Why Men Are Quiet When Women Are Harassed

Is silence in the face of oppression an act of complicity? Sometimes even indifference is an action. Like in most parts of the world today, Nigeria still has misogyny woven into the fabric of its society. Sexual assaults are on a rise and everyone wonders why men are quiet when women are harassed.

In fact, merely existing as a young woman in this country means you have signed up for mistreatment. You are unceasingly catcalled, you are slut-shamed, you are body-shamed, and even age-shamed. They throw that ‘Menopause’ in your face at every given opportunity if you are still a spinster by 30.

These days, the misogyny is being repelled by a fierce wave of misandry (clothed in feminism). Social media is the battle ground for such wars.

Nigerian men continue to fight the stereotype that all men are harassers. The big question now is: if every man on the internet says they are innocent of the general accusations, who then commits the crimes?

Truly, not all men are dangerous. A new survey by Posh and Venus revealed that 70% of Nigerian men feel uncomfortable when women are mistreated or belittled in their presence but do not speak up.

What could be the reasons for this silent behaviour?

For the average guy on the street, the Bro Code is the constitution. The Bro Code is a set of unspoken laws that regulate the affairs and terms of relationships of boys. One of the many laws of the Bro Code is to always support a brother, publicly back him up (even when he’s in the wrong). This mentality is one of the reasons why some of the good guys would rather stay silent when a woman is insulted in their presence.

There are some other psychological studies that explains this.


The Bystander effect explains that people are less likely to help victims in an emergency if there are other people present. To relate it to the topic at hand, if a group of boys were sitting on a block and one of them was harassing a lady, the others are less likely to come to her aid.

It is not clear why this happens but experts suggest a range of reasons for this. They say the bystanders do not believe it is their responsibility to intervene; or do not believe they are capable of intervention; or they are worried they might be judged negatively for intervening.

This social experiment revealed that ordinary people have a tendency to obey orders issued by an authority figure. All our lives, we’ve had obedience ingrained in us. In this sense, a guy is less likely to speak up against any form of authority — be they bosses or parents.

The Harvey Weinstein case is the most readily available example. After the whole outrage over his case, some men who have worked with him came out say they were aware of it all along, but they did nothing. One of such persons is screenwriter, Scott Rosenberg.

In an apologetic Facebook post, he claimed that he (and everyone else) were aware of the Weinstein situation. However, he did not speak up for fear of losing benefits he enjoyed.

With the “All Men are Rapists” rhetoric becoming mainstream, it is left to the 70% good men to speak up and change the narrative.

What do you think?

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