I woke up to #MeToo posts on Facebook and Twitter today. A friend had spoken out, and a man had commented under her post stating how it would be good for her to share some context about what this hashtag really is about. Women commenters, on the other hand, all got it. I was one of them, and I instantly commented, #MeToo.
It is a deafening sound that has taken over the internet today, and I hope the right people are listening. Women have gone hoarse talking about being harassed, abused and assaulted for centuries, but it is us who are always questioned. Like I was, when I wore shorts and got harassed on the streets. Or like a writer, who was questioned why she was partying when she was harassed in Goa.
I feel heavy-hearted and shaken right now. But disturbingly, not surprised. We can’t afford to normalise all of these #MeToo posts just like we have normalised sexual harassment and abuse. Hota hai. Chalta hai. (It happens. It’s okay.)
But nahin chalta hai (it doesn’t work). It isn’t okay when you are having a good time with your friends in a pool, and a bunch of men feel you up. It isn’t okay when you are in a relationship you think is love, but is actually emotional abuse. It isn’t okay when you are harassed just because you dared to go for a run at night, and came back home thanking your stars that ‘nothing worse happened’.
I am sickened by this ‘culture’ where the solution to harassment is locking women up, where the solution for girls protesting against sexism is lathi-charge, where the solution for men speaking out against abuse is to tell them to ‘man up’. I am sick of bro dudes who still think rape jokes are fun, and and I am sick of ‘systems’ where women are rated based on how fair and thin and ‘desirable’ they are.
I come from a really liberal family where my sister and I have always had the independence to make our own choices. But still, it was a huge issue for me to move to Delhi for work because it is so ‘unsafe’. Something that thousands of women are repeatedly told just because we have completely lost faith that abuse and harassment can be countered or stopped.
So here are a few things I want to say, to normalise a world that doesn’t normalise assault and abuse:
– To the man who thought it was okay to feel us up in the pool: It wasn’t, and it will never be.
– To the uncle who pitied someone who had been gang-raped: Women don’t need your pity. We need you to step the fuck up and use your privilege to speak out.
– To the man who groped my friends in Pune: You have no idea what your one minute of ‘fun’ does to thousands of women.
– To my grandfather who was scared of my cousin going abroad because ‘she is too beautiful’: The solution will never be to make us stay inside, dadaji. I know you never wanted that either.
– To everyone who has jeered, leered, whistled and harassed us on the street: The shame is not on us.
– To the government that doesn’t criminalise marital rape: It’s time to redefine our ‘culture’ because rape surely isn’t it.
I am angry right now, and I am shaken. But to everyone who has spoken out today, yesterday and for years: I don’t know all of you perhaps, but I am with you.