The Me Too Campaign: Women Stand Tall Against Sexual and Domestic Violence

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The “Me Too” campaign has brought together women in a show of solidarity, of courage to make visible the enormity of sexual and domestic violence against them – their age, skin colour, social stature and economic background notwithstanding. Shernaz takes a hard look into gender discrimination, exclusively in Different Truths.

The “Me Too” campaign that recently turned into a hashtag was created ten years ago by a black woman, named Tarana Burke, to enable survivors of sexual violence to connect. Burke told Ebony Magazine that it’s “powerful” to see the hashtag go viral. “What’s happening now is powerful,” she said. “And I salute it and the women who have disclosed but the power of using ‘me too’ has always been in the fact that it can be a conversation starter or the whole conversation ― but it was us talking to us.” 

It has brought together women in a show of solidarity, of courage to make visible the enormity of sexual and domestic violence against them – their age, skin colour, social stature and economic background notwithstanding. Believe me when I say no woman has been spared this beastliness. The voices have been subdued, shrill, harsh, hesitant and above all honest. These outpourings may not help to stop this atrocious global tendency but it will hopefully open up space for meaningful dialogues, not between just “us talking to us” but on wider platforms and will goad men to look within; to acknowledge that this menace lurks in their own backyards and they must come forward to curb it.

“Women can turn the whole internet into a list of “Me toos,” but it won’t make a difference until men ― all men ― acknowledge how they perpetuate misogyny and commit to making a change.” Says Angela Chapin in her article here (see the link)

There are men who show their complicity or fear by remaining silent on this issue. And then, ridiculously, there are those who are shocked by these revelations on social networks!! Sheer hypocrisy!! If women disclose the names of their victimisers there might be a few suicides and a beeline for burqas under which ‘respectable men’ would want to hide their unmasked faces. Stories abound of ‘godmen’, politicians and men in power, men on the street, men in the family/home and men in workplaces, who are guilty directly or indirectly of crimes against women.

“Studies frame data in terms of the number of women who were assaulted, rather than the number of men who have committed sexual violence.” For every one abominable act that is reported countless are never talked about. Let us not even get into statics and data. By any count they are mind-boggling! And I am not even considering marital rape and harassment! Those are secrets that must stay under the wraps in the bedroom. The ‘honour’ of the dishonourable males and family is at stake so such incidents have to be swept under the carpet. This is lunacy

Why must women take the rap by being forced into silence; for ignorantly believing that this is how it will always be; for being gullible enough to accept it as their fault?  Victim-blaming happens all the time in our most powerful institutions. There’s the police who dismiss a vast number of rape reports before investigating them and the judges who find alleged perpetrators “not guilty” because a woman should “keep her knees together” or because even “a drunk can consent.”

Even the way these crimes are reported stacks up against women while letting men off the hook. How? Read it in the words of Jackson Katz: “We talk about how many women were raped last year, not about how many men raped women. We talk about how many girls in a school district were harassed last year, not about how many boys harassed girls. We talk about how many teenage girls in the state of Vermont got pregnant last year, rather than how many men and boys impregnated teenage girls.”

“So you can see how the use of the passive voice has a political effect. [It] shifts the focus off of men and boys and onto girls and women. Even the term ‘violence against women’ is problematic. It’s a passive construction; there’s no active agent in the sentence. It’s a bad thing that happens to women, but when you look at that term ‘violence against women’, nobody is doing it to them. It just happens to them…Men aren’t even a part of it!” 

Megan Nolan says, “One of the things I find frustrating about speaking about sexual abuse is that you are expected to play your own history as a trump card. If I object to a rape joke, I’m a sour feminazi, until I explain that I’ve been raped, when I turn into a delicate flower who needs protecting and patronising. There is no room in the discourse for an impersonal non-narrative criticism of the culture.”  She adds further, “In the real world, where we live, it is, of course, necessary to take practical steps to prevent attacks, to enable reporting, to ensure abusers face appropriate punitive measures both legal and social. These things make a tangible difference to the lives of women. 

“But the larger problem persists. It makes up the fabric of our world, this violence. Nothing less than the dismantling of our current systems, a complete discrediting of what we now consider power, will compel the sweeping change we so badly need to see, that we have waited on for so long.”

