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, ‘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. However, I had instantly echoed on her perspective and acknowledged the power & strength that she advocated 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, challenged 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 #Metoo bandwagon now?!
Although a staunch protector of women that were victimized in the hands of dogmatic conservative men, either in the name of religion, or to salve the male pride, or in the name of family’s honour in this 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 holding enslaved women for aeons together, under the garbled illusions portrayed like reverence to be akin to goddesses, or adorned beauties, or delicate darlings, chained by societal mandates; it’s a fair balance: Either seek strength in the name of adversity (a basic “fight or flight” response – the most primal instinct in the game of human survival!) or silently bear the ignominy and ordeal, to live a victim following an assault. Every woman has experienced diverse environments, 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. The question was, why did they not summon the courage to stand tall, fight back but chose the least path of resistance to endure in passivity?! Were some of them fairly fortunate to have the choice? Could they have chosen emancipation from the external clutches of exploitation or did they struggle to choose to break free from their internal bondages?
Women raped in marriages never had the courage 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; a fair balance. Tarana Burke had started this movement to provide encouragement and acceptance for the victims of sexual violence; it was a movement to heal victims through a community-based approach to share stories to free them from shame and guilt. Contradictorily, as she rightly states, it turned into “an unwavering obsession with the perpetrators — a cyclical circus of accusations, culpability and indiscretions.” which is bang on right! The internet took to high drama, hue and cry on recounting stories of “victimization” with great detail and extravagant pleasure confounding the motives of the victims. #MeToo was to support the survivors to redeem themselves against their tragic, disgraceful moments. It was not just a gender war, it could have been equal opportunity for other sects and pockets of society who were abused. They could have been the transgenders, the heterosexuals, children or the elderly – vulnerable sects sought as an opportunity by a prowling predator. But what if the prowler had a tough fight right at that moment? What if the country’s legal system was so strong that such perpetrators were punished immediately? What if the malady that was universally known, was not fanned by putting such heinous acts under the wraps by every kith and kin of the victim? what if such crimes were not wrapped under the sheaths of shame and sacrilege by society?!
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 in silence and shame so far? I believe in each of those encounters or attacks, each encounter poses a choice within the core of every woman. She could either display her inner resilience and fortitude to combat or choose to succumb to the servitudes of dominance. We, as an individual, choose the path of our lives. Victims who lost the battles, however, cannot be left suffering in under guilt and disgrace, on the contrary, we as a society, display empathy, sensitivity, compassion to show them the path of righteousness; for within every suppressor, lies the birth of another newer oppressor! With the #Metoo wave that gained momentum since last year mainly in the entertainment industry, the bane is rampant within the deepest roots of the society, what we see is merely the tip of the iceberg.
Let us 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 re-create a holistic way forward!
We, the women, who on the contrary, in ancient history were acknowledged as superpowers. Devis like the Durga, Parvati, Sita were revered, respected as women of power. Navratri is a platform for cultural-social interaction between the two genders to not merely celebrate but also worship 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 and interpretations. Durga’s strength represented with great splendour on the killing of the mighty Maheshasura. Did we ever retrospect the reason or 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 compared to that of their male counterparts. Women took to the homes, sought shelter while tending their progenies against the vagaries of nature. Gradually, men rose up to a feat to provide refuge and protection to pregnant tending women for nurturing of their future generations in the daily game of survival.
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, power or position wise, exploits the meek and 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 of them. 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 to question #who-else-too, #he-too, #they-too, #we-the-people-too, #The-poor-too! Let us not generalise from the movement, we need to redefine the problem based on an 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 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 coerce the weak and the negotiable. It is but natural that an oppressor may continue if met with the silent suffering of the torture or keeping sexual or other acts of violence under wraps? The weak or the negotiable links of exploitation are encouraged by lack of courage, lack of self-respect or self-love, and the lack of 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, courage and the urge 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) than external influences? Question is “what’s in my control and my circle of influence and how to make a change. It’s time to let victims to be transformed into positive influencers or change agents who would assert “no more victimization” within the society and make a paradigm shift within the roots of the society. Even before getting overwhelmed with so much hoopla and overselling of the stories of victimization, it is time to reckon and find. What’s the kind of society we would like to have from here and the now?!