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#MeToo shows the all-pervasiveness of sexual harassment, but we all need to decide to speak up to nail the perpetrators, who still remain anonymous.
My social media feed overflows with #MeToo posts. The posts started trickling in since yesterday. And today, more people – maybe emboldened by seeing posts by their close friends, or fortified by the festive spirit (read: realising that this status update can easily be overwritten tomorrow with Diwali wishes) – have come out openly speaking up about their experiences. Comments, likes, outrage, statistics – there are innumerable responses to all that is being shared as part of this campaign. Enlightening, encouraging, harrowing, inspiring – the posts run the gamut.
Many of my friends have put this up as their status. Several have gone ahead and shared their experiences. A lot, have even spoken about how someone in their family – a mother, a sister, a friend, an aunt – helped them cope and even stood up to the perpetrators in some cases. Quite a few, have mentioned instances where they had done so themselves, by calling out the perpetrators and asking help from authorities.
Actress Alyssa Milano kicked off the movement by posting on behalf of a friend that any woman who has suffered sexual harassment could tweet #MeToo and if every such woman honestly did that, then people would get a serious idea about the sheer magnitude of the problem.
As I read these stories, I wonder, how can one join in, without drawing a big bulls-eye on oneself? Because, of course, #MeToo! And I also wonder, how many of these women who put this status up must have wondered where to start? And how many would have wondered, how much to tell?
Because, while Milano’s purpose was to show the sheer magnitude of the reach of this evil, the purpose of the movement has since changed to #Speakingup! And when you decide to speak up, you need to start at the very beginning and tell it all till the very end. Every last bit of it.
It is only someone who has suffered the fate that can understand when you mention “the look.” That stare. That lascivious smile. You could then talk about the ‘catcalling,’ the ‘whistles,’ the ‘lewd gestures;’ and not to forget, the ‘flashing.’ And then you move on to the “accidental brushing” of the hand on the part of your body that most fascinates the perpetrator. And then you can also mention the “accidental push” in a crowded bus or a metro. You could also talk about the ‘sitting a bit too close’ by some men in the crowded public transport, because, after all, it is crowded. And you could then end with a full out assault.
But wait, are the ones tweeting/posting about #MeToo the only ones who have suffered this fate? No, no! For every woman who has posted, there will be more who haven’t posted their stories. And why should they? Because sharing something like this (or not) is their prerogative. And also, in some cases, they may be scared. Because unlike the monsters and evil witches in fairy tales, real life monsters are found not only outside the house, but within the confines of one’s home too!
And you know what? If someone doesn’t share their story, it could also mean that they don’t trust this process. This process of calling out the perpetrators. Because here again, only victims’ names get public, while the perpetrators can hide behind the cloak of anonymity.
Another reason someone may not want to share such a story is because they feel, as with most other causes today, #MeToo would also be a war merely fought on the social media platform. And that no one would actually do something about it. What’s more, when the next trending topic comes up, they would just forget all about #MeToo and then where would all the people be who bared their soul on social media?
What’s worse, is that the men who would read this, would ‘like,’ ‘comment on,’ and even offer sympathetic advice or indulge in sympathetic discussions – but to what purpose? Will they change their own behaviour? Will they stop a whistling teenager on the road? Would they stop someone pushing a woman in a crowded bus? Would they run to help a woman who is publicly assaulted on the side of a road? Or would they just look the other way and move on, thankful that it wasn’t their family member (touch wood)?
Well, I may not want to put up a #MeToo post for any of these reasons. And I would be justified. Because unless someone shows me that these posts actually help, and convinces me that there will actually steps be taken to make some changes in the law of the country, in the mind-set of the people and in the apathy of the system towards the victims of sexual harassment, no matter how many hashtags we can come up with and no matter how many people participate in these movements, nothing is going to change.
In fact, I am thinking of starting a #NotMyProblem movement, where each of us can post/write about instances where we have seen something wrong happening right in front of our eyes and have just gone the other way, because, of course, #NotMyProblem.
But you know what, I think the movement will never take off, because no one has the guts! Not to stand up against the wrong. And definitely not to own up the fact.
So I suggest people better clean up their act. They better move out of the #NotMyProblem zone and get into the #IIntendToHelp zone and then we will have something. Otherwise, in another decade or so, we would be back here and the stories shared then, could be even worse.
Published here earlier.
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With over 200 published stories, Rashmi is a lawyer-turned-writer, who has always given
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