With the #metoomovement gaining much heat and ruckus within the cracks and crevices of the society, I happened to come across multitudinous perspectives that were voiced, trolled, encashed, adjudged, ridiculed, encouraged, ‘memed’ and spoofed!
Particularly though, there was quite a push back on one of a ghostwriter’s blog post. #GeetanjaliArora’s *MeToo Vs. ‘I slapped him back’, who was criticised on her insensitivity towards the victims who opened up publicly. However, I had immediately echoed on her perspective and acknowledged the power & strength that she propagated for women to practice when caught in such compromising grounds. This blog had immediately gained much attention and was followed fervently, ridiculed, for expressing a perspective against being an ‘Abla Nari’. Some of the arguments that the lady had invoked. were about why ever did the women undergo the path of shame, pain and torture across all these years, only to cry foul after nearly two-three decades? Why had they not fought against the spiteful system then, than joining the bandwagon now?!
Although I stand as a staunch protector of women who were victimized in the hands of dogmatic conservative men, either in the name of religion, or to salve the patriarchical society’s male pride, or their dignity & integrity of a “respectable” family to complement the living in a humbug society; although I have excess acridity towards the Male Chauvinistic Pigs (MCPs) of our society, the debate, as I see, is not about the patriarchal society that had enslaved women for aeons together, under the garbled illusions portrayed for women; revered and encouraged to be akin to goddesses or adorned beauties or delicate darlings, chained by societal mandates; it’s a fair balance: Either we call in for strength in the name of an adversity (a basic “fight or flight” response – the most primal instinct in the game of human survival!) or silently bear the ignominy and ordeal, living a life of a victim after an assault. Every woman has experienced diverse environments, with different sets of rules, with varying gender prejudices, and strange customs and conventions. Every victim could have had their own share of restraints and helplessness! Every woman who went through the unspeakable quagmire of emotional torments, the world that they survived in or thrived despite adversities, were living representations of their internal fears and restrictions. What if they had the courage to stand tall, fight back or silently chose the easy path of passive escape?! Were some of them lucky to have that choice? If ever they chose, were they able to seek emancipation from the external clutches of exploitation or was it a choice to be made to be freed from internal bondages?
Women raped in marriages never had the courage to choose to opt out of the routines of their daily tortures. Many women don’t have the power to break the shackles of societal burdens and imposed expectations. It’s a perspective but a powerful tool too, to empower women, to pause, speculate and reconsider; It’s a fair balance. Tarana Burke had started this movement to provide an encouragement to share stories, their acceptance for the victims of sexual violence to devoid them of shame and guilt; it was a healing movement, a community-based approach which suddenly took “to an unwavering obsession with the perpetrators — a cyclical circus of accusations, culpability, and indiscretions.” according to her, which is bang on right! The internet has taken to a high drama and hue and cry on recounting with extravagant pleasure, every detail on the act of offence that motives of such victims are confounded. #MeToo was about supporting the survivors, giving the victims wings to fly against their tragic, disgraceful moments, not just a gender war (men versus women), it was equally an opportunity for other parts of society who were abused, could be the transgenders and the heterosexuals, could be children and the elderly – those sects that lie on the intersection of that weak moment, which becomes an opportunity for a prowling predator. But what if the prowler was fought back right at that junction? What if the legal system was so strong that such perpetrators were punished immediately, would the malady not be universally known but discreetly put under the wraps by every kith and kin of the victim, under the sheaths of shame and sacrilege?!
Let us ponder on the other perspective then: What if these women had stood up for their rights to clear away the years of shame and trauma that they chose to bear? I believe in each of those encounters or attacks that pose a choice within the internal core of a woman and thus has an inner resilience, fortitude to either resolve to take to battle or to succumb to the servitudes of the dominants. We are the ones who choose the path of our lives. But having said that, accepting that perspective, we do not put those who are suffering in the lurch, on the contrary, we show them the path of righteousness; for within every suppressor lies the birth of another newer oppressor!
With this new wave that gained momentum since last year mainly in the arena of entertainment, the bane is rampant within the deepest roots of the society where what we see is merely the tip of the iceberg.
