If you are active or remotely active on social media, then you couldn’t have missed the latest trending hashtag! #MeToo
Two simple words became a rallying cry on Twitter to stand against sexual harassment and assault.
On Sunday actress Alyssa Milano tweeted a note that read "Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote "Me too" as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem."
"If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted write 'me too' as a reply to this tweet," she wrote. The movement started in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal and its ensuing fall out.
So, this past weekend, and later on Facebook, women (and some men) around the world responded with two words: “Me too.” They hashtagged posts #MeToo to share their own experiences of sexual harassment and assault, and to de-stigmatize speaking out. Some told their personal stories, some didn’t.
My social media feeds have been awash with a heartbreaking flood of “#MeToo” tags, along with stories that will haunt me forever.
But #MeToo woke me.
And I can’t go back to the way things were. I would be more surprised if any woman didn’t post #MeToo. Because unfortunately, we are used to this treatment—it has just been normalized. Some experiences are clear-cut.
Women have been whistled to on streets and faced sexist innuendos at work. They have been assaulted as children and as adults. They have faced attacks from strangers on streets, family friends and mentors at work. They have been dismissed, patronized and silenced, catcalled, assaulted, beaten, raped and killed. This has happened in streets, shops, buses and trains, cabs and autos, in bedrooms and boardrooms, in broad daylight and in the dead of night. This has happened to days-old infants and old and infirm women.
And the thing is, we already know the answer. It’s there, just waiting for us to ask the question. We knew the difference between making a regrettable but consensual choice and an assault. We knew the difference between an unrequited crush and stalking. We knew the difference between making a mistake and being raped.
The bigger question is why we never spoke out, even when we knew deep down it was wrong?
There are plenty of reasons:
Fears of being disbelieved, personally scrutinized, shamed, ridiculed, blackballed, having your name publicly tied forever to an ugly thing that happened to you.
There’s the ordeal of having to defend your account against your aggressor’s and having to explain what happened over and over again.
And then, of course, there’s not wanting to be the victim. Part of being a liberated, independent, career-focused, empowered woman, is to be tough too. Instead of addressing it, we worked around it. We moved in packs to protect one another. We warned other women in our industry which men to steer clear of. Over coffee’s and in women-only office chat rooms, we talked about everyday sexism, about the awful experiences we had endured, and we helped each other pick up the pieces. We only cried in the women’s bathroom, never gave men the satisfaction of knowing we were rattled.
Isn’t that the real problem – acknowledgement and consequences.
Acknowledging that it happens and breaking the silence is the first step towards realization. Most people seem to have resorted to a somewhat uncomfortable silence. Oh Yes, many men won’t comment but they have noticed it! Isn’t it important for men to engage in these conversations. Truth is that nothing will really change in a lasting way until the social consequences for men are too great for them to risk hurting us.
Even though the movement started off as a women-centric movement, it grew to include queer and cis-male experiences also.
This trend is important as it marks a shift from victim blaming, slut shaming, mansplaining and general patronizing to women speaking for themselves. Coming from a culture that tries to silence the woman by scaring her about repercussions that her assertions may have on her career, her image or even the career of her perpetrators, and shames her for ‘bringing the harassment or assault on herself’, thereby holding the woman responsible through her dress, her mannerisms or even her being at a particular place at a particular time.
I have faith that society will evolve. Speaking out is the first step towards this evolution. Maybe soon, we’ll move on from the passive voice of #MeToo