Does it all have to start with a hashtag to get noticed, for the eyebrows to get raised on the cases of sexual harassment in the society?
Tarana Burke, an African-American civil rights activist from The Bronx – New York, has certainly left no stone unturned when she began using the phrase “Me Too” in 2006.
However, it was later popularised by American actress- Alyssa Milano in 2017 on Twitter. Milano encouraged victims of sexual harassment to tweet about it (SPEAK UP) to give people a sense of the magnitude that the problem really had! There was an instant connection to this movement as many high-profile American celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence, Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow and Uma Thurman joined in.
This was followed by several hashtags that encouraged many to share their stories about workplace sexual harassment. These hashtags included #WhatWereYouWearing, #SurvivorPrivilege, #MyHarveyWeinstein and #YouOkSis.
The #MeToo movement, popular in different languages across the world, is a campaign against sexual harassment and sexual assault, especially at the workplace (corporate world). Some of the alternative hashtags include:
The movement intensified after more than a dozen women accused an American filmmaker Harvey Weinstein of sexually harassing, raping, and assaulting them.
The hashtag, which has trended in at least 85 countries, reflects that the movement is certainly not a gimmick or just another social media trend. In countries such as France, India, Japan, the US, Italy, and China there has been a lot of discussion in the media about whether or not cultural norms should be changed to eradicate sexual harassment at the workplace.
These allegations, in fact, precipitated a wave of national reckoning against sexual assault in the United States which was known as the Weinstein effect. In addition to this, the #MeToo hashtag campaign and other sexual harassment cases that occurred earlier that year, many individuals were encouraged to share all their suppressed stories of sexual misconduct. So, why was everyone quiet for so long and from where did the new-found courage to speak up stem?
In India, this movement has gained a rapid momentum on social media. However, many have misunderstood the movement and are confusing sexual harassment/abuse with eve-teasing which is very misleading and decreases the severity of the crime.
Many notable people have expressed their opinion regarding this movement. Jasmeen Patheja, an activist who is also the head of Blank Noise – a community/public art project that seeks to confront street harassment and eve teasing, has stated that #MeToo’s power is in demonstrating that India can no longer be ignorant to the gravity of this problem.
Many men are also, in fact, speaking up as a part of the #MeToo movement and this included discussions regarding consent and how even some men were also abused.
Blogger Sheena Dabolkar also had a viral tweet #MeToo. Consequently, many well-known performers boycotted Khodu Irani’s popular pub, High Spirits, in Pune.
Even Rina Chandran from Reuters questioned in her #MeToo tweet about the ignorance towards 16 million women in India who are sex workers against their will and are destitute, having no family or education.
In Bangaluru, there were reports of mass sexual assaults during the 2018 New Years celebrations. This was, of course, a repeat of 2017’s New Year’s eve molestation on Brigade Road and MG Road. That was a time when there were horror reports of girls being groped, pawed and even abused.
Of course, these incidents were dismissed until somebody uploaded a CCTV footage of the assaults on social media!
Last year in October, a list of 60 academicians who were accused of sexual abuse went viral on social media.
A second list came out a week later, bringing the total to 70. The most recent accusation has been on September 27, 2018, by former actress Tanushree Dutta where she accused Nana Patekar of sexual harassment.
One of the major problems is the inability of people to understand the concept of consent. The harasser usually uses sexual coercion, manipulation and even guilt-tripping. The situation is viewed differently by men and women, even in this time and age of self-awareness.
Sexual violence, assault or any sexual misconduct can leave behind many damaging scars on a victims life- emotional, psychological and even physical. The other consequences include depression, flashbacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, self-harm, sexually transmitted infections, dissociation, or even suicide.
Anoo Bhuyan, a reporter at The Wire has accused Mayank Jain, a fellow reporter at Business Standard newspaper, of sexual harassment. Further, allegations from other people have also cropped up where Gautam Adhikari, the founding editor of DNA Mumbai and former executive editor of the Times of India, had resigned as a senior fellow of the Center for American Progress (CAP) after he was accused of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.
On October 6, Bollywood director of Queen fame Vikas Bahl-was accused of forcing himself upon a crew member. This led to the dissolution of his production house –Phantom Films that he had set up with three others Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane and Madhu Mantena.
Ammu Joseph, a senior journalist and co-founder of Network of Women in Media, India –the association that provides support systems and resources for women journalists, said: “If one person comes out it emboldens the others.” She further added, “It almost feels like an obligation. If one person has outed somebody, then other people feel it’s better that they also come forward so that the one person is not victimised.”
To make matters even worse, the country’s leading comic content-production house –All-India Bakchod (AIB) stated that two of its four co-founders would be stepping down from their position, until further notice.
Tanmay Bhat –AIB co-founder and CEO resigned in light of his inaction in spite of receiving complaints by a woman accusing his former colleague Utsav Chakraborty of sexual assault. Further, AIB’s another co-founder Gursimran Khamba was also accused of sexual harassment.
In light of the recent #MeToo wave taking down several big names, Lynzy Lab, a singer, songwriter and choreographer, the inherent privilege for men in a patriarchal system in a song A Scary Time.