The #MeToo movement has left me wondering, listening, arguing, convincing and also laughing at some of the humorous word plays on MeToo.

I kept wondering why is it so difficult for people to understand that such kinds of behaviour – unwanted touch, discomforting looks or inappropriate talk, is something that every woman would have faced sometime or the other in her life. The extent of the violation and its impact may vary from one person to another and from one situation to another. We may move on in life pushing the incident into the deep recesses of our mind, call it putting a stop to it and redefining the relationship or may take decisions regarding our careers and aspirations which may restrict our freedom to fulfill our dreams and aspirations.

I was listening to people narrate incidents – incidents that happened in childhood or decades back, but the memories of which were frozen in minds and hearts. It is our uncles and neighbours who we least suspect are the culprits. You hide behind doors and the pallu of your mother not to get into situations like that again. Yet, it gets unnoticed because nobody ever suspects that such incidents could happen in their home or work space.

You hide behind doors and the pallu of your mother not to get into situations like that again. Yet, it gets unnoticed because nobody ever suspects that such incidents could happen in their home or work space.

Then, why this sudden burst of anger and cathartic sharing?  It stems out of the frustration that in spite of the legal provisions these behaviours go unacknowledged in organisational structures and processes which are still very much male-dominated. Otherwise, how do we explain the causal statements of film industry members and media that such and such a person is known for such behaviour or attitude. Then why was he not called out – by his colleagues and other witnesses of incidents? Is it because he was in a position of power and everyone is interested in safeguarding their interests? Or is it the attitude that we can overlook it as long as it is not denting the organisation’s image? Why is the onus on the victim to fight for redressal and justice and not on the organisation to build healthy work cultures?

Why is the onus on the victim to fight for redressal and justice and not on the organisation to build healthy work cultures?

It is difficult to convince people that such behaviour occurs in contexts where the victim is disempowered and has consequences that are disempowering too. As a woman coming from an entitled background and less vulnerable, I may have better negotiating power, ability to call out than an ambitious young girl with dreams of stardom and success or a woman who needs a job desperately to support her family.  It is this vulnerability which gives control over her to the sexual predators.  The experience of sexual harassment and violence itself is disempowering as it dents the victim’s self-confidence, self-respect and self-image. The culture of victim blaming which pervades the society doesn’t help her much either, causing self-doubt and self –blaming. Is it a surprise then that many do not speak out and that even those who do are silenced mercilessly?

Change needs to be sparked at times. Tanushree in Bollywood and before her Sri Reddy in Telugu film industry raised issues which started a wildfire fanned by the social media which amplified the voices that resonated with lakhs of women. There are serious efforts being made in Telugu film industry to institute the Internal Complaints Committees and address the Casting Couch issues in the industry. The woman leaders from advertising and film industry have come together in support of women sharing their stories of sexual harassment. There are positive responses from Editors Guild and Script Writer’s Association as well.

#MeToo is a social movement that is aimed at destroying the power structures that promote and normalize sexual harassment perpetrated by Men in power making workspaces hostile and harmful to women. The personal narratives are the means of furthering the objective of the movement and social media is the carrier of the message. The personal narratives are meant to reflect the social reality and ensure the political battles we won for progressive legislations are translated into social reality. Time we change our social institutions, structures and mindsets to build a society that has zero tolerance for sexual harassment. The second wave of feminism said, “Personal is political in late sixties, the third wave of feminism of today is saying “personal is social”

#MeToo is a social movement that is aimed at destroying the power structures that promote and normalize sexual harassment perpetrated by Men in power making workspaces hostile and harmful to women.

So, what do we do to support the movement?

  • Let’s not doubt the women who are opening their past and hearts to us.
  • Let’s stop victim blaming.
  • Let’s not look at this campaign as a campaign against men but as a campaign against what is wrong with the system as it exists today and our mindsets as reflected in our behaviours.
  • Let’s use this movement as an opportunity to put in place systems that help the victims to call out the predators.
  • Let’s create organisational cultures that have zero tolerance for sexual harassment.
  • Let’s make men a part of the efforts to bring about change.
  • Let’s not miss this opportunity to better ourselves.

Dr A L Sharada is the Director of Population First. The views expressed are the author’s own.

Email us at connect@shethepeople.tv