In the face of the recent mass molestation of female revellers at a New Year's event in Bengaluru, the words “men will be men” continues to be sloppily thrown around. It's an excuse we've had drilled into our psyche since time immemorial.
This begs the question “What constitutes a man?” A feral beast that cannot control its sexual urge? A title that offers liberties over the fairer sex? A being with an inborn masculine complex that is only fuelled and sated by exercising dominance over females?
We are constantly outraged as story after story of molestation and rape is featured in the media. We are up in arms, we vent our frustrations on every social media outlet, we begin trending hashtags (in case you were wondering, there's one this time too - #notallmen), sometimes, depending on the severity, we take to the streets. And then we move on. That is, until the next case once again fuels our anger and frustration.
Pic showing a scene in Bengaluru, courtesy Bangalore Mirror
While Sri Lanka may seem comparatively tame compared to our neighbours, we aren't particularly devoid of such evils. Women here still face harassment in all forms. Many are raped.
Little boys grow up being taught that possession of a certain appendage gives them way more than a smidgen of entitlement. A license, if you will, to do as they please. Without a doubt, a few exploit this freedom. Excuses are made. They are forgiven - they are men, after all, and men will be men.
This in turn paves the way for victim blaming. Words like “culture”, “clothing” and “asked for it” get thrown around. So let's get this straight - are we to understand that this same “culture” denies women simple freedoms under the guise of modesty and safety, but justifies a man's right to rape and molest, yes?
Such excuses are why society is to blame for the continued spate of attacks against women that show no signs of abating. Attacks that happen in plain view as countless people pass by. We teach little girls to behave a certain way, to dress a certain way, to speak a certain way. What a girl may be chastised for, a boy will receive praise and applause. We never tell the boys to respect women, that women are not sexual playthings to be had. We don't teach them about consent - that “No” actually does mean NO. We don't tell them that wearing “revealing” clothes is NOT an invitation to molest and rape. We don't explain to them that even if a woman is drunk or has passed out, that it in NO WAY means you have a right to throw yourself at her.
Although persistently exploited in victim blaming, it is glaringly obvious that the victim's clothing is not the problem here. Far from it. After all, victims have included babies, nuns and even those wearing a niqab! Clearly, their clothing in no way indicates that they “asked for it”, as self righteous individuals who apparently uphold cultural values like to remind us. No.
The problem lies in the mentality we as a society have groomed in our men. Teaching them that sexual dominance, among other things signifies masculinity. That power is derived from bullying and dehumanizing the worth of a woman; dictating everything from what she wears, where she goes and what she does.
Change must begin at the grassroot levels. Parents must teach their sons about respect and consent, right and wrong. And most importantly we need to stop condoning the actions of molesters and rapists under the sorry excuse that men will be men. As twitter user @PWNeha put it “#Notallmen? Indeed. But yes all women. ALL women have been molested or assaulted and groped or catcalled at least once. #YESALLWOMEN”.
We spoke to a few and got their thoughts down in words.
"Men will be men. That statement itself is a wrong saying. It suggests that all men are the same and they have the same behaviour and that they all make the same choices. When applied to cases of abuse and rape, it implies that all men are rapists and abusers.
Rape and abuse are not genetic traits of any species or gender. It's an individual choice. We all feel desire. Every living thing. We all feel rage. The thing with people is that we choose whether to act on it or whether to control it. Rapists and abusers are the minority that choose to act on desire instead of controlling it. While a display of power is a trait of any person, rape and abuse is not.
It is purely psychological and applies to the individual only. And men will be men is a poor excuse to justify rape and abuse because it's not a common trait in every man. If not the female gender will have NO place in society at all.
Men will be men can be applied to men liking cars or sports more than women. But not rape and abuse. Rape and abuse is not about a display of power or a trait in men. It is a weakness where the individual is insecure. And the only way to cover for his insecurity is to feed on the weak. That is what rape and abuse is. Their fear to take on the stronger. But to beat the weak to feel superior."
"The recent events at Bangalore were disgusting, and yet another reflection of the mindset of the general population in the South Asian culture. I am disappointed at the laissez-faire attitude of the Minister, who simply chose to blame the molestations on the women's "Westernised attire" rather than direct attention to the real problem.
This mentality of "men being men", and thereby being driven to harassment due to temptations is archaic and has to be changed immediately. Hormonal triggers and thought processes shouldn't always result in action. Self control is a vital skill of any human, and should be put into practice. Therefore, gender can't be used as an excuse in this case, and the real problem at large (sexual assaulters) is what should be tackled."
"The phrase 'Men will be men' shows everything that's wrong with our society. Men are perceived to be unable to control their feelings and desires, no matter how perverted and harmful they are, and women are supposed to just accept that and shape their behaviour and dress code around this. Society is willing to make excuses for the man, but chooses to ignore the molested woman. While I'm very glad that things are changing for the better, such isolated incidents show that we have a long way to go!"
By Rihaab Mowlana