Time magazine is honouring all the women who had participated in the world-wide movement against sexual harassment, by declaring ‘The Silence Breakers’ as ‘Person of the Year’ for 2017. In a first, not a person but a movement and every being who has participated in it has been put into the spotlight. If you observe the ‘Person of the Year’ cover, you will see a single hand on its lower right-hand corner. This hand represents all the women who are yet to come forward and reveal their identities.
It also symbolises all anonymous ordinary women who are groped, stroked, touched without consent in their day to day life.
You can be a celebrity, or a bartender. A housewife, an engineer or even a soldier. No profession, no amount of money or social standing is going to safe guard your body and dignity when a lecherous man has his eyes set on you. This is simply because men all over the world consider it alright to violate us. But more disturbing fact is that these men do not find anything wrong in their actions. A man does not have to be a Hollywood moghul or a college student to feel entitled to touch a woman improperly. But still he does. Why?
Because he thinks that what he does is not harmful to us.
Men still have the misconception that unless they are raping a woman, or physically abusing her, their actions are not causing any harm to women.
They are simply not aware of the mental trauma women go through on inappropriate touching. Though sometimes they do, but they know they can get away with it. By using hashtags like #MeToo, #BalanceTonPorc, #YoTambien, #Ana_kaman, women are not only shaming men drunk on power. They are putting out their personal stories in the open, and raising awareness in men, that what they think of as harmless fun, crushes their soul and confidence.
Our patriarchal society encourages entitled men to treat us as mere objects.This seemingly harmless harassment can escalate into rape or abuse, unless the perpetrator is stopped.
So it is about time that the society, the authorities and the media takes us seriously.
A movement of this scale would not have been possible without social media. This platform gave a voice to famous women, who struggled to raise awareness about the behaviour of men like Harvey Weinstein, James Toback and Louis CK. It helped common women come out in support of these celebrities, and share their own harrowing experiences.
When I was in college, I was returning to my hostel one evening. It began to rain by the time I got to the stairs of the building. And before I could rush for cover, there was a power cut. As I began to climb up the stairs, struggling to avoid a fall in darkness, I felt a beam of light on my back. A couple of young men began to hoot, as the light traced every inch of my body. The men began to comment how ‘delicious’ I was looking, drenched from head to toe in rain. I could feel their gaze pierce through my fully clothed body.
I made a mad dash up the stairs, just wanting to escape their catcalls and comments. I had never felt so naked in my life. I wrote a story on this incident some years later. When #MeToo gained momentum, I posted this story with the hashtag. It didn’t matter if anyone read it or not. I wanted to stand up with these women and show the mirror to several men who make us feel dirty about our bodies, to no fault of ours.
It felt liberating. The unknown men who had violated me, without even laying a hand on me, were not there. But the society which normalises such behaviour was present.
Me and millions of women- old and young, big and small, famous and anonymous, were holding a giant mirror in our hands, and showing the society the nakedness of its hypocrisy. This moment was beyond memorable.
But was this moment worthy of celebration? Certainly, it is saddening that women have to come forward and lead a movement against sexual harassment in this day and age. What is worthy of celebration is the fact that we have learned a very important lesson. Women need to stand up for each other. We should hold each other’s hand and fight for our rights and dignity. This realisation, is vital in our battle against gender equality. The lecherous men might have power, and society’s frivolous attitude in their favour. But we have our voice, and now we have each other.