Young boys and men are also susceptible to sexual attacks and harassment. Yes, men too are victims of sexual predators and perverts. Some have joined the Me Too trend-wagon. Indian fashion designer Satkrit Krishna asks, “So you ladies think only you have been inappropriately touched n felt up by men!?#metoo yea seriously!!” Music director Sudeep Swaroop posted, “Young boys are not safe too. A child is a child. I was 6 :(#metoo.” So what is wrong with the male psyche? Are they so terribly depraved or lack total self-confidence that they believe their machismo lies in the subjugation of weaker people? These gropers, pinchers, assaulters, oglers are sadistic, pathetic and dangerous. They must be brought under the purview of strict laws.

Most men practice a deliberate, chosen blindness to this malaise. It is the blindness of conniving minds. There are husbands, brothers, fathers, and uncles, who know exactly what ‘men’ are like and so become over-protective of their wives, sisters, daughters, and nieces. Other women don’t matter! They know perfectly well that there are men who revel in dirty, abusive and demeaning sexist talk in their ‘stag’ parties and ‘katta’ gatherings and put those words into action; that there are men who believe that it is okay to be lecherous so long as you are not caught out; men, who grow up on the outlandish story that women are objects to be snatched and used for sexual gratification. They have witnessed and perhaps been party too to such goings-on.

I would like to see men, who can muster the guts to say,

✔  Me Too: I am a part of this rotten, toxic culture that supports patriarchy and considers women inferior.

✔  Me Too: I know about the humiliation and trauma women undergo but turn a blind eye to what my colleagues, friends, family members do because I have conveniently bitten into the mouldy belief ‘yeh toh chalta hai’.(All this goes on)

✔  Me Too: I am a silent partner in this repulsive stance ingrained in the roots of society, but would honestly like to work towards changing it; the climate of sexual oppression must change into that of gender equality.

✔  Me Too: For it is men’s responsibility to stop their predatory sexual behaviour and not put the onus on women.

There are very few men who have this kind of courage. This needs a change of mindset. Men who are sniggering at the Me Too trend are emotional paupers and are wallowing in the filth they have fed their minds from childhood. When will they mature mentally? When will they recognise and respect women’s voices, choices, and dignity in the matter? Parents, please ask yourselves honestly, where do you fit in this scenario? Do the males respect the womenfolk of their household? Do their sons become licentious because elders look side-ways, smirking ‘boys will be boys”?   

Yet there is a faint glimmer of hope. To quote Angela Chapin again, “Last night a friend asked men on Facebook to list “one tangible action you will take to end rape culture” and her post has 54 comments that include “I’ll speak up in places [where] I have privilege and power” and “Listen instead of becoming defensive.” Other men are posting “I believe you” in response to the “Me too” campaign. These are steps in a very good direction.”  Let us hope this ripple effect spreads far and culminates in the change that is so needed.

It is the time that we joined hands in curbing this menace. Women have begun to walk out of the shadows they were shamed into and now it is the men’s turn to openly accept and act against this rampant pestilence. There is no honour in being mentally blind, spiritually corrupt and simmering in silence. The men who truly respect women must speak up (no lip service, please), lead the others to rid the world of this plague. Where are you hiding, all you decent, self-respecting menfolk? Or aren’t there any? Step up as one. Let us have significant discussions and learn to live and let live with decorum and peace; with stringent enforcement of laws that are already in place and enactment of newer ones.   

Here is another interesting article — France's "Me too" campaign may come with legislation

“Teach religion, culture and tradition from a woman's point of view. Then you will know what harassment
 is.”  (Indian Quotes).

©Shernaz Wadia

Photos from the Internet

#MeToo #WomenStandingUpAgainst #Harassment #Religion #Culture #Women #Groping 
#SexualHarassment #Campaign #Twitter #SocialMedia #Facebook #PublicCampaign #SpeakOut

To Shernaz Wadia, reading and writing poems has been one of the means to embark on an inward journey. She hopes her words will bring peace, hope and light into dark corners. Her poems have been published in many e-journals and anthologies. She has published her own book of poems “Whispers of the Soul” and another titled “Tapestry Poetry – A Fusion of Two Minds” with her poetry partner Avril Meallem.