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Though #MeToo is getting widespread support, it is not free from criticisms. It is unwise to condemn the whole movement due to some of its loopholes.
Sexual harassment is coercion of an unwelcomed sexual nature by an individual towards another individual. It includes a range of behavior like humiliation, physical or mental abuse, and assault. Sometimes it is difficult for victims to describe what they are going through. The harasser could be a predatory harasser, dominance harasser, strategic harasser or street harasser.
In recent years many campaigns are being held for throwing light on sexual abuse. And The #MeToo campaign is one of them. Some people, which included both men and women have criticized it on the grounds that it would end up casting all men as perpetrators. While many people are supported this movement, few of them have actually fathomed the significance of this movement.
The #MeToo movement is against sexual harassment and sexual assault by an individual towards another individual. Here individuals could be male, female or transgenders. So, the movement was initially gender neutral but soon became a movement for women as more and more women choose to come out and stand in solidarity with other women. As the masks of many powerful men started to fall, the cry of foul play began.
Though it was all about the widespread prevalence of sexual assault at workplaces, it also includes sexual assault faced by an individual at any place in their lifetime.
In 2006 Tarana Burke, a social activist and community organizer used the phrase ‘Me Too.’ She had used it in response to a sexual assault experience of a 13-year-old girl.
On October 15, 2017, actress Alyssa Milano used #MeToo on Twitter to draw attention towards sexual assault and harassment faced by women. She encouraged and asked the victims of sexual harassment to tweet about it and let other people know the enormity of this issue. Within minutes, loads of tweets by women started flooding which included some high profile posts from American celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Jennifer Lawrence, and Uma Thurman.
Thousands of people replied with #MeToo stories and shared their experiences with many others. It was an act to show that you are not alone, I too have faced it in my life. It also exhibited to the world how grievous this problem is.
In the wake of #MeToo, several private whispers became public and many countries like U.S, Japan, China, Britain, France, Italy, and India started having media discussions on the need for change with the current cultural norms.
Thus, the original purpose of #MeToo was to empower women through empathy for each other. To know that there are thousands of other strong women who have faced the same problem and are still facing it. The other purpose was to generate resources for change, to have access to healing and advocate changes in law and policies.
The brave women who came out with their horrendous stories of molestation, harassment, and rape, have paved the way for a safer working environment for all of us. The Producer’s Association, Director’s Association, Cine Artist’s Association and the Screenwriters Association of India have strongly come out in support of women’s safety. This might help in building a safer environment for women in films and television fraternity. This would also serve as an example for creating a safer working environment in all other industries.
Why were they silent for so long?
They were silent because society silenced them. There are some who were abused at the age of six or ten, but nobody heard them then. They become older, more independent and now they are confident enough to show the world their wounds. They are ready to show the real face of those monsters unknowingly living among us all. That monster who could be her uncle, neighbor, grandfather or even her own father. This is a face of #MeToo.
They were silent because it was expected of them. They were weak, fragile and may be afraid of acid or other attacks on them or their loved ones. But this #MeToo movement gave them enough courage to show that monster his real place. This is also a face of #MeToo.
They were silent because they were surrounded by a number of women who helped patriarchal notions to flourish. They are the mothers of this oppressive silence. They were taught that good girls never showed their wounds to the public. They learnt to handle it. But #Metoo led them to see and feel the wounds of fellow survivors. They come to know that their silence made the monster more powerful and he was out there looking for a new prey. Then they were ready to share their part of the story. This is how #MeToo helped.
They were silent because, in reality, they are not Kali or Durga. They are Shakti, but she is not some Goddess who can kill goons with her bare hands or stop them from raping her by just a slap. It is easy to slap someone and say ‘no’ but is it necessary for that someone to understand the meaning of ‘NO.’
While returning from office a girl was assaulted by a man. A girl in an elevator was assaulted by another man. Both of them said no, resisted and tried hard to fight with their assaulter, but got defeated. After a few years, they recognized that man at their friend’s wedding or at some prize distribution function. Now that man was standing right in front of them, living a respectful life, might be assaulting someone else in disguise. They had enough of crying, now they spoke up. Hence come up with their #MeToo story.
And what if they were not able to identify their assaulter, still they chose to share their #MeToo story. They wanted to show the world that how unsafe this place is for women. This is how #MeToo gave them a platform.
What about false accusations?
Obviously, there will be false accusations. When Indian criminal law included dowry as a punishable offense under Section 304B, it was feared that it could be misused by few women for wrongly accusing men. And yes, many false cases were being filed.
Then India’s supreme court said that people accused of dowry harassment should not be arrested until charges were verified. It felt like the law was enacted to help women, but it was being used as a weapon by some disgruntled wives. So, for this very reason, one should start criticizing the dowry law?! No. On the contrary, one should criticize the misuse of this law.
Likewise in the wake of false accusations, one should not condemn the whole movement. Instead, the law must take its course.
All men are not assaulters, there are many good, cultured and respectful men. But there are some who are not. They are monsters underneath the skin of civilized men; time has come for them to face the music. This movement was never against men but sexual assaulters. And an assaulter could be a woman too.
The above mentioned would only hamper the atmosphere and the genuine cases of assault that women have suffered over the years.
Thus, #MeToo is a movement to empathize with other victims; to make it loud and clear that yes, I did face harassment at some point in my life, but I am not scared anymore.
In the darkness,
under the sky,
I was walking
with my head held up high.
She was there tormented and agonized.
Can feel the wretchedness of her eyes,
the alter ego of my twinge.
She read the message then and there,
you are not alone
I am here.
Image Source – Flickr, Katie Tegtmeyer.
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