You Too?

This week has been significant. Whilst the West is appraising the impact of the #MeToo movement one year on, Tanushree Dutta’s case against Nana Patekar is creating nothing short of a domino effect in India. Suppressed traumas turned into trusted whispers, which eventually ripened into public screams. Those with even the acutest awareness of the inside stories knowingly murmur ‘this is just the tip of the iceberg’. Be it films, politics, journalism, advertising, corporations, every industry has been thrown into a well of #MeToos. Invincible biggies have been pulled off their high horses and received the worst of punishments: public judgment and repulsion.  Or have they?

Women have been forced to habituate themselves to sexual harassment as if it’s a buy one get one free offer for being the ‘other’ gender. Whether it be a crude remark from a co-worker, being stalked on the streets, groped in a bus, or an outright abuse of power from a boss, there is no shortage of stories. Rather than seek redress formally, social media has become a solacing platform to voice one’s experience. The former would, perhaps, lead to nothing but humiliation, a damaged career and being ousted by a close-knit and colluded circle, as has occurred innumerable times in the past. “It’s a man’s world”, is the poisonous mantra of the century. Sexual harassment is a woman’s issue, and predatory behaviour is simply ‘men being men’. After centuries of tolerating such a culture, the pendulum is journeying its way to the other side.

As ground-breaking as the #Metoo movement has been, it really needs to be questioned whether the court of social media provides appropriate redress. Voices have been supported, but have also been shunned, diluted and trolled. The tabloid press have opportunistically printed page after page of sensationalised news, providing the alternate to a soap opera. Have women, who have mustered a lifetime of courage to tell their stories, been reduced to the next big headline? Will the survivors’ voices merely be silenced with denial and defamation notices? Will it be back to business-as-usual after a couple of weeks? Will mindsets be shifted for good, or will the #MeToo movement be diluted down and looked back only to be laughed at? Will the predators who have lost their positions of power wriggle their way back to their seats after a carefully crafted PR strategy? Will men, who have been sexually harassed, also contribute to this movement? Should those who wish to remain anonymous be shrugged off as fictitious personal vendettas? As the pool of #MeToo statements grow, a stream of nagging rhetorics meander through my mind.

We may enjoy basking in the glory of the #MeToo momentum, wishfully thinking that the walls of patriarchy are finally crumbling, but the true test is yet to come. How effectively change is implemented into a stale and biased system is what ought to be cultivated and closely monitored in the upcoming months and years. Women should be empowered to call out the culprits instantaneously. In turn, a fair and uncumbersome procedure and framework of legislation should provide redress.

Finally, contrary to Mr Subhash Ghai’s opinion, the #MeToo movement cannot be belittled to the latest “fashion”, as if it were a trendy pair of shoes that women are squealing to get their hands on.  It is a desperate call for justice from a system that has unequivocally trapped women in vicious cycles. It is a call for respect, dignity and equal treatment. It is a call to be seen as a human being, not a piece of flesh. Progress has been made, but the road ahead is long. And here’s ending this rant to thank and give my utmost respect to all the women who have spoken.

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