A Twitter trend that began on Sunday has sparked a massive dialogue online about just how pervasive sexual violence against women actually is. A tweet by American actor Alyssa Milano went viral, after she asked women to speak up about their experiences with the hashtag #MeToo. The surge of stories that followed was both heartbreaking and powerful to see.
Where to begin? A man once reached into my autorickshaw outside New Delhi Railway Station, hit me hard on the chest & disappeared. #MeToo
— Anna MM Vetticad (@annavetticad) October 16, 2017
I got sexually harassed during a job interview but somehow felt it was my fault bcoz I couldn’t muster enough strength to snub him. #MeToo
— Perpetually Blue (@thatsociopath_) October 16, 2017
When I was 15 I went on my first date to the cinema with a boy. He put his hand between my legs. I push him away and he tried again #MeToo
— Alexandracula (@One_In_Hundred) October 16, 2017
#MeToo understand that after the assault, the attacker goes on to live a normal life while the victim deals with years of PTSD
— سحر (@seeharr_) October 16, 2017
Isn’t it sad that most women have multiple stories about sexual assault?
No wonder we all keep believing it’s our fault.#MeToo
— Rebel Girl A (@thatrebelgirl8) October 16, 2017
Being too scared to speak out because you think everyone around you will believe the male who did it over you. #MeToo
— Her Meowjesty ? (@MrsMoiraRose) October 16, 2017
A total stranger, an acquaintance, a trusted friend, your partner, your own family. Women aren’t able to trust anyone. #MeToo
— Andrea (@chaoscolours) October 16, 2017
And I was blamed for it.
I was told not to talk about it.
I was told that it wasn’t that bad.
I was told to get over it.
— Najwa Zebian (@najwazebian) October 16, 2017
Women (as well as women-identified, trans and femme people) have often spoken to each other about the invisibilised pandemic of sexual violence. Ever since the 1 Billion Rising campaign was launched in 2012, people often quote the “one in three women” stat, when talking about this issue. But despite years and years of research, newspaper reports, and various other campaigns to end sexual violence, there is still a doubt in many minds (largely men) that any of this is even happening. From those who reject feminism to those who blame and shame survivors of assault, human society has not been kind to people at the receiving end of abuse. Which is why, in Milano’s words, it’s time to “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
Even public figures like Monica Lewinsky added their voices:
— Monica Lewinsky (@MonicaLewinsky) October 16, 2017
Dedicating today’s illustration to all the women and men behind a #metoo. and also to those who aren’t using a hash tag but are hurt just as much. . . day#16: being able to live without the fear that was instilled by that one uncle,one autorickshaw driver, one middle-aged stranger on the train, one boy at the roadside juice-stall, one drunk man in a vikram, that one man walking on the road, one colleague, countless elbows and hands in metro, faceless bodies in crowded areas, car full of young college boys,that potential attacker in every stranger that my eyes meet… #inktober2017 #metoo
While thousands and thousands of women opened up, the response from the other end of the gender scale began to swell too. And in a good way!
Writer and game designer Shariq Rafeek began a thread on Twitter, recounting the many ways in which he had contributed to women feeling uncomfortable and unsafe. Having learnt from those incidents, Rafeek shares with his follows how to go about rectifying things. Pretty soon men began adding to the conversation:
— Rituparna Chatterjee (@MasalaBai) October 16, 2017
When it comes to the #MeToo movement, I see men wondering what they can “do to help.” This is my list.
1. Be quiet.
4. Lead/teach young men by example.
5. Stand up to friends and family who act in an abusive manner.
6. Stand behind women, not in front.
— Nathan Thompson (@natepthomps) October 16, 2017
Don’t say you have a mother, a sister, a daughter…
Say you have a father, a brother, a son who can do better.
We all can.#MeToo
— Nick Jack Pappas (@Pappiness) October 16, 2017
Men, it’s on us to change the culture, it’s on us to check & stop our peers & those close to us from behavior that is unwarranted & heinous. Stand up & speak up.#MeToo
— Simar (@sahluwal) October 16, 2017
The buzz aroud #MeToo was much needed. But we have to remember this isn’t the first time women have come together to share stories. Back in 2012, British feminist writer Laura Bates launched the Everyday Sexism project, flooding the Twitter landscape with very similar tweets. In the five years since then, while women’s solidarity has certainly grown, showing up in other conversations like #YesAllWomen. But incidents of sexual violence haven’t died down yet. The question that still remains is this: will people finally listen?