“I was groped after cops started caning people,” a survivor speaks in a piece on Bangalore Mirror. By now, it’s global news that hundreds of women were molested in Bengaluru on New Year’s Eve, even though 1500 cops were deployed but couldn’t do anything. We received varied reactions from top officials from the Police Commissioner of Bengaluru denying the incident to politicians like G. Parameshwara and Abu Azmi blaming it on ‘western’ clothes and comparing women and men to sugar and ants respectively.
Now, one would assume that there would be mass outrage by women and men alike especially since we as a nation have mastered the art of outraging post 2012. However, when we woke up to work (which also means Twitter) post-holiday slumber on January 3, we saw #NotAllMen trending. A nation which received huge negative limelight during Delhi’s 2012 gangrape and murder case and which has been branded as a ‘rape country’ could respond to mass molestation in 2017 with #NotAllMen speaks volumes about how neither we have learned much nor we are willing to move forward.
Two days after the molestation was reported by mainstream news media, Indian men stormed social media and flooded it with how ‘#NotAllMen are rapists’. What these men and their small butthurt ego failed to understand is ‘we are NOT saying all men are rapists, but ALL women have been harassed, groped, molested, assaulted, raped or have been victims of sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. This is not about you, so kindly shut up!’.
January 3 is also Savitribai Phule – India’s first female teacher of the first school for women and girls and anti-caste activist’s – birth anniversary. We were busy writing and posting about Savitribai and ignored the #NotAllMen hashtag assuming it will die down soon. But boy, Indian men proved us wrong and how!
Till next day, January 4, the hashtag was alive and well kicking. That’s when we decided, enough is enough! Just like public spaces, men had occupied the online space as well and women’s voices were not heard. It was important for women to come out and reclaim the space as well as the narrative and most importantly respond to the idiocy of #NotAllMen.
Hence, on January 4, we made a call via our Twitter handle asking women to share their stories of harassment, molestation or sexual violence on Twitter with the hashtag #YesAllWomen.
Disgusting that response to #BengaluruMolestation is #NotAllMen. Women, it's time we reclaim narrative. Share stories w/ #YesAllWomen & RT. pic.twitter.com/UlVNmAQwaE
— Feminism in India (@FeminismInIndia) January 4, 2017
We tagged the active handles from our followers, urging them to make some noise in order to reclaim the narrative. Side by side, we got together as a team and started tweeting from our respective personal handles.
Initially, many users started tweeting to us without the hashtag. We had to then request them to not miss out hashtags in order to increase the number of people tweeting with the same hashtag and thus make it trending.
What started then can be safely termed as feminist digital activism at its best. Our call slowly started gaining traction as the sentiment obviously struck a chord with a lot of women. There was this sense of solidarity and sisterhood being formed as more and more women saw other women speak out about their experiences. This is one of the biggest reasons why, after a few hours, #YesAllWomen started trending. As more women saw their experiences echoed in those of other women, they felt driven to write in with their stories too.
Hundreds of women flooded social media (mostly Twitter, but some were seen on Facebook and Instagram as well) with personal stories of how they were sexually violated as a child, as a teen, as an adult, at homes, at parks, at offices and schools, in the bus, in the metro, in the plane, in the train, even at temples and churches, by uncles and brothers, friends and foes, teachers and guardians alike. Indian women came out and owned it!
I was molested in #DelhiMetro where a middle aged man took out his penis & rubbed it against my butt. #YesAllWomen https://t.co/R356pfBtXM
— Japleen Pasricha (@japna_p) January 4, 2017
Of course #NotAllMen. Not all men live with the fear of rape, molestation, sexual assault & physical violence. But #YesAllWomen do.
— Amena (@Fashionopolis) January 3, 2017
Wearing jeans and walking on streets late at night is Western culture. Groping, molesting, raping women is Indian culture.#YesAllWomen
— Hira Naaz (@naaz_heer) January 4, 2017
Everyone jumped on the bandwagon, including some brands and news media platforms. That was when we realised the importance of tweeting consistently, with the correct hashtag in every tweet and of sending all tweets as a reply to the main tweet. What we also ensured was to Retweet and Quote tweets of women who wrote in to us. We also found a few threads by women who had written about their experiences of sexual abuse earlier and then QTed them with the #YesAllWomen hashtag.
We've always said nothing beats staying at home, but not this time. This time, we want you to get out. #YesAllWomen pic.twitter.com/79viIhtlXi
— Urban Ladder (@UrbanLadder) January 5, 2017
#YesAllWomen: These women's tales of sexual harassment will make your blood boil https://t.co/07phniqXeY by @nemo_dutta23
— DNA (@dna) January 4, 2017
After widespread sexual assaults at New Year's Eve celebrations in Bengaluru, Indian women share their experiences with #YesAllWomen. pic.twitter.com/YylIh618HT
— AJ+ (@ajplus) January 4, 2017
Ladies, #YesAllWomen is finally trending 😀 Keep it coming! Share your stories of sexual harassment, assault, violence with #YesAllWomen pic.twitter.com/FuA0zl3dHw
— Feminism in India (@FeminismInIndia) January 4, 2017
However, as is the case with any successful event, there are always some party-poopers. Japleen and a few other online friends received tweets from men saying how we are bragging and lying about our incidents of sexual violence for ‘publicity’. One even suggested that Japleen should put a blade in her butt, while another said, ‘please don’t tweet such stories as men get “upset”.’ And obviously, the evergreen question, ‘why were you out?’. Talk about male entitlement!
Responses were pouring in well till the next two days, it garnered a lot of media attention and coverage. We also Storify-ed some of the responses here. It has also resulted in a multi-city night march by the name of #IWillGoOut, being planned for later this month to reclaim our right to walk the streets at day and night, alike (more details coming soon). We plan to keep the momentum going and keep a check on such trends in future for a timely response.
Also Read: Dear Men, You Win. #NotAllMen