Is battling women harassment a man’s duty as well?
A woman clambers aboard a crowded coach, negotiates her way through the jostling throng of people and manages to find a seat. She plumps herself on the vacant place and clenches her hand around her purse. You are sitting on the opposite seat that directly faces her.
However, as she fishes out a ballpoint from her purse and begins writing in her notebook, you treat her like just another stranger on the bus, trying to make her way home.
Minutes later, something stirs within you. A deep disgust wells up in your heart as you notice a man sitting next to the woman stroking his hand against her knees. He deliberately presses his body against her every time the coach hits a speed bump. She tries to cringe away at the unwanted touching but he refuses to stop.
As the seconds tick away into minutes, you watch the helplessness disappear from her face and anger take up residence. She rises from her seat, smacks his face and berates him. The man is visibly humiliated. He holds a hand against his swollen cheek, looks around the coach one last time, paces towards the door and exits the vehicle.
Everyone in the coach sits in stunned silence after the incident. The only person who says anything to her is you. However, your response is riddled with guilt and driven by the need to sound politically correct.
“Good for you for taking a stance,”
You tell her in a voice thick with emotion.
“But please remember, not all men are like that.”
At that moment, you don’t realise that through your words you are changing the course of long-standing debates on sexism, harassment, misogyny and rape by absolving yourself from blame.
‘Not all men’ isn’t just a hashtag that surfaced several months ago. It bears testimony to a history of ignorance towards the struggle of women by men who feel the need to defend themselves.
That’s the first thought that streamed through my mind as I watched a video that depicted a similar scenario to the one I have just described.
The man in the video noticed that a woman sitting next to him was being groped by a passenger. Although he remained tight-lipped over the matter, he was the first to congratulate her on standing up for herself.
The compliment was well-meaning but ineffectual as he rehashed the ‘not all men’ argument and, consciously or unconsciously, trivialised what she had been through and overcome.
In the modern age, the battle of sexes is not about winning or losing. On the contrary, it is a matter of empathy and negotiating tensions with tact and understanding. If we continue to blow things out of proportion instead of placing matters in the right context, men will continue to reside in Mars and never consider Venus their home.
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