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Women can no longer live in fear

Men must be involved in fighting toxic masculinity and inequality

editorials Updated: Jun 07, 2019 22:00 IST
Hindustan Times
Gender inequality,Not All Men,violence
That defensive attitude of men who think of themselves as Not All Men is the primary problem of the Not All Men discourse(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Not all men are misogynists. Not all men abuse their significant others. Not all men make more money than all women. Not all men dismiss women’s opinions as insignificant. Yes. It is known. And yet there are so many problems with #NotAllMen as a response to the issues of violence perpetrated by the dominant gender. This extremely meme-worthy response on social media most often crops up in timelines of defensive men who don’t want to feel responsible for making everyone who isn’t a cis-het (cisgendered, heterosexual) male feel threatened, belittled, or discriminated against. That defensive attitude of men who think of themselves as Not All Men is the primary problem of the Not All Men discourse.

This debate is actually really old. As early as 2004, the term NAMALT — Not All Men Are Like That — had made an appearance in chat rooms. In 2013, it was going viral on Twitter. By 2014, there was a popular Tumblr with memes and reimagined movie scenes around the subject. And yet, in 2019, it is still common for women to encounter this response every time they try to have a conversation about toxic masculinity or the ways in which they feel threatened or belittled or dismissed by men in the course of their lives. The problem is this: Not All Men is a tactic of derailment. As allies in the war against patriarchy (which we hope #AtLeastSomeMen are), men are required to acknowledge the extent of the problem and not just try to exonerate their individual selves. This does nothing to solve the problem of toxic masculinity or make women feel safer. A brilliant illustrative panel explains this: a victim of rash driving is lying on the street bleeding out, and a passer-by asks what happened. The victim explains that a driver ran them over. The passer-by responds with “Not all drivers run people over! I’m a driver, I never ran anyone over!” and walks off, leaving the victim bleeding on the road.

The thing is that there are enough men wielding their toxic masculinity as a weapon against women to justify the fear of all men. To use another Twitter hashtag, #JustEnoughMen. While it is true that not all men are perpetrators of violence — emotional, physical, professional — the justified fear of all men requires each individual man to understand this fear and be a better ally to women and other marginalised groups. Pointing out individual exceptions does nothing to help combat the everyday sexist behaviours of men (everything from interrupting women while they speak and mansplaining to domestic violence and rape). Men, this is not about you individually, but you collectively.

First Published: Jun 07, 2019 22:00 IST