#MeToo has been all over social media since the last couple of days. But the sad part is that it took a social media hashtag to realise how huge the issue is. The questions we need to ask as men are: Why do these stories surprise us? What makes us uncomfortable about this trend? Is it the fact that so many women we know have suffered, or is it that they dared to share?
Sexual harassment and assaults are not exclusive to any gender, age or era but that doesn’t mean that we can just ignore the fact that it is, in fact, a pressing issue of our time. Like many other things that start and die on social media, we can’t let this one fade from our memory. As a man I probably will never understand
Unless convicted, no man has to give up his life for the assault but the society forces the woman to give up everything to escape the nightmare. From 2001 Mardi Gras celebrations in Seattle to 2015 New Year’s Eve in Cologne, men may have encouraged the assaults either by participating in them or being mute spectators. Sometimes our cultures have tried to legitimise the practice as a fun activity by naming them Taharrush or Bachabazi.
We have all been part of the problem knowingly or unknowingly. We have shared crude sexist/ misogynist stories, failed to understand the feelings of others, talked over others, made assumptions about others’ looks/ capabilities and got defensive when someone pointed at us. From men who have used their power position to get what they want to men who have asked their daughters/ wives to stay quiet because this is what happens in real world, we are all guilty.
#HowIWillChange is a welcome start but I think as men we need to pledge “I won’t anymore!”
I see some men asking for context on the #MeToo posts and it is shameful that we want the woman to relive the moments when she was most helpless and vulnerable. It shouldn’t take a woman to remind us that an assault is wrong. It is important to listen and act on what we heard. We shouldn’t feel that the women in our life need protection from predators but we should instead remind the men in our lives that it is not ok to be an enabler. As fathers, we should be educating our sons that ‘No’ means back off. Only then there will be no need for a documentary like ‘The Hunting Ground’.
Until our mindset changes, trends like #MeToo will continue to haunt us and even after hundred years from now we will still be debating the same.