Four days after mass molestations in Bangalore, India, the country’s men had managed to turn the attention to themselves, using the NotAllMen hashtag.
by Awanthi Vardaraj
(Content note: Sexual assault, sexual violence. I’ve done my best to link to websites that don’t have autoplaying videos depicting the incidents described in this piece, and I have deliberately not chosen some of the distressing images associated with this incident to describe this piece. If you do follow a link to an external news site which has an autoplaying video, I recommend that you not watch. The footage is gruesome and horrific.)
New Year’s Eve celebrations in Bangalore were marred by another ugly series of mass molestations, making them the third such incident to happen in India. As women walked in the streets of their city, celebrating with friends and family, masses of men descended on them, all hands, and grabbed everything that they could see. It was a visible and obvious message, and one that Indian women are eerily familiar with: I come, I see, I take.
Although Indian police were present, women reported that the officers were no more than mute spectators. Even though they possessed weapons, they stood by and watched as these men grabbed and fondled women around them with impunity. Sobbing women screamed and tried to run towards the police, even as the men pulled them back to keep groping and fondling them, and the cops did nothing to step in and protect them. Later, Bangalore police claimed that they were heavily outnumbered.
As the news broke on the first of January and the country was understandably furious, the attention shifted from the molestations and the sexual assault to – you guessed it – Indian men. The hashtag #NotAllMen began trending around the third of January, presumably in response to the attention men were facing as a result of the mass molestations, and it soon overtook the real issue at hand. By the fourth day of 2017, the attention was solely focused on #NotAllMen instead of #WhatHappenedInBangaloreMustNeverHappenAgain.
As a tactic to shut down the conversation at hand, this one is scarily effective, and it’s one we’ve seen used time and time again. Talking about rape? Well, guess what? #NotAllMen! Are we having a conversation about domestic abuse? #NotAllMen! Perhaps the topic at hand is about single women finding it difficult to rent in Indian cities (it’s happened to me), but by all means, stand on top of the nearest rooftop you can find and scream #NotAllMen into the abyss.
This isn’t the first time that a conversation about women and women’s issues has been derailed and become a conversation about men, and sadly, it won’t be the last. It’s not the first time that men feel the need to justify that they aren’t as monstrous as their counterparts who were actually responsible for the molestations, as though this guarantees them a cookie somehow. Instead of sitting down and letting women speak, Indian men, as usual, dominated the conversation.
However, it’s important for everyone who feels the need to drone #NotAllMen like a broken record to know that they play a part in the society that they live in, and it’s a vital one. Instead of stepping smartly back when the gaze is on them, perhaps they could step up instead. To help them do just that, I made them a handy checklist with their own snappy hashtag: #YesAllMen.
#YesAllMen must respect the autonomy of a woman’s body.
#YesAllMen will show up and be counted.
#YesAllMen will stand up and speak out on behalf of women.
#YesAllMen will not expect cookies just for being men.
#YesAllMen will acknowledge their immense privilege and use said privilege for good, not evil.
#YesAllMen will understand that consent is mandatory.
#YesAllMen will work to end gender discrimination.
#YesAllMen must not stand on the sidelines any more, but actively engage in the fight for gender equality.
#YesAllMen will stop using women and women’s body parts as a means of insulting other men.
#YesAllMen will actively fight against misogyny and help end misogynistic practices.
#YesAllMen will empower the women in their lives, just as they educate the men.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, by any means, but it is a great starting point. It could be a handy checklist for the next time men want to bust out the #NotAllMen card; perhaps it will make them refrain and think about #YesAllMen.