We’re sure that the #Metoo wave has touched you all and there isn’t a single soul out there in the world that isn’t aware of the power of this movement. It has spread like wildfire all over the world. This movement has become a platform of hope, especially for the women, to fight against all those men-predators and all the episodes of sexual harassment and abuse. It’s a movement that’s meant to name and shame all the perpetrators, because their time’s up, and the world needs to see them for who they are really!
The Origin Of #MeToo
This movement just completed a year, it was first started in the USA last year, but, interestingly this movement was something that had sprouted way back in 2006 itself by Tarana Burke, an African-American civil rights activist. It was she who monikered the movement “me too” while she listened to a girl narrate her painful story of how her mother’s boyfriend was sexually harassing her (1). In order to empathize with the innocent girl, she’d said, “You’re not alone. This happened to me too.”
The #MeToo movement gained recognition and reached the masses when Hollywood actress Alyssa Milano urged the victims of sexual abuse to speak out, last year. She tweeted, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” And the response that she received was overwhelming. It goes down in history as one of the most revolutionary movements. Soon, hundreds of women across the globe began to share their devastating and disturbing experiences of sexual assault on social media using the hashtag #MeToo. The stories were so relatable that it was scary. Everybody’s Facebook feed, Twitter feed, and other social media platforms echoed one voice – Me too!
Everyone Is Speaking Up
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You all might find it utterly horrifying to know that according to research, the hashtag #MeToo has been used 19 million times on Twitter, and we are just talking about its usage in the English language until 30th September 2018 (2). So, according to a layman’s calculation, it accounts to an average of 55,319 tweets per day. The research recognized two types of interactions – the #MeToo stories that revolved around the celebrities or the entertainment industry (29 percent) and the #MeToo personal stories of the people across the world (71 percent).
The #MeToo Rise In India
Last year, just when the entire world was reading stories of pain and disgust on the social media, back in the silicon city of Bengaluru, a journalist decided to narrate her #MeToo story through Vogue India. Priya Ramani, the journalist, in her write-up gave a detailed, graphic narration of how she was harassed by a senior editor and founder of two national newspapers. She was harassed when she was called by them for an interview. But, she didn’t tell the readers who the harassers were. She stopped herself from naming the editor.
In India, to be able to fight against men is nothing short of an act of courage, and especially if the man has an added advantage of influential social status and power, it definitely doesn’t come easily. In the Indian society, where acts of sexual harassment are normalized, where the concept of consent is negated by the weight of patriarchy, where the ‘weaker’ gender’s testimonies are often disregarded, it took a movement like #MeToo for women to feel liberated and empowered to call out their tormentors.
After almost a year, this movement was revolutionized. It was a spark that spread into a wildfire. On 7th October 2018, when Bollywood actress Tanushree Dutta came out in public and made serious allegations on veteran actor Nana Patekar, there was an eerie silence. She said that it had happened on the sets of the film, Horn OK Pleasss, 10 years ago. Now, Tanushree, a US citizen, decided to come back to her home country and unmask her predator. Soon after Tanushree, the entire entertainment industry was buzzing with copious revelations about eminent personalities. These accusations and allegations came from various actors, models, and celebrities. They all spoke about one thing – how they had faced sexual harassment in the industry and why they kept mum for so long.
The Stories That Revealed The Scary Faces Of Many Popular Personalities
- Vinita Nanda, writer-producer of the famous 90’s show Tara, has accused actor Alok Nath of sexually assaulting her. According to her, the assault happened almost two decades ago. Recalling the incident, she said, “He was an alcoholic, shameless and obnoxious, but he was also the television star of that decade, so not only was he forgiven for all his bad behavior, many of the guys would also egg him on to be his worst.” If the allegations are true, his popular sanskaari image is nothing less than an irony.
- Kangana Ranaut, the Bollywood actress, accused her film Queen’s director Vikas Bahl of sexual misconduct by saying that, “He would bury his face in my neck and hold me really tight.” What’s the irony here? Well, the film Queen spoke about female empowerment.
- Another Bollywood actress Flora Saini who played the ghost in the recently released Rajkumar Rao and Shraddha Kapoor starrer, Stree, came forward and shared her #MeToo story at the hands of the Bollywood producer Gaurang Doshi. She was apparently dating the producer back in 2007. Apparently, she called it quits after he broke her jaw. When asked why didn’t she complain earlier, she explained, “I realized me talking about it , that time, just went against me, because he was the powerful one and nobody wanted to believe some girl who was relatively new in the industry, it was his word against mine, and of course, his word mattered.”
It’s all about power. Blame it on patriarchy or sheer ignorance, the abusers and harassers are endowed with a strange sense of power – either financial, societal, or physical.
How #MeToo Pumps Women With Courage To Speak Up
Remember the journalist Priya Ramani that we spoke about earlier? After nearly a year, this month, she finally revealed the name of the editor. It was Mobashar Jawed Akbar (popularly known as MJ Akbar), a former journalist who’d left journalism to become a member of the BJP (Bharatiya Janatha Party). He had been inducted as the Minister of State for External Affairs in the country’s cabinet in 2016. And within days of Ramani’s revelation of his name, nearly 20 female journalists accused Akbar of the same.
We now know how one single movement can empower hundreds of women to speak up for themselves. This movement encouraged women to come out and express their horrors. One’s terrifying story gave courage to another to say #Metoo. The skeletons that were hidden deep inside the closets are pulled out and shown to the world now. Women have taken it upon themselves to fight this battle against abuse and harassment. This circle of abuse has existed for long now and after years and years of staying hush-hush, women have made a decision They have decided to rebel against all the wrongdoings and they have made it loud and clear to the sexual malefactors that their time is up!
The Call For Action
Yes, it’s sad and it’s nerve-wracking. It’s heart-breaking, it’s scary and disturbing. Stories about sexual harassment, misconduct or abuse, whatever you call it, we are appalled by just listening to these stories. We can’t imagine what the victims would have gone through. To all those who have spoken up and to all those who are saying #Metoo in silence, more power to you.
But, as bystanders, and as spectators, or acquaintances, what can we do to fight against it? Of course, we need to educate everyone to stop treating women as assets that they own. Additionally, we need to encourage the bystanders who have seen another being sexually assaulted to speak up for the victim and help the victim to receive justice. India is a country governed by laws, but, it’s a shame that a majority of the Indians aren’t aware of the laws. People are unaware of what the constitution says about sexual harassment and misconduct. There are 20 laws in the IPC that are meant to keep the integrity of one’s gender and not become a victim of sexual assault (3). We need to educate ourselves and those around us about these laws. If you spot an abuser or hear of one, take a stand for the victim.
Don’t be afraid of calling out the perpetrators. The movement that started years ago is rising like a phoenix in India. So, don’t douse the fire, let it shine brightly to put an end to the darkness created by the horrors of sexual harassment and abuse.
Do your bit to make the people around you feel safe. Let’s start now.
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