In a few weeks, cynics – men and women, will look back and say “What good did any of that do?” or “See, I told you, it was just a trend”.
I can’t say that speaking up about this on social media is going to stop rape or sexual harassment. Because it probably won’t. It might not even reduce it. But, I’d still go so far as to say, that this online discourse is good. The seeming overload of “feminist ads” is good. The “rants” are good. The “crass”ness in stand-up comedy, Aditi Mittal, AIB, and other “women oriented” chatter that offends the perpetually-offended is good.
It’s not enough.
But it’s good.
It may sometimes feel “too much” even to a “feminist” woman. It may sound like noise to #SomeMen. A “fashionable” movement. A “trend”. Something that women find “cool”. A way to grab attention. The next “in” thing. “Wannabe”. Whatever.
But it’s working.
It’s not stopping a man from committing a crime but it’s empowering a woman to speak up about it.
10 years ago, we’d think 10 times before sharing an instance of abuse. We’d hide it, repress it, ignore it, blame ourselves for it, forget it, and “move on” from it.
10 years ago, we were ashamed. Especially when an instance of abuse involved a family member. So we stayed quiet. And “sucked it up”.
10 years ago, familial rape happened and was forgotten about, never to be brought up again, save for a counselling session years later, when the incident reared its ugly head disguised as relationship trouble or depression.
But today, with #MeToo, we are refusing to stay quiet. And this refusal to keep mum is a step forward. Let me repeat – it may not deter the perpetrator just yet, but it will help us speak up, share our stories, and therefore heal.
When a stand-up comedian brazenly talks about the roadside creep, when ads talk about “sharing the load”, when “consent” is the subject matter of a feature film, we know we’re moving forward. If not in the minds of men, at least in the hearts of women. “I am not alone”, being the starting point.
Healing starts from knowing that we are not alone.
Plenty of times, we are hurting because we blame ourselves for what was done to us. We call ourselves naive. We assume that if we were smarter and more prudent, we wouldn’t have to go through what we did. We think we “lead them on”. That we must have done something wrong to deserve this. In other words, we beat ourselves up about it. And this embarassment, this feeling of “What if it was my fault?” prevents us from sharing our stories of abuse, stops us from loving and accepting ourselves, and ultimately keeps us from healing.
With #MeToo, with the voices of everyone from celebrities to our own mothers speaking up on social media, the part of us that blamed ourselves has finally gotten the courage to speak up. To pull ourselves together, get on social media, and talk about our stories. Without shame. Without fear. Without guilt.
This coming together of women from all parts of the world for #MeToo may be presumed to be just another short-lived online cry, superficial, rootless and removed from reality. But to a teenage girl, the knowledge that she is not alone, that she isn’t wrong, and that there are others like her who are fearlessly speaking up, can come as a welcome relief. A message that one day, she will be OK. That there’s hope.
And sometimes, hope is all you need.
So is #MeToo a symbol of hope?
#MeToo means different things to different people. For some it’s a form of release, of letting off steam and pent-up anger. For others, it’s an acknowledgment of the crime followed by self-acceptance – “it was not my fault”. And then of course, it serves as encouragement for those of us who have been too quiet for too long, to finally stand up to our perpetrators – if not in person, at least in spirit.
I don’t know what #MeToo means to men in general. The one or two friends I spoke to said they were surprised that so many women were speaking up and posting. They said they were shocked that almost everybody on their lists had put up a status #MeToo. That they hadn’t realise how messed up the situation really was.
Well, it is bad.
And anything, even a tiny hashtag goes a long way. Think of it this way – any activity that helps at least one person heal, is good.
If you feel you have an opinion you’d like to share please do comment. 🙂