Calling #MeToo An Urban And Elitist Movement is Myopic
Some well-known women writers have called the current wave of #MeToo in India as an urban and elitist movement. They believe it has very little impact on the struggles of the rural Indian women. Columnist Tavleen Singh has insisted in a Tweet that in a country where baby girls are raped and rural woman are beaten to death for choosing who they wish to marry, #MeToo makes little sense. Jaya Jaitly, on the other hand, has written that rural and vernacular women are in far worse situations, and hashtags are no solution for them. There are many other women, who are discrediting #MeToo for being an elitist movement of English-speaking, working women and hence being disconnected from the majority of the population in our country.
In her column for The Citizen, Seema Mustafa has questioned, “Can a movement in India survive, or carry legitimacy when it is just for a miniscule population and completely, in every which way divorced from the masses?” She has also accused that #MeToo “has no room for the women who many of us have interviewed in different locations of India, for whom rape in the fields is a daily occurrence. For whom the patriarch is the feudal landlord who has established a right to their bodies.”
True, as of yet, #MeToo is an urban movement, but that is because its inception is on the social media. In its current form, it began by calling out the fake woke attitude in urban Indian men. Of how for decades, urban men have been practising the very patriarchy we had tried to root out of modern India.
#MeToo is about the reformation of the urban working space, as of now, and I do not see how that is insignificant, just because it is not as grotesque as rapes of baby girls. Are these crimes even comparable?
Should we simply endure sexual harassment, just because we are better off than rural women?
Why is a certain section of women having such a hard time backing #MeToo? Are they feeling guilty that urban women at least have a choice to speak out? Why do they want us to see this chance to call out male entitlement as a privilege? Why should women feel guilty for doing what is right? Is their definition of feminism limited to exclusively rooting for rights of downtrodden rural women, who indeed have no voice against patriarchy? Or is this plain blinkered vision, advocating that women should be grateful if they do not endure oppression the level of that which exists in the interiors of our country?
- Some women are calling #MeToo in India as an urban and elitist movement as it has a very little impact on the struggles of rural Indian women.
- Should urban women be grateful and endure harassment simply because they are better off than rural and vernacular women?
- Who is to say that the fight on one front is irrelevant because it does nothing to win us a fight on another front?
- Why not think of solutions by which #MeToo can reach those sections of society, instead of discrediting it?
Feminism is about fighting many fights on many fronts. Some fight it out on rural fronts. Some fight it out against caste or religion instigated sexual violence against women. On the other hand, some are fighting it in offices or digital spaces against modern patriarchy and misogyny. Who is to say that the fight on one front is irrelevant because it does nothing to win us a fight on another front? Why must we compare problems which are incomparable in the first place?
We all know of women like Ghazala Wahab, who fought patriarchy in small towns and resisted early arranged marriages to make an individual identity for themselves.
They ran from a toxic oppressive social atmosphere to posh urban cities. They yearn to experience the liberation they have never experienced before in life. Only to fall right into the laps of urban sexual predators, who are often hailed as champions of modern sensibilities.
Is it fair to trivialise their ordeal? Should we allow such men to prey on many more women? No woman should have to feel guilty today, for taking a stand against sexual harassment. Least of all for having a platform where people believe her and stand by her. Or for knowing English, or for being an urban working-class woman. This is may sound like a privilege to many. But today women must grab all the chances they can, to call out sexual oppression in our society.
It would be amazing if #MeToo could indeed have an impact on sexual oppression rural and vernacular women face.
But instead of discrediting #MeToo for not ticking those boxes, why not think of solutions by which it can reach those sections of society? Simply expressing doubt on the credibility of #MeToo or calling it urban or elitist is not correct. Instead of discrediting the movement, let’s think of ways it can be more inclusive. That would help it reach more survivors. Discrediting it, on the other hand, will take away the voice from the handful few, who are “privileged” enough to have an opportunity to name and shame sexual predators.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own