You are my friend, my colleague, a follower on Instagram, my father, my boyfriend, my ex.
You are a man, in this world, where the power dynamics between genders has been systemically skewed and abused to give you privilege over women, and other minority groups.
You enjoy a position that has been created and upheld since ages to give you innumerable advantages over us. You have been the decision maker among the two of us; you have benefitted from this position that your fathers, and their forefathers created for you to enjoy and exploit, and I understand you want to uphold it for your sons.
I know it must truly be scary to suddenly be asked to share that kind of power which was bestowed upon you for so long that it started feeling like entitlement instead of plain blatant privilege which it actually is.
In 2015, more than 34,000 cases of rape cases were reported in India. Almost 39 rapes take place per hour in India, out of which only 1 in 4 is convicted. In 2018, more than 27,000 cases of sexual harassment were reported across the country. Every woman around you has been a victim of some kind of harassment at some point in her life.
We are paid lesser wages, there are only a handful of us who shatter the glass ceiling and reach the leadership positions. Even the ones who do, have to face rampant misogyny and sexism at every step. Buses, trains, metros, even our own homes- women have to constantly fight for their own safety, well-being and fundamental human rights.
Yet, every time a woman talks about feminism, you, a man, turn around, raise your eyebrows and give your unsolicited and ill-informed opinion like always, and blurt out #NotAllMen.
Woman: “So many of my friends have been harassed at their workplace. It’s making me sick, why are men like this?”
Man: “That’s terrible. But you know not all men are like that. Don’t you think its sexist to paint us all in the same color?”
Woman: “I am scared of getting into relationships. My ex was abusive, both physically and mentally. And I have had bad experiences with men generally.”
Man: “Hey, don’t generalize! It is important to note that not all men are like that. How can you say that about all of us?”
Derailment: “Please make me the center of your discussion”
But don’t be fooled, the #NotAllMen squad doesn’t sincerely believe that when women share their experiences of violence and harassment at the hands of men they REALLY think that every single man on the planet is a culprit. They actually know what you mean. However, they simply cannot resist taking this perfect opportunity to derail the conversation and make it about them.
They suddenly have this irresistible urge to make their presence felt important, and as a duty to their brothers scream #NotAllMen, completely ignoring the more pertinent concerns raised by the woman.
And don’t be surprised if the men who are advocates of #NotAllMen are also the ones who routinely ask women to fight them in Karate, or dare them to go around in public topless in boisterous attempts challenging women to prove they are ‘equal’ to men.
As a man, it’s hard to believe that not everything is about you
It is almost as if the moment women raise their voice about the culture of abuse and violence against them, the men suddenly wake up and realize that they must also participate in the discussion.
Men who jump at the first chance of saying “#NotAllMen” have little to contribute to the actual cardinal dialogue about women safety.
Their prime concern is to separate themselves from ‘other men, bad men’ who do those things. It is also a sly technique put into operation to let women know that discussing misogyny makes them uncomfortable, and they’d like to be excused from taking any responsibility before they let women continue.
Instead of lending a listening ear, and an emphatic shoulder, the #NotAllMen brigade believes in reacting like “but I didn’t do it, other men did- so that’s not my problem” instead of saying “I know its horrible, let me know if I can help.” Or “I know it is hard for women out there. “
Interestingly, these are the men who do not come screeching “Not all women” when general sweeping remarks are made about women. For instance, women being bad drivers, or women being gold-diggers. Usually, these men can be spotted laughing hard at sexist jokes over a couple of chilled beers and a game of poker. However, every time a woman says that men rape, they lose their calm, and to separate themselves from the men who rape immediately establish the fact that they are in fact the ‘good men.’
The good men versus the bad men
Now the problem is that all men think they are good, essentially because these good men are the ones who get to draw the line between the good men and the bad men. And the line can be pushed according to their convenience and privilege, because women have no power in deciding that.
In the words of Hannah Gadsby,“We need to talk about how men will draw a different line for every different occasion — a line for the locker room; a line for when their wives, mothers, daughters and sisters are watching; another line for when they’re drunk and fratting; another line for nondisclosure; a line for friends and a line for foes,”
Oh, what wouldn’t I give up to hear a man say, ‘Men get raped, and I want to do something about it’ without using it as a tool to bully the women fighting for feminism.
Every time a man counters the fight for feminism by saying that men get raped too, they are choosing to spend their energy into diluting the movement instead of using it to uplift the actual victims of rape- male or female.
It is true, the few men I have known and interacted with in my life who are truly fighting for feminism, and gender equality, do not come running with a poster in their hands to save their community from criticism. They do not take personal offense every time men are called out for their privileges, and they do not take every chance to stand up as a knight in the shining armor.
They understand that after years of oppression and violence, women are justified in their anger. Men who are confident that they are not “like that” have no need to point out the fact.
Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where men instead of taking out their anger and frustration on women for being too critical of men, use all that energy and power into being part of the solution?
It could be as simple as telling your ‘bro’ to shut up when he is slut shaming his ex, or asking your colleague to not objectify the new girl at the workplace.
I know #NotAllMen are ready to make space for women & their struggles yet, but some are. And it’s better than none.