This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Beena Kayaloor. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

On MeToo, Rape Culture And The Media’s Complicity

When an entire article is based on a false premise, it carries more than just the seeds of dishonesty. Vaishna Roy’s ‘Negotiating the faultlines’ is guilty of using false arguments that are thrown at feminists every time we talk about #MeToo. At the beginning, let me state the obvious: anybody can be the victim of sexual assault, not just women, men, people in between or outside of the gender spectrum, even children, but since the article has concentrated on it, I will stick to the most common context of the male perpetrator and female victim.

As women, most of us know how difficult it is to have a verifiable narrative. Justice evades even the women who have all kinds of evidence.

Roy starts by saying that “When a movement is based on the premise that a woman must be believed simply because she is a woman, it carries the seeds of self-destruction.” The truth is, when someone says I have been robbed, you believe them. When someone says I was beaten up by so and so, you believe them. Then, why is it that when a woman says she has been raped, the instinct is to disbelieve? When all the time women are being told to be careful on the streets and at home, why is it so difficult to believe a woman who says she has been sexually violated?

Roy talks about the possibility of false allegations saying that some of the narratives in #MeToo were not verified. That was the whole point of #MeToo, right? As women, most of us know how difficult it is to have a verifiable narrative. Justice evades even the women who have all kinds of evidence. When Raya Sarkar—a DBA woman who was a law student at the time—brought out the list LoSHA – the List of Sexual Harassers in Academia, it helped give voice to many women harassed by these powerful men and kicked off a #MeToo cascade.

When more than one woman came forward against a man, the chances of holding them accountable became better, but it still didn’t make things easy for these women as in the MJ Akbar case. Just because a case can’t be proven doesn’t mean it is a false allegation. Feminists are not asking for ethics to be discarded. We are saying that we don’t have a level playing field. Power structures of various kinds might be at play in a particular case, not just gender. The intersections of class, caste, religion, disability are also factors that can affect the outcome.

Saying that victims should be believed only after the narrative can be verified is a dangerous way to derail the #MeToo movement. Coming to false allegations, yes, sadly, they exist, but only 2–8% rape allegations are false. This figure of 2–8% applies to false accusations in any crime but guess which is the only one people talk about? Now think about the vast number of cases where the victim doesn’t come forward fearing stigma, backlash and social ostracism.

If there is one constant in women’s lives, it is the fear of men whether it be on streets, homes or online.

The National Family Health Survey 2015-2016—covering seven lakh women—calculated trends in underreporting of crimes by comparing data on actual experiences of crime victims with that of crime recorded by the police compiled by National Crime Records Bureau. It was found that 99% of violence faced by women go unreported. If marital rape (which is not even a crime in India) and assault are excluded from the analysis, the extent of reporting is still dismal: only about 15% of sexual violence committed by others (someone other than the current husband) is reported to the police.

Roy then talks about how men lost career and reputation because of #MeToo. A sexual predator losing career, family, friends is a consequence of their own actions. On the other hand, women who came forward with their stories during #MeToo never asked to be in such a situation and have had to face backlash more often either by being labeled trouble creators or called attention seekers. A study post #MeToo even found that 19% of men said they were reluctant to hire attractive women for jobs, 21% were reluctant to hire women for jobs involving close interpersonal interactions, and 27% of men said they avoided one-on-one meeting with female colleagues (Yes, the study itself seems to bring up other issues, but that discussion we will keep for another day).

About the case Roy has been discussing, she says, “If the charges against him are false, it is impossible to dismiss him as collateral damage.” Please remember that when the accusations first came to light, the person in question had actually apologised to the woman who accused him. If the charges were false, what was he apologising for?

In the Malayalam film industry, actress Parvathy and others in the Women in Cinema Collective are not being offered films because they raised issues faced by women. The collective came into existence after an actress was sexually assaulted. The way these brave women have been ostracised is nothing surprising to feminists. It is the norm. Victims are punished for speaking up, and perpetrators are always given the benefit of the doubt. Actor Dileep who has been accused of masterminding the attack on the actress is back after a short stint in jail. His movies are regularly aired, and he hardly seems to have suffered much of a setback. So much for men losing out…

The article talks about how “too many episodes in #MeToo seemed mystifying” , and “that these women had agency and could have avoided these situations.” Not only is this victim-blaming 101, it basically trashes the whole movement. “In many cases, the men had no power over the women: often they hadn’t even met,” writes Roy. This is a very reductive way of looking at the #MeToo movement. No examples are given—just vague conjectures.

Criticism is important but critiquing a movement like #MeToo requires a basic understanding of the power structures at play.

If there is one constant in women’s lives, it is the fear of men whether it be on streets, homes or online. To say that men lack power is to ignore the whole power dynamics of gender. The women were the ones with agency, but hey, the guy were just being creepy. Nothing serious. Roy is bothered about how educated, independent women were a major part of the women who spoke up during Me Too. She says, “This might, one suspects, be an indicator of a deeper malaise or symptoms of a struggle to cope with singled and sexual liberation.” Wait, what?

Is it so difficult to understand the demographics behind #MeToo? It requires some amount of privilege to be able to come out and talk about your abuse. That is why feminists keep talking about how the #MeToo barely scratched the surface. The movement has yet to reach the poor women, Dalit women, Adivasi women, sex workers, disabled women, people in between and outside of the gender spectrum, and so many more. Unless the marginalised have a safe platform to speak from, our work is far from over.

Roy goes on “Is the free-sex concept putting a different kind of pressure upon women.” And at this point, I had to check again that this was ‘The Hindu’ which had published this opinion piece. I am aghast. When there is a brutal gang-rape and murder, people want capital punishment for the culprits. Still, when a survivor comes forward with her story, she goes through another cycle of abuse at the hands of the legal system, the society, her family and the media. 

When a movement has barely exposed the tip of the iceberg, but you have dishonest opinion pieces like these published in reputed papers, you realise that the problem is too deep-rooted. You realise that #MeToo has barely managed to make even a small dent into the prevailing rape culture. This is a kind of doublespeak of rape culture in which the media is complicit: compassion for women who are raped and murdered, but contempt for a survivor when she speaks up about her experience.

Last but not least, if your concern is for the men, then it should be because men can be rape victims too. In fact, a man is 230 times more likely to be raped than to be falsely accused of rape. The MeToo movement gave voice to the victims regardless of gender and sexual orientation. MRAs constantly trash the movement. Journalists and media need to be careful before trashing a movement summarily. No movement is perfect. Criticism is important but critiquing a movement like #MeToo requires a basic understanding of the power structures at play. Sadly, this opinion piece misses the point.

You must be to comment.

More from Beena Kayaloor

Similar Posts

By Shashi.

By G Vindya

By Ritwik Trivedi

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below