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#text/uri-list http://eceappcluster:8080/webservice/escenic/content/19948389#MeToo and the scale of the crime

Illus: for TH_sreejith r.kumar

Illus: for TH_sreejith r.kumar  

There is no point in mere social outrage unless it is followed adequately by tangible action

An unusual hashtag trended on social media recently, and it wasn’t very pretty. When I came across a status that declared ‘MeToo’, I was bemused. Why would someone want to revisit an old incident of sexual abuse, wade through the hurt and share it on Facebook?

Nevertheless, I added words of support. As I scrolled down, I came across another status with the same hashtag. And then another, and another, and yet another. Soon enough, the impact of the campaign sunk in. I lost count, and my eyes blurred with anger, sadness, even surprise, as I realised that so many of my friends have gone through some form of sexual harassment.

Alyssa Milano kick-started the MeToo campaign, encouraging women who have encountered any form of sexual assault or abuse to come out, speak about and acknowledge, so people get an idea of how widespread the malaise really is.

This is the point

For those who say, what’s the point, the point is to raise awareness, the point is for parents to question the way they are raising their sons, the point is to give women a chance to discuss incidents that often get brushed under the carpet. If a man gropes a woman in a crowd, what choice does she have but to swallow the anger? And there is so much anger.

As I toyed with the idea of adding #MeToo to my status, I realised I was still connected to someone who had harassed me when I was in my teens. I searched for him and there he sat, on my ‘friends’ list. I went to his profile page and ‘unfriended’ him. Then I blocked him. It was about time. Why had I even accepted his request to connect?

The answer isn’t all that complex. I had moved on, and imagined he had grown up as well. I would run into him every once in a while and didn’t want to feel awkward, neither did I want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that what he had done had caused me any discomfort. If I remain civil and behave normally every time I run into him, I can act like I never even noticed any inappropriate behaviour. Like my knees never shook when he entered my house.

Unfortunately, this was not the only instance of sexual assault I would encounter. While I would do everything in my power to avoid making any sort of physical contact, caving up inside myself every time I was in a crowded place, men would do the opposite, reaching out to make contact. Perhaps I should feel sorry for them — desperate males seeking cheap thrills.

What I faced

I was assaulted by a music teacher, a yoga instructor, by strangers on a street, in a cinema, in a Deepavali mela, in a store, the only time I hit back. I swung my bag in his face as he ducked and yelped, begging me to stop.

Many times my friends and I have been followed by men as we walked on the road or drove in our cars. We have been cat-called and whistled at, and I haven’t even skimmed the surface of salacious phone calls. For years I went to bed with the phone off the hook. Thank you, caller ID, for making an entire generation of girls’ lives a little easier.

While growing up, it seemed all of morality rested on my shoulders. I was the one who had a deadline. My brother could return whenever he wanted to. I was the one who had to watch what I wore, who I spoke to. Despite these restrictions, despite having loving parents with the right intentions, I was harassed. And my Facebook feed clearly shows I was not the only one — far from it. When will we realise that this moral policing of girls isn’t working! It is about time we parents started educating our sons about how they should behave. It’s clear Harvey Weinstein’s parents didn’t! How shameful, to have achieved such success, only to be ostracised as you near the end of your career.

To do something

There is, however, no point in dishing out moral outrage unless we resolve to do something about the situation. It is imperative that sons are taught to respect the girls they go out with, and their wishes. How many parents have explained the concept of consent to their sons? “She didn’t protest too much. She wanted it. She was asking for it,” they’ll say.

“It was consensual,” Weinstein said. Consensual? Please. If all else fails, buy your sons a goddamn mirror.

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Printable version | May 28, 2020 7:44:35 AM |

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