Why 'Not All Men' Is An Emotionally Draining, Unempathetic Response To Gender-Based Violence

For a long time, whenever I listen to or engage with news about gender-based violence, rape, acid attack, or harrassment, committed by men on women, it invariably ignites complex feelings of fear, prejudice and sometimes sharp hatred in me towards that particular gender. The general argument and defense that we often come across when such feelings are expressed is, ‘not all men’.

Even if I try to accept that for argument’s sake, when I am in public spaces like metros where the majority of the people present are men, most of who make me uncomfortable with their gaze, ‘not all men’ becomes a very unacceptable, problematic thought in my head. When women or individuals from oppressed gender minorities enter a room full of men, we instantly feel uncomfortable, vigilant and worry that something could go wrong. However, this seldom happens when the scenario is reversed.

I try hard not to feed this kind of feeling, but as the days pas, and I consume more news about gendered violence and converse about the same with my friends in general and male friends in particular, it rekindles my fears leading me to burst out and frequently criticise male privilege and entitlement. The consequence is that like in the case of every ‘feminist killjoy‘, the deviates to ‘how I communicate and carry my emotions’, while the problem at hand remains unaddressed.

Knowing that men and women have different lived experiences in the same situation in a patriarchal society intensifies these emotions. Male privilege allows men to walk freely at any time, use public spaces, express opinions and exercise agency without the fear of violence or threat. Many times, I have heard fellow women say with a sigh, “I wish I was a man“, because then, rights would have been easier to exercise. As Kamla Bhasin said, “social, religious, legal and cultural practices privileges them as men, and consequently, accord them more rights in practically every area.”

Why ‘not all men’ is problematic

One of the most common arguments received from men when a woman or individual from a marginalised gender identity recalls a traumatic incident about harassment is, ‘not all men’; and these are not very comforting words to hear. They just add fuel to fire when uttered in response to a person’s narration of gender-based violence or sexual assault.

‘But what about men?’, ‘They are abused too’, is another kind of response that is frequently meted out in instances like this. Men’s sexual abuse is an issue which is extremely concerning, but if you are reminded of these arguments only at a time when a woman discusses their trauma, it is a very insensitive, problematic approach to the situation

We all know that not all men are violators or abusers. But if your first concern and reflex after listening to an individual’s account of harassment is ‘not all men‘, it completely deviates the focus of attention from the problem to you defending yourself when in the first place, nobody has blamed you. It is always easier to defend than to listen, acknowledge and take responsibility for the abuse influcted by members of a privileged group, without having it trigger individual male ego.

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Also read: #NotAllMen, ‘Woman Card’, Feminazi – How Social Media Dismisses Feminism

Imp's Mom on Twitter: "When men say #NotAllMen. https://t.co/gVMImgpJyK" /  Twitter
Image: Twitter

‘But what about men?’, ‘They are abused too’, is another kind of response that is frequently meted out in instances like this. Men’s sexual abuse is an issue which is extremely concerning, but if you are reminded of these arguments only at a time when a woman discusses their trauma, it is a very insensitive, problematic approach to the situation.

We will be able to address the problem holistically only when there is acceptance about it from the oppressor group, and a willingness to reverse it individually, as well as systemically. What survivors of sexual abuse need is empathy and solidarity. ‘Not all men‘ is a very trigerring response in this scenario and this fact must be recognised

Issues against men, though lesser in proportion are equally significant. But using them to trivialise or counter narratives of sexual abuse suffered by women and members of marginalised genders is deliberatley deciding to not address the elephant in the room. On engaging with personal experiences or news pertaining to gender-based violence, if the immediate tendency of a person is to take it as a personal attack and prove that some men are ‘nice’, it is a part of the problem that we are trying to resolve. Nobody has a right to expect gratitude from anyone for not engaging in sexual assault.

Survivors of systemic and gendered abuse do not have to take the onus of narrating their experiences with the caution to pamper the egos of those who listen to them.

Ayesha Asif on Twitter: "On the argument 'Not all men' We fight enough to  protect ourselves from the rotten men. We shouldn't have to sit and explain  why we need the good
Image: Twitter

One thing that eats me up most of the time is that many men hide under their defense and are not willing to change, but want to continue the endless fight and defend themselves at the cost of invalidating the trauma of survivors of sexual abuse. When one constantly engages with news about how many sexual assaults have been committed in the country, and becomes privy to the defensive, privileged responses of the perpetrators of violence, it becomes impossible to not develop such feelings of despair and unrest towards the privileged gender.

The feeling keeps on exacerbating and I really want it to dwindle with time. We will be able to address the problem holistically only when there is acceptance about it from the oppressor group, and a willingness to reverse it individually, as well as systemically. What survivors of sexual abuse need is empathy and solidarity. ‘Not all men‘ is a very trigerring response in this scenario and this fact must be recognised.

Also read: The #NotAllMen Video By AskMen India Is What Male Entitlement Looks Like


Featured Image: FEM Newsmagazine

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Male Privilege:

    1. 97% war deaths are men.
    2. 93% workplace deaths are men.
    3. 77% homicide victims are men
    4. 70% suicides are men
    5. 67% homeless are men
    6. More men die from prostate cancer than women from breast cancer yet no awareness for prostate cancer.
    7. Innocent men rot in jail in false cases of dowry and rape.
    8. Society laughs at male victims of domestic violence.
    9. Women get less jail time for the same crimes committed by men.
    10. Lifeboats are reserved for women.
    11. Women are saved first in hostage situations.
    12. Women are rescued first from burning buildings.
    13. Women get to spend men’s earnings.
    14. Women are handed child custody in the majority of divorce cases.
    15. Media does not cover men’s issues.
    16. Girls are treated better than boys in schools and colleges.
    17. Seats in buses and metros are reserved for women.
    18. Men’s life savings are spent in alimony and child support payments.
    19. Even in two income families, men bear the monetary burden.
    20. Men face mandatory conscription.
    21. Men are victims of paternity fraud.
    22. Women receive the same social standing as their husband overnight after marriage.
    23. A jobless man is a loser but a jobless woman is a homemaker.
    24. Men suffer from hypertension due to work related issues.
    25. Men have shorter life expectancy, men work longer and die younger.

  2. Indian men are cuckolds. Their wives openly cheat, then shut their husbands up with threats of a false dowry case, woman’s brothers are always ready to bring goons, women perpetrate terrible psychological abuse, and after a divorce take half of everything a man has worked for all his life and his children. Then he must pay alimony and child support even if she is working and he is jobless! Men sink in depression and many commit suicide due to financial ruin and especially because they are not able to see their children. If a man is falsely accused, he will be ruined even if he is able to prove his innocence because he will still lose his job and face social boycott. Financial problems and people’s dirty looks and taunts result in depression and ultimately suicide. Marriage is a punishment for men today.

  3. Not all men means that you cannot direct all your anger towards all men for the actions of a few. It’s like calling every Muslim a terrorist just for the actions of a few. This is a really mean article. Pretty much-justifying hatred towards one particular sex.

  4. These comments are just justifying the article’s point. Y’all are pathetic. Men, if you are not part of the solution, then you ARE part of the problem.

  5. Then in cases where men are harassed , shall we blame all women and say “Yes all women”? How would you feel then?
    Now if you say “Not all women” and if we label your response as “unempathetic” , how will you feel?

    Stop considering all women as victims
    Stop labelling all men as bad

    Your one-sided movement under the false promise of equality will NEVER succeed! Never!

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