#MeToo Was Meant To Amplify Women’s Voices But Have Men Hijacked It?

I appreciate #MeToo because it’s mass healing through acknowledgement and public psychotherapy at its best.

Traumatised women (literally all of them – but of course, with different intensities), given their systematic oppression, vented their thoughts of anger, sorrow or shame on a public platform; some people understood and stood by them. All this was just fine and was appreciated.

Why should you read on, if you understand and applaud #MeToo? Because here, I chose to delineate on other underlying aspects that rouged my cheeks with vexation.

Initial Impression

“Women will gain more confidence by the verbalisation of pain, but no abuser is going to change by reading these tales of woe,” was my original thought.

No one was trying to wage a war against individual men. Instead, we were trying to fight this pre-existing, demeaning, dehumanising culture, not particular humans.

This movement was instrumental in shoving the presence of rape culture in the faces of the deniers.

Purpose

The purpose of the #MeToo movement was to give people “a sense of the magnitude of the problem” according to the woman who popularized the hashtag, Alyssa Milano. I must rightfully credit the woman who came up with it initally – Tarana Burke.

Tarana Burke
Tarana Burke

Did It Happen?  — “Men answer…”

Movements are spread by stories and writings. Our easiest access to these, now, is through the Internet.

Very often, like many others, my lazy hands don’t go beyond Google’s first page to research and read about any issue, ultimately leading me to fall into the comforting views of any privileged group – be it the cisgender people or heterosexuals, besides men and white people – talking about events they’ve never experienced but feel entitled enough to comment on.

So on #MeToo as well, articles are full of men giving their opinions on how this movement is “good” and giving apparent sociological justifications for the same. Read this excerpt I found.

Some activist from the Czech Republic said: “These campaigns are good because even when they’ll go away and people will forget about them, what won’t go away are the ideas that women around the world now. There is a time for absorbing emotions and there is a time for healing and then there is a time for fighting. Next time when there will be a call for action to defend their rights, women will be there.”

This was the top result for a curious to-be activist. This is a generic amalgamation of apparently ‘enlightening’ bullshit tossed together into a paragraph to distract people from the main point and make us believe things are alright. The women who have been screaming on the top of their lungs about this injustice don’t even get a place on the top results. Where do I go to find their voice? Why are men distracting us again? It isn’t alright!

Faux Claims

Websites claim “men themselves have initiated campaigns of their own – #IHave, #IDidThat, and #IWill – confessing they have witnessed, condoned or engaged in sexual harassment and promising they will change their perception on the matter”, but that’s absolutely untrue. Go check Twitter if you wish. Very very few people have done this, and most users of this hashtags are posing the question to men to ameliorate the scene. A classic example of over-glorification of small efforts by non-victims.

I read reports from sociologists – these experts say changing perception on acceptable sexual behavior has always taken time and strong social involvement. I’m sure that’s been the case in the past – but only due a lack of a dynamic platform. Smart phones help us swallow and process huge amounts of information on a daily basis and act on it, so the question of delay shouldn’t arise now. Unless, of course, if this information is filtered and incorrectly represented.

Think about it – who controls the majority of the mainstream media? It’s men, yet again.

Dealing with my Anger

I am so angry that I could go into an Amber Rose breakdown, but I must maintain myself. That doesn’t mean I’ll let go of this pent up anger. Neither should you. The battle is against unfairness. It is to give individuals with feminine expression, regardless of gender, basic human respect, more than rights – which they had been denied all through the centuries because the other half of the population found their own expression and behavior ultimate and superior.

Yes, it’s all for equality, ultimately – but the ambiguity between rights and respect confuses people who end up taking unfavourable decisions. Most people have fundamental human rights on paper. We are not fighting for rights, we are fighting for equal treatment by law and the society. That simply means respecting personal opinions and preventing abuse. That is all. We cannot let our anger go waste.

Solution

What can we do, then? I had a vague idea, but singer Miss White’s words perfectly describe it: “I reject male opinion, male consumption, male dominance and replace it with a woman’s infinite ability to thrive in a fatally unfit environment.”

You no longer have to wince when a butthurt man cries “reverse sexism!”

You no longer have to clap for a man for doing the bare minimum, for example, saying, “I respect women” or “I will never rape”.

You no longer have to read or unconsciously pick up their views on women, when they’ve never lived as such.

You need to think for yourself and other women and reject any idea men present about you. For they do not know.

Disclaimer : These are personal views based on my observations. For more conversations, contact me here.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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