanise women as ‘someone’s mother/sister/daughter etc. Yet when we discuss rape and assault, we hardly talk about the perpetrators often being the people closest to us; dads, uncles, brothers, friends. This is the surreptitious nature of rape culture. The passive voice which anonymises abusers, allows for a chorus of ‘not all men!’ when women speak about their experiences, making it impossible to imagine the reality of rape culture that is upheld by every man. I know that saying all men are responsible for perpetuating rape culture can be interpreted as inflammatory, and if you feel upset or angered by that statement, take the time to analyse why you personally feel attacked by it. Ultimately, we must understand that all men uphold systems that hurt and oppress women, just like all white people uphold systems that hurt and oppress POC. All men benefit from the systems set up for them, that simultaneously harm women. If you are a man who has never cat-called, spiked, groped, raped (etc) a woman- or even laughed at a rape joke- then you have just achieved the bare minimum of what is required in being an average human being. Your ‘good behaviour’ does not absolve you of the crimes your gender commits against women. Not being a part of the problem does not mean you are already part of the solution. Women have been shouting about their experiences for years and it continues to fall on deaf ears. Even in the age of social media, I see women bearing the brunt of educating men, sharing their own stories, and amplifying survivors’ stories. The men that exhibit the behaviour we need to eradicate, will only listen to other men. Talk to your boys, your brothers, your dads, your sons. If a woman is brave enough to tell her story; listen to her, support her, believe her, and do not silence her. All men can work towards the liberation of women. References: Katz, J. (2012, November). ‘Violence against Women - It’s a Men’s Issue’ [Video]. TED Conferences. APPG, 2021, Prevalence and reporting of sexual harassment in UK public spaces, viewed: 30/07/21, Header reference; @slay_wid_slaw

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