All men don’t live in the constant fear of being assaulted sexually every time they step out of the house. Women don’t even have to leave their bedroom to face all of this. If you still think that it is somehow okay if #NotAllMen are rapists/molesters/assaulters but only some are, you need to get a reality check.
I was playing at the park near my house in a hillside town in Uttarakhand (my father was posted there at the time) when a group of local boys from a nearby village came around on their bicycles and started passing lewd comments. I remember not understanding what their words meant, but I understood their gestures. I was 9. They didn’t look much older than me. I stopped going to that park after the incident.
Not all men, they say. Clearly! These were just boys.
The same year, a male classmate of mine drew half-naked pictures of girls on a wall behind a house in the neighbourhood and wrote my name under them along with his. Later, his mother complained to my mother and said I had developed an unhealthy attachment to his son. Thankfully, my mom knew the truth.
Not all men, they say. This was just a classmate.
A 10-year-old girl’s breasts were fondled by her grandfather’s friend at a family gathering. He lured her on the pretext of giving her candy while her parents were busy arranging for tea and snacks in the kitchen. Over 20 years later, she still doesn’t have the courage to tell her friends and family about it.
Not all men, they say. This was just a perverted old man.
I was 12 when I got catcalled for the first time. I was taking a walk around India Gate with my mom, when a group of young boys whistled and made obscene remarks. We walked faster and left the place as soon as we could.
Not all men, they say. These were just hot-blooded youngsters.
A friend was walking home from her tuitions in the evening. She was in class 10 (15YO) at the time. Suddenly, a man passed her by on his bicycle and threw something at her face. It was semen. Shocked and petrified, she didn’t go for her classes for several days. Nothing happened to the guy, of course.
Not all men, they say. This was just a stranger passing buy.
One of our college professor’s had narrated an incident about a man in the metro who started masturbating right there after looking at a girl in a short dress sitting opposite him. “What’s the need for wearing such clothes in the metro,” she had questioned.
Not all men, they say. This was just a frustrated employee.
A 21-year-old college student, who used to take the bus from her college to her house in South Delhi, was poked, pinched and called names on multiple occasions. Every time this happened, she used to get down from the bus and take the next one, hoping that she wouldn’t be followed.
Not all men, they say. This was just a random guy on the bus.
One day, during the course of my journalism school, I had boarded an auto in the morning to get to college. On the way, the driver started discussing sex and positions and repeatedly asked me to give my phone number. I got down as soon as I could and walked the rest of the way. From that day on, I had someone accompany me every time I took an auto/cab.
Not all men, they say. This was just a turned-on auto driver.
A friend was felt up by her boss at a media house after she reached office drenched due to heavy rain. “You must be wet,” he had said as he placed his hand on her thigh. She didn’t speak up for the longest time.
Not all men, they say. This was just her boss.
I had joined a business news channel in 2015 as a reporter. On the second day, my boss sat me down and told me I was hired only because being a pretty girl I would easily be able to get bytes from ministers. When I complained to the HR, they brushed it under the carpet and asked me to re-consider my decision of leaving the organisation.
Not all men, they say. This was just a sexist boss.
A girl was groped and felt up at a house party by a male friend when everybody had gone to sleep. She ran and locked herself in the bathroom. She didn’t sleep the entire night and didn’t have the courage to tell her other friends in the morning. When she did, the male friend just apologised like it was no big deal.
Not all men, they say. This was a friend.
A woman was touched inappropriately by a friend of her husband’s at a social event. When she later told her husband, he asked her to forget about it.
Not all men, they say. This was just her husband’s friend.
One of our house helps was forced by her husband to have sex everyday, just a few months after the delivery of their daughter so that she would get pregnant with a boy. This was when she was constantly bleeding from her vagina and the doctor had said her uterus was too weak to support another child.
Not all men, they say. This was just her husband.
When these incidents were discussed with friends, relatives and acquaintances, many said, “at least nothing happened”, “at least she wasn’t raped”, “at least she didn’t die”. The question is, do we need to wait for “something to happen” for it to be called abuse? Do we need for “something to happen” for people to believe that ALL women are unsafe?
As women, we have to safeguard ourselves, and be accountable for our safety from a very young age because we never know what will test a man’s animal instinct. We figure out early on that that we are walking the fine line between responsibility and blame in case anything happens to us if any one (or more than one) of the good men in our lives are not able to keep their penises in their pants. No matter what we do, where we live, what we wear, or how we act, we face the very real threat of sexual assault and violence EVERY SINGLE DAY.
But these men, who are saying #NotAllMen, trying to prove that we somehow should be grateful because you’ve not assaulted a woman in some way, open your goddamn eyes and look at the bigger problem.