Nobody would have imagined that a tweet regarding sexual harassment by actor/singer Alyssa Milano could take social media by a storm within a few hours. She asked survivors of sexual assaults to reply the tweet with ‘me too’. In a matter of a few hours facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social networking platforms were flooded with #metoo.
This hashtag campaign is kick-started in the backdrop of renowned American film producer Harvey Weinstein being accused of sexually harassing multiple women who had worked with him. Many celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Kate Beckinsale etc have opened up about being sexually harassed by him. In Milano’s own words, this campaign is aimed at “giving people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
While the response is overwhelming and it showed that, almost all the women one knows are opening up with stories of sexual harassments. Men have gone into denial mode at the worst and dilution of the problem at the best.
As soon as women started sharing their ordeals which they had gone through most of the men, and in this case ‘liberal’ ‘progressive’ men, started claiming that sexual harassment is a gender-neutral crime and should be seen as such. They started putting #metoo sharing their own experiences of being sexually harassed. In practice, this argument is not much different from ‘not all men’.
While nobody is denying the fact that men face sexual harassment too but men tend to forget a few privileges of their own while arguing on these lines. First, while almost all the women you know have faced, rather are facing, sexual harassment daily among men this ratio of being sexually harassed is quite low. Women face sexual abuses, explicitly or implicitly, throughout their lives while for men it is mostly during their adolescent period. Men do not need to feel vulnerable towards unwanted sexual advances when interacting with people while for women it is reality to live with. Fear of being sexually harassed, treated lowly at work places for being women, getting slut-shamed, etc are the part of life for women while for men these are not.
Second, while almost all the women have faced sexual harassment of some kind during their lives and a few men too in almost all the cases perpetrators of the abuse are men. Now here comes the interesting part, and where being men we all should own up to this crime because we are the problem.
Most of us, men, are reacting to it as if they have ‘sympathies’ for the women and they do not know who these sexual offenders are. Reactions suggest as if offenders belong to some other planet and men around us can never conform to such behaviour. And, this is the actual problem.
Famous Urdu poet Jaun Elia in one of his famous couplets writes, “If we are the dwellers of this same society, How can we trust ourselves”. Let us have a simple arithmetic calculation to simplify the problem; suppose we have 100 men and 100 women in our society and each women experiences sexual abuse by 4 different men in her life that will make a total of 100*4=400 sexual abuses. Let us suppose that each men abuses exactly 4 different women in his life that makes 400/4=100 men. Here we have yet to count that sexual harassment faced by men. Keep in mind that the most of women we know have reported more than 4 incidences of sexual harassments in their lives.
This example shows that even though we argue that a few men are sexual offenders almost all of us ought to lie in that category of sexual offenders.
Problem lies in the fact that most of us do not acknowledge our own behaviour as sexual harassment. We fail to appreciate that these stories being shared by our friends and relatives might be of any of us. Our own stalking should be considered ‘true love’, our sexual remarks should be called ‘flattery’ and our unwanted advances as ‘flirting’.
#metoo might be powerful in telling the world that the magnitude of the problem is alarmingly huge but it will not help the cause until men are made to understand, what behaviour of theirs is sexual harassment and how it affects a woman’s life. Just like women have come out to publicly, share stories of sexual harassments men need to come out and accept that they have actively or passively abused a woman.
I am a man too and throughout my life lived with privileges of a patriarchal society. Being a man I am a part of the problem, obviously (almost) all of us have made women feel insecure through our behaviour and that behaviour is categorised as ‘sexual abuse’. Yes, we (men) all did it.