These days, every time I check my social media accounts or open the newspapers, I do so with great trepidation, as many are the mighty who are biting the dust in the wake of the #MeToo India movement. The shock and disillusionment are colossal. It is perhaps one of the most tectonic shifts we have witnessed in recent times. It promises to recalibrate the way women are treated, whether at the workplace or in society. We should have seen it coming, sowing as we have seeds of patriarchy for eons now, injecting our men with an inflated sense of entitlement. This has led to the objectification and brazen abuse of women by some, for whom it’s a corroboration of their virility.
Some survivor stories are so horrific and heartrending that one can only imagine the pain, helplessness, frustration, sense of humiliation, anger and turbulence they must have lived with, and the test of their endurance and sanity. And we have the cheek to question why they are speaking up after so long. The fact is we have failed as a society to create congenial conditions for their safety, and in the case of mistreatment, to raise their voices and complain. A look at the way the revelations are being perceived even now is a sure indicator of what women who protest face. Cynics are belittling their claims, doubting the veracity of their accounts, trolling them, cracking jokes about their plight, taking pot-shots at their character, forwarding demeaning posts about them, and branding them a bunch of unhinged, ‘loose’ women making a song and dance about nothing. Some are attributing ulterior motives to them, accusing them of complicity with political parties and of trying to ride the wave for professional gain and cheap publicity.
A look at the way the revelations are being perceived even now is a sure indicator of what women who protest face.
Whenever a few had mustered the courage to speak up, they received grave threats from the abusers, their cohorts, and political goon friends, who used their clout to browbeat the victims into silence. What does a woman do but retreat, in the face of such collective intimidation by those in high places, threats to her loved ones, and the imminent loss of a job not to mention dignity? But, a temporary withdrawal to gather her wits and deal with the trauma does not purport that she loses her right to seek closure or justice, when she is ready to do so. If we have allowed the collective subjugation of women, it follows that we should now celebrate and salute the collective uprising that has germinated out of the very seed we ourselves had sown. Instead, we have taken to poking fun at them.
What does a woman do but retreat, in the face of such collective intimidation by those in high places, threats to her loved ones, and the imminent loss of a job not to mention dignity?
When something strikes us out of the blue, and disarms and stupefies us, we either come up with knee-jerk reactions or become so scattered that we don’t know how to react. The #MeToo ‘bogeyman’ has come to haunt us suddenly, forcing us to question our moral turpitude. It has shaken us to the core, unearthing from the underbelly what has been simmering for long. It’s not that we were unaware of it. As long as it was under wraps we could continue with our charade of everything being okay, conditioned as we are to keep silent about the uncomfortable and sweep it under the carpet. Now that it has boiled over and erupted, and is in our faces—the harassment of women at the workplace, of widows by their male guardians; incest in extended families, marital rape, and other serious acts of subjugation—instead of lending our ears to the gutsy women who are speaking up, we are directing our ire at them for upsetting the status quo. We love our comfort zones. Any disturbance that prods us to abandon them and shed our passivity irks us immensely. And because we are at a loss what to do with the can of worms that has now been opened, we are trivialising the disclosures and scorning the victims.
The #MeToo ‘bogeyman’ has come to haunt us suddenly, forcing us to question our moral turpitude. It has shaken us to the core, unearthing from the underbelly what has been simmering for long.
Too bad that we didn’t see it coming. Too bad that the truth is staring us in the face. Too bad that we have to acknowledge what we have been in denial of. Too bad also that there may be a handful few who will seize the opportunity to further their own questionable interests. When this kind of massive churning happens, a few anomalies are to be expected, but they are bound to fall by the wayside as the solid and the true stands up to social and legal scrutiny. Stand tall it must and will, ushering in a radical change in the status of women. So, those who have taken to joking about the #MeToo campaign had better be on guard. #MeToo is no laughing matter. It is the tipping point.
Archana Pai Kulkarni is a Journalist, Editor, Creative Writer and Blogger. Views expressed are the author’s own.