Thus, appreciate every spec of opinion, every possible challenge and counter-challenge, because unless we don’t challenge the status-quo or counter question the #metoo phenomenon and similar such multitudinous debates, we cannot create a holistic way forward! We the women, who in ancient history were superpowers.
The Women Creed were well-respected, the goddesses or the Devis like the Durgas, Parvati, Sita stemmed from the acknowledgement and reverence if the power of a woman. Navratri again is a platform for cultural-social interaction between the two genders celebrating and worshipping the essence of beauty, passion, love and strength of a woman in all her elegance in the form of dance, with time it weathered through varied alterations in objectives, interpretations and phenomena. It also identifies with the power of Durga who killed the mighty Maheshasura. Did we ever retrospect as to the era in which this superpower got quashed to a mere plaything in the hands of masculine gratification, a tool of regalement and ridicule for the rich and the powerful?! Women, as ancient hunters, were equally powerful as men, who used to bring as much food or more from their hunting spree, as was brought by their men. Women took to the homes, sought shelter to tending and caring for their progenies, against the vagaries of nature. Eventually, as a part of their daily game of survival, men rose up to a feat to provide refuge and protection to pregnant and tending women for nurturing of their future generations.
As an antithesis, today, as we speak of #metoo, we have overcome a long strife from #suffragette movement to the #metoo movement. However, are we not missing a point here? The issue at hand is not about sexism or gender discrimination or sexual predators or sexual crimes, #MeToo definitely at the root cause is all about a power differential. let’s take a sneak peek at the root of “exploitation”. Let’s talk about poverty. The storyline is the same. The powerful – gender or power or position wise, can exploit the meek, weak and the ones the have-less or have-nots. When did inequality at any level or layer creep within this world? The difference thus, and the debate is all about “what kind of situations provide succour to any kind of exploitation”? Why? : even men can start a campaign of #metoo and am sure there would be myriads of stories about sexual abuse or exploitation. A recent news of a 17-year-old boy who had started behaving unusually after he ran off from his paying guest accommodation with a single woman who had her own children living under the same roof, she had sexually assaulted him perforce almost for more than a year or longer. The problem is not about #metoo. Time and again we have heard of malevolent women who misused the law of dowry and rape. We know about many stories where female bosses have exploited or misused their powers on other women or men. The question thus should not be only about #Metoo, the question needs to be expanded beyond the gender inequality issue, the question should be Question #who-else-too, #he-too, #they-too, #we-the-people-too, #poor-too! Let us not generalise from the movement, we need to redefine the problem based on individual case based on intent, extent, misuse and its impact to address the core issues within our society, one by one. This definitely is not a gender-based issue but is more power-driven. #Metoo has given an opportunity to subdued women to #speak-up, be #empowered and has acknowledged the strife that these women have undergone, have we given similar platforms or forums to other human issues like those who are impoverished, imprisoned or equally being abused? Sexual (physical), financial or mental exploitation occurs when evil, greed, narcissism or power driven hedonics to coerce the weak and the negotiable links. But will not an oppressor continue if met with the silent suffering of the torture? The weak or the negotiable links of exploitation are lack of courage, lack of self-respect or self-love, and the knowledge of the possibility that ‘one can be free’. In theory, this may sound harsh but my heart goes out to people who have suffered in the hands of the exploits.
It is beyond doubt, the journey that people went through is shocking. At times we judge, “how’s that possible?!” How did they bear this? But I believe that “exploitation is directly proportional to being weak – in mind, body, self-love, honour, respect.” I think what’s important is “the power within” the aura within, self-perseverance, fortitude and the need to be emancipated. Do we want to waddle in self-pity or do we want to guide those who are striving against their internal quagmires, (it always is about the internal wars and strifes that an individual has within) than external influences? Question is “what’s in my control and my circle of influence and how”, to make a change. Its time to let victims to be transformed into positive assailants, rather known as change agents (to assert within the society that “no more victimization” and to make a paradigm shift in the way of living of such people within a society. Even before getting overwhelmed with so much hoopla and overselling of some of the victims, it is time to reckon and find. What’s the kind of society we would like to have from here and the now?!