I am glad that women have gathered the courage to share their stories about sexual harassment and the fact that the #MeToo is getting its due attention from the media.
This movement is having its impact on my seven-year-old daughter as well. Unlike most children of her age, she reads the newspaper daily, thanks to ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ and ‘Hagar the Horrible’. Recently, after going through the newspaper, she asked me about #MeToo movement. It put me in a tight situation of explaining to her how this movement talks about what’s wrong in society. However, she is aware of the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ touch. This made things a little easier for me.
What made her curious about this movement was a cartoon in the newspaper that showed a chameleon sitting on a tree, trying to touch the hip of a lady walking nearby with his elongated tongue. The sequence of it had the same lady turn back with scissors for which he retracts his tongue and apologises (somewhat like that). Referring to the cartoon, she wanted to know what do these people get by just touching and why they feel like doing it?
Her question reminded of my childhood when I used to ask such questions, and my mother used to shut me up saying, “’Shh!, don’t ask so many questions. Do as I say, will you?” While I used to apologise and adhere to her advice, I always wondered why they did what they did, and what did they get out of it? Once, I was on my way to the milk booth, and one guy from the passing lorry threw a stone aiming at my chest, which left a bruise on my chest. To see that guy cheer for aiming right made me wonder: was it all he wanted to gain? Why my chest, not some tree or something. I was naive then, to the most part I still am.
Coming back to my daughter’s question. I decided not to respond to her question the way my mother did. I knew it could be the beginning of building a good rapport with my daughter (of course mothers need to earn it) so that she thinks I’m aware of what’s happening around and I trust her in dealing with it. I, in sweet but firm words, explained that they do it for their fun or pleasure without the consent of the other person, hurting other person’s feelings. Luckily, she understood what I was trying to say, and she acknowledged my explanation by saying “Similar to bullying, mamma?’ to which I replied, “Baba, much worse.”
Now, that I was confident that I was getting it right and was willing to explain a bit more, perhaps a bit specific, she said “Okay, I understood, thanks!” and ended the conversation. I was relieved at that moment for two reasons. Firstly, she opened up and understood the gravity of this issue. Second, she is tender but not naive like me.