One year ago, a barrage of allegations levied on social media finally gave Indian women a voice to talk about sexual harassment. Comedians, actors, musicians, politicians; almost every field in India felt the tremor of this sudden outburst on women’s part. We had had enough, and we were ready to talk. A year later, it feels as if nothing has changed. Or worse, the outcome of almost all the allegations levied for the accusers and the accused, have shown us why equality and a life of dignity is still a distant dream for Indian women. The prominent faces in film world were either absolved of all accusations or were quietly drawn back into the folds by the industry, where they are now patiently biding their time to crawl back into the limelight. Priya Ramani is locked in a fierce legal battle, while Vinta Nanda got questioned about her motives for speaking up so long after the alleged misconduct happened. So has anything changed at all, or was it all for nothing?
- The #MeToo Movement broke out in India one year ago.
- It feels like not much has changed in the past year. Or has it?
- #MeToo brought the conversation on consent and agency to Indian drawing rooms like never before.
- It gave women a voice to speak up and put forth their perspective.
The prominent faces in film world were either absolved of all accusations or were quietly drawn back into the folds by the industry, where they are now patiently biding their time to crawl back into the limelight.
Every woman citizen of this country can affirm to have faced sexual misconduct in one way or the other. It could be unwanted sexual advances at hands of your superior at workplace, or being groped on public transport, or facing a barrage of lewd comments on your way back home from college, or worse. We have faced it and largely we have kept quiet. But with #MeToo India, something changed. Women are not afraid to speak up now and what’s more, the movement brought the much-needed conversation on topics like agency and consent to our drawing rooms.
Although one may not approve of how this conversation progresses in most Indian households, where people have internalised virtues of patriarchy irrespective of gender or age. She must be lying. She must have misled him, perhaps unintentionally. Why speak up so late? Why not follow due process instead of putting it out on social media where judgment is passed almost instantaneously? Does he deserve the repercussions he has earned? And the most painful of all, why must we believe her?
I am grateful that these conversations are out in the open. What could we have achieved by not having them at all? Atleast now we have a chance to speak out, to talk openly about sexual harassment and the lack of regard this society has for women’s sexual agency.
It’s not easy to convince your older cousin or husband or uncle or even father, on why certain kinds of behaviour on men’s part aren’t justifiable, despite being normalised. Or to tell your mother, or sister or aunt that it wasn’t her dress or the way she talks that got her “into trouble.” You are often the lone warrior, battling questions and stereotypical beliefs that shape mindsets in our society, courtesy years of silence women have endured due to shaming and the weight accountability lying on their shoulders. And yet, I am grateful that these conversations are out in the open. What could we have achieved by not having them at all? Atleast now we have a chance to speak out, to talk openly about sexual harassment and the lack of regard this society has for women’s sexual agency.
The first impression that one gets from the course that #MeToo took in India is that of the defeat of women. It appears like we are exactly where we started one year ago. But we shouldn’t let the stagnation and set-backs, the convenient oversight and the political correctness get to us. No one ever set that it was possible to undo centuries of inequality, disbalance in power dynamics, male entitlement and female accountability when it comes to sexual conduct, in one year. We have a long road ahead of us, to make this world a safer place for our children. To open the conversation further so that more victims, especially men, can raise their voices. #MeToo was just a crack, an opening to a long-held back and stifled dialogue. A flood will follow soon. Hopefully.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.