The #MeToo movement which began in the United States more than a year ago—in response to accusations of sexual harassment and abuse by powerful men in the entertainment industry—entered India this September. The movement basically aims to speak out against the harassment at the workplace by giving strength to survivors to stand up against injustice. The core theme of this movement is that the time has come out to speak out. Presently, this campaign is trending in India with some women revealing their personal experiences. Many politicians, journalists, actors and singers’ names have come out in the open.
The movement started on social media with the hashtag #MeToo, where a survivor tells their story of sexual assault by writing posts. By putting these stories in the public domain, it aims to get support from people. This has also some advantages―it united survivors, and dispels the fear of speaking, especially after listening to others’ stories.
The #MeToo movement has brought many fearful women out of the shadows. We are letting the world know that we are no longer willing to be silent because we have each other now. The movement is very necessary and has good intentions, but in my view, it works on selective outrage. In India, the movement reaches only urban areas; only a few institutions or workplaces. The women who speak up are mostly from the ‘higher classe’ of society, There are far fewer from middle class families, and the numbers from rural areas are almost equal to zero. Therefore, the core problem with this movement is that #MeToo has not reached all sections of women in society. It needs to be take some more time to become part of ‘the women’s movement’ in India. I wish it could be happen sooner.
The problem with #MeToo is the same problem any movement has. It always starts off with a good motive, but as it gets more popular, it attracts more people who want to co-opt it for personal gain. The movement has also some bad impact. In several cases, it has just become a game of naming and shaming, and false allegations. A man was defamed just because a woman ‘said’ that he harassed her! This makes the movement weaker.
Till now, there haven’t been many FIRs registered by the survivors who have spoken up. The movement must be more than sharing stories on social media.
Another problem of the movement is that the cases spoken of are so old. It can take time to prove anything, or maybe they can’t prove things because of the absence of evidence.
This movement has empowered survivors, who now know they aren’t alone. There is always someone supporting them in their endeavor. So many people coming together in a digital platform to share their stories or even share the fact that they too have undergone harassment is definitely a big change! Opening up about these things is a very challenging mental task especially when well-known people are involved. Things will take time to change but this small movement is definitely a good step.
To conclude, I just wish that the #MeToo movement be brought up from the circle of false allegations, and naming and shaming. In my opinion, naming and shaming is not the right approach. There are laws and legal routes. If those don’t work, then social media can be a last resort, yes. But remember, without actually knowing what exactly happened, the entire nation started shaming a guy, and neglected his appeal for fair trial. The media too was quick to make judgements and tag a man as a “pervert” or “harasser”. As a result, many careers and families are being destroyed by a publicity-hungry few. People are losing jobs, livelihoods, and dignity. Those in power are taking decisions in haste without probing. And yes, I do agree there are genuine cases. If someone has harassed or raped a person, an FIR should be filed with the police. Let there be a fair investigation, trial, and judgement.
Sharing stories only on your social media feed cannot reach the movement’s ultimate motive. I hope that #MeToo becomes every woman’s voice to fight against the injustice.
It should be a people’s movement, and not just for a few!