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Why do men give ridiculous responses to justify abuse? Let's begin with the classic response. The masculine urge to say “not all men” when a woman speaks up!
These are some of the comments (and my responses to them) that I have received from the men in my life when I have spoken about sexual harassment.
If you haven’t made these comments, well, it is not a commendable act to be appreciated. It is how human beings are supposed to behave. If you have responded similarly, stop it.
Let’s begin with the classic response.
The masculine urge to say “Not all men”-When a woman speaks up against abuse.
Ok. Not all men, but the problem is we don’t know which men to look out for. We have been sexually abused both by men we know and by random dudes in buses, trains, the market, in banks, hospitals, places of worship, our workplaces, inside our homes! How do we know whom to trust and whom not to?
Imagine a scenario where you are put in a cubicle filled with snakes. There are poisonous and non-poisonous snakes. Will you take the chance of going near a snake that you think is non-poisonous? Will you trust the snake to not bite you? Will you feel safe around it? No! You will be equally careful of all snakes. You never know which snake will bite you. You will be in constant fear.
Now, before you attack me for using the metaphor of snakes to talk about men, listen. I used an example because most men still don’t get why women raise their voices against men in general. Hopefully, this example will give them an idea of how women navigate through the world in constant fear.
Maybe we should start branding abusive men on their forehead which says “Beware of me. I don’t have control over my hands, eyes and my dick”. Then we will know. And so will you know how rampant sexual abuse targeted at women is. It is a daily unpleasant reality. And isn’t it funny that every woman knows another woman who has been abused but men don’t seem to know another man who has been the abuser? Think about it.
Also, any time a woman misbehaves with a man like with what happened in Lucknow some time back, the whole of womankind is held responsible for the act. Feminism gets branded as a collective of man-bashers. All women are held accountable.
Ahem, may I serve you a tablespoon of your own medicine? “NOT ALL WOMEN!” When one woman misbehaves, all women get vilified. Multiple men abused women several times since time immemorial, and the standard response is “not all men”. Wah! What logic.
The masculine urge to say “We also get abused”- When a woman speaks up against abuse.
Fine! Then speak up. Point out your abuser. Don’t shush. Why do you remain silent? Because you fear being mocked by others? Because they will question your masculinity? Because it will hurt your male ego? Because you are supposed to be the defender and protector of women and since you got abused, you fear that women will reject you on the grounds that you are not man enough to take care of yourself? Fear that you lost something of yours that makes you a man and that if you talk about what happened to you, you will become less of a man? Because you have been taught to be tough and to man up?
I am sorry for the men who have remained silent about the harassment they have faced from both men and women. I have known a guy friend whose penis was grabbed by another man while travelling on a bus. Another guy friend of mine was kissed by a female school friend of his, without consent on his lips. Please speak up. You choosing to remain silent about your experience of harassment is not a valid reason to ask women to shut up when they raise their voice against abusers! Get this into your head. It is not rocket science or a Nolan movie.
Imagine this. Person A slapped you for no reason. You chose not to fight back or question their action. Now person A slapped person B. Person B chose to react and hold person A accountable for his/her/their action. Now, do you have any right to ask person B to remain calm and silent just because you chose to remain silent in the face of the same mistreatment? Hell No!
So, the next time you have the urge to ask a woman to stop complaining or creating a ‘scene’ about sexual abuse, stuff your mouth with a banana. If you can’t help her in fighting for a cause, at least don’t be a dickhead.
The masculine urge to say “Why are you angry about it? Calm down!”- When a woman speaks up against abuse.
Now this one is really funny (sarcasm). I have lived for so long with the feeling of shame, anger, self-loathing and hatred towards my abusers and at myself (yes, it took me a while to realise that what happened to me was not my fault!). And you expect me to recollect and speak about the incidents of sexual abuse with a smiling face? You know, like how a ‘lady’ is supposed to be? Gentle, pleasant and calm. Fuck off!
And these are the same men who break down and cry and throw abuse and curse in ungodly words when the team they support loses a game of football or cricket! Tch tch! Calm down, you guys.
I will forever be angry and full of resentment at this society that let it happen to me. For not teaching their boys to behave. For not educating girls about their bodies and rights. For not creating a safe space to talk about sex. For putting the honour of our families between our thighs and not on men’s dicks.
The masculine urge to say “There is no use of speaking or writing about your abuse. Nothing will change”- When a woman speaks up against abuse.
This is a strategy to push women and their lives into oblivion. Every change begins with an idea. And this idea is put into words and then into action. Do not underestimate the power of words, sharing experiences and telling stories.
It took me 9 years to realize that I was sexually exploited by my dance teacher. (It is the first instance of abuse I remember. There have been many more since then). Why did it take me so long to realize it? Because it wasn’t until in the second year of my undergrad that I shared the incident with my college friends and they also spoke about similar experiences and we all collectively realised that it was inappropriate and a violation of personal space.
I didn’t know in the first place that what that man did to me was wrong. (All credits to the Indian family culture where sex and the body are never discussed and most of the girls learn about menstruation and how to use a sanitary pad, from their girl-friends, all equally stumbling in the darkness). I just knew that I felt uncomfortable when he did it to me. I remember feeling shy and ashamed thinking about it. I didn’t know why I felt so. I just didn’t know. If only I had received sex education, been educated about my own body, informed about the possibility of being abused, taught about consent and personal space, this would never have happened to me.
So do not tell me that writing and speaking about one’s experience is of no use. I write so that the women out there who read this feel confident to break out of their silence. Enough is enough!
Women have been told for long to cover up, stay quiet and not to make a ‘scene’! Fuck off! We are here to tell our stories. The shame and taboo of sexual exploitation should lie with the abuser and not the abused. We are not to be pitied for what happened to us. No thanks.
We want abusers to be held accountable and shamed. And for that to happen women should come ahead and speak about their abuse in open. Let everyone hear about it. If it makes you uncomfortable, screw you. We don’t care. Do you feel shocked? Huh! Poor you! Can’t even stand hearing about it but expect women to live through it!
Look I am not calling for a war of the sexes. (I have only spoken about men and women. There is a spectrum of sexualities of which I have not spoken about. Mainly because as someone who has not been in their shoes I cannot speak on their behalf. I can only imagine their situation to be worse than what women go through. Again speaking of women, I know I speak from a position of privilege- living in a house with doors that have locks, having the luxury to travel by private transportation if needed, having the power of letters and access to social media where I can read and write and articulate my thoughts. I write from the realization of my privilege. I speak for myself and for those who hear me).
I wish we could create a safe world for everyone- where no one, of any sex, gets abused. It might sound like a rather idealistic, utopian, unrealistic call. I do not intend to bring about a revolution. Just a reminder that every step counts. Every story matters. Every life counts. Every experience is valid.
Image source: Still from Kabir Singh
A postgraduate in English Literature, I am an aspiring academician and researcher. Words are thoughts with wings and I find immense pleasure in writing and sharing my thoughts with people. When you share your thoughts read more...
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