In the past few weeks, I have been following the twitter handle and everything that is coming up on the internet on #Metoo. Last week, I thought a lot about the breeding grounds of #MeToo. And here, I would like to bring out some of my thoughts on the same and open it up for further discussion.
What Is #MeToo Pointing At?
More than just blaming men, it’s pointing at the institutions and structures that normalise sexual misconduct. In Ghazala Wahab’s account of MJ Akbar, she talked about men and women who she approached in the workplace – who normalised this behaviour. She spoke about how his affairs in other offices were a ‘public secret’. This throws light on our culture of normalising sexual misconduct. The bigger problem that lies here is that both men and women are part of this system that breeds such an atmosphere. Being a woman, #MeToo is not only about pointing a finger at the men but rethinking the need to fight against the systems that we are a part of too.
#Metoo is also about questioning the understanding of violence and sexual misconduct. In the discourse of violence against women, the most reported form of violence is the physical abuse – as it is easy to understand ‘actions’ as violent behaviour. It took feminists a long time, and they are still on the journey to explain how violence could also be an everyday experience of disagreements – where one is often forced to give up because of the power dynamics. Power here means the power that comes with caste, religion, gender or sexual identity.
Similarly, there is a debate on whether Chetan Bhagat’s Whatsapp text messages amount to sexual violence or not. It’s important to understand that everyone experiences violence differently. So, if one woman is okay with flirty texts that do not mean other women will be too. It’s important to recognise and draw a line in such cases.
The third point which is connected to my first point is that I often see defensive hashtags like #notallmen when it comes to calling out men for their behaviour. Of course, all men are not sexual predators, but I think it is important to understand the breeding grounds of such conduct. We must not deviate from the primary issue here. Men are a part of the society that we have created – where men have occupied the reigns of decision making for far too long, and have gotten away with actions like these. Hence, we must not forget that even ‘responsible’ men at elevated positions or lovable and caring men are capable of misusing their power sometimes.
My help often complains of a neighbourhood uncle of staring at her when she sweeps the floor and making her uncomfortable with his looks. This man is otherwise a very loving father and husband. Maybe the assumption that she will not be able to do anything makes him overstep the boundaries.
I cannot thank social media enough for creating momentum with this powerful movement where so many women have spoken out forcing institutions to self-reflect and work towards change. And I imagine that there are far too many out there who are yet to speak out and it’s okay if they don’t. But I am confident that this will create safer spaces for women in the future.
So many of us have felt vulnerable because of the powerful men and institutions that enable them; now it’s time for us to speak up.