It is easier to not type #MeToo, it is easier to not update that Facebook status or tweet. It’s just easier to avoid the questions that will follow, the anxious DMs, SMSs and calls from family and friends. But as my timeline held a mirror to my face, I wondered if I was just jumping the trends-wagon. Yet I am aware that by not speaking up I continue to allow what must not be.
Is it necessary that victims of sexual abuse should have to relive their trauma, reveal their scars, more often than not among some who have been the abusers? Or worse to a mute audience waiting for this trend to pass so that they’re not discomforted by these discussions?
To all those who have had the courage to reveal their experiences to the world, and use their scars as armor against non-believers and abusers – I stand with you.
And to those who are still healing, or still hurting so much that staying silent is a tool for self-preservation, or self care – I stand by you.
One shouldn’t have to relive their pain and reveal their scars on a public platform for it to be acknowledged.
I was shocked and grieved as I thought you too! And you, and you… as family and friends on my timeline posted their #MeToo stories.
Then again I heard many a voice of skepticism and ignorance and that is the exact reason why this deep rooted evil continues to this day. And even now, days after this trend continues to rule social media timelines, there are only a couple of men on my timeline who have come out in support of a cause that needs it all. A colleague rightly pointed out that men who show deep sorrow at the death of a relatively lesser known musician / actor, and have all the time and data available to be vocal about a cricket match are right now quiet about a topic that has garnered millions of mentions and is trending for several days now. In their silence their stand on this social evil is clearly revealed, as they lie uncomfortable knowing that they’ve been part of the problem.
1. It’s a passing fad on social media, it will go away
No it’s not going away just because it discomforts your privileged self who has not known the trauma and undeserved shame of being sexually abused. Face the reality and if you can’t find the empathy to understand, the least you could do is not belittle others who are fighting to make a difference.
2. Passing a few sexist jokes on chat groups or parties doesn’t make me an abuser
Ofcourse! You ain’t that Weinstein kinda shit, you’re the special kind, the kind that has turned a blind eye when you saw your colleague / friend / relative continue their harassment. You have made it okay for such people to exist by not speaking up and creating a ‘chalta hai’ culture towards sexual harassment. You are the reason why women don’t feel safe hanging out with guys after hours.
3. Try to forget. What will the people say?
If you’ve asked a victim of abuse to silence themselves, know that not only have you done the most harm to them, but also to the many other victims that the abuser will hurt because he hasn’t been caught. Know that trying to bury the sexual abuse causes tremendous trauma to the victim. And this is exactly the behaviour that the abusers expect which gives them a false sense of entitlement to continue their misdeeds.
4. SO WHAT? Yeah, I know some who catcall and objectify women. It’s all over the movies too!
All those times you stood silently while your friends, relatives, colleagues catcalled at passing women, being too coward to help the defenseless, you’re equally responsible. In all those times that you consumed pornography without thinking about deep humanity, or forced a woman into a situation of discomfort even merely by passing taunts or lewd remarks, you were responsible. You might not have committed direct actions of abuse, but you have participated in acts of misogyny and sexism, that have led to trauma and victimization of women.
5. Boys will be boys. Men were made greater by God!
If you’re that person who quotes the Bible, the Bhagvad Gita or some religious text or made-up study to prove that men have a divine right to be greater than women, you definitely need to see a therapist for your delusions. Religious texts aren’t always misogynistic, it’s how you interpret them. But some religious texts are clearly symbolic of it and this is just calling out one of those:
You’ve been in the middle of the storm and reading innumerous posts from friends, coming from even privileged backgrounds. It has made you sick to the stomach and rage in anger. You are wondering how does this hashtag (#MeToo) really help other than listing out all these stories of grief? Here’s the impact this hashtag has made to the survivors of abuse:
1. It has empowered women and men and connected them to make a difference
Sexual abuse is a taboo topic in a world where most countries have ‘freedom of speech’ at the core of their constitutions. Not talking about this has led to repressed feelings of undue guilt, shame and fear among those who have survived such abuse. Through this hashtag people are connected with others’ grief knowing that they’re in this together and finding the strength to overcome it.
2. Walking out of the shadows
Being free of the shame and guilt is the toughest, most heart-wrenching thing for any abuse survivor. The abuse stays with the person everyday looming over every action. It steals trust, not allowing survivors from feeling joy, having normal experiences, growing inward living with a continuous stifling sense, like a hand over mouth feeling.
By sharing their stories, they’ve taken the first steps to freeing themselves of their burdens and showing the world the epic proportions of the problem at hand. One can only do the math as to how much of a burning issue sexual abuse is.
3. Accepting it to be a problem is the first step
It’s no more a secret that sexual abuse is very real even among privileged societies and we’ve had enough of it. No amount of shaming is going to keep the voices of survivors silent anymore. More often than not, victims have been too under-age to understand that the act of abuse is not okay. But this hashtag has brought forth a melee of discussions that will help reach out to even younger audiences of the kind of touch that is bad and not okay.
It will require a lot of empathy and unlearning to analyze and understand the can of worms that this hashtag and movement have set off. But in my friends I have seen hope:
There’s this side to it:
And this too:
What did a hashtag ever change?
The same that a few printed copies of the Bible by Gutenberg, or a couple of pages called the magna carta, I could name several examples. As individual events they’re just small sparks on the history timeline. But they’re the ideas that sparked eventual revolutions that challenged then existing social norms.
Remember that time when the divine right of kings to rule people as they wished was the norm? Took us quite a few centuries to do away with tyrant monarchies. Patriarchy has existed for longer, #MeToo might not be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but it’s definitely a stepping stone that will lead to gender equality.
#MeToo needs to now transform into “I believe you” and “nip the abusers in the bud” movement.