Men and #MeToo

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Men and #MeToo

Sunday, 30 December 2018 | Tanushree Dutta

Men and #MeToo

I believe the #MeToo movement is a subtle revolution within the collective human consciousness, a revolution that has been happening across the world. A revolution many in India were ready for. A collective revolt against the tyranny and oppression that many face and believe that they have no choice but to keep quiet about. It is a full frontal attack on the culture of silence, secrecy and shame surrounding offences that are misogynistic and sexual in nature.

Harrassment, abuse and assault is not gender specific, it is not age specific, it is not industry specific and it’s certainly not specific to the elite although it may sometimes seem so. In India, we saw it percolate down to the average and ordinary working folks who were speaking up for perhaps the first time in their lives.

Some others were thinking about and re-evaluating their actions for the first time. The ramifications and effects of the #MeToo will be seen long term and the phenomenon cannot be perceived in a time bound or myopic way.

Just as it took a year for it to manifest in India and neighbouring Asian countries almost a year after it started in the US. Even so the seeds of revolution have been sown and it will bloom in due time taking down the walls of oppressive patriarchy that have been constructed in and around human societies.

It is earnest in its approach given the fact that there have been no known instances of wrongful accusations anywhere in the world; in other words the names that came up were very obvious and everyone in the respective clique’s always knew.

It is a tough path that some chose to tread breaking their silence on a very uncomfortable topic. The energy of courage, conviction and faith that flowed out of survivor stories inspired many to follow suit. One needs tremendous faith to walk into a battle not knowing the outcome. The battle in this case is with one’s own patriarchal mindset and conditioning that has taught us to cow down and accept oppression as a part of life, and the battle one fights with society at large being the sore thumb that sticks out. Sore thumbs have no choice but to stick out because they are sore, it hurts to be silent. It hurts to be not heard. Silence is golden but not at the cost of a rapidly deteriorating society that needs to be spoken to calling for a change and transformation. It is time to grow up folks and take responsibility. Every life matters!

There has always been a stigma attached to being a survivor of harassment, abuse or assault. For example, if our house gets robbed we will never be ashamed to admit it but if our soul is robbed of its innocence or our mind of its peace what of it?

Ignorance and evil always lurk and breed in darkness and secrecy and seek to destroy our souls slowly and steadily. These veils that we put over our unpleasant experiences in life, tucking them away in the farthest recesses of our mind, have to be lifted if not to the world then at least to ourselves. The pain, hurt and negativity need to be acknowledged first to be then released and transmuted to pave way for a wholesome, fulfilled and joyfull life. Typically, that’s what constitutes a good therapy session in western medicine, a good healing session in old school mysticism, and God’s grace in standard religious traditions.

This is why many believe the #MeToo is a worldwide catharsis and therapeutic phenomenon unfolding. See it how you will, the truth is sometimes somethings are just meant to happen and some of us become vessels or conduits for it to happen. It has been a privilege and honour for me to have played an active part in the #MeToo in India.

It has been cathartic for me and a roller coaster ride. I have discovered my own potential and calling in life through the impact I have had during this movement. They say that with great power comes great responsibility.

I am realising this principle within myself through my trials and tribulations. Unlike many in the world who abuse their power once they attain it, I hope and pray that in time mine be put to good use in helping people that are hurting, broken and lost in life and aiding the collective human evolution in some way.

Are you a survivor? Have you ever been a victim? Do you hold deep scars? Is there a form of disappointment or hurt or indignation that you have endured due to someone else’s words, actions or arrogance? Did it change the way you looked at life in general? Did it have an impact on your world view? How did it change your life? Did it change you as a person? Was the change for better or worse? Are you more cynical of everything now? Have you dealt with it? How did you deal with the trauma or hurt or humiliation? Was that the best way to deal with it? Did you receive any form of justice? Did you try for retribution? Do you want retribution? How late is too late to hope for retribution? What would retribution mean to you? Have you ever asked these questions to yourself before? Do you want answers?

It’s never too late. It’s never ever too late to look back, correct and heal that which was misaligned, mistreated and misjudged including yourself.

Finally, I know that every cloud has a silver lining. To see the clouds and not see the silver lining is a grave misperception of reality. Although the #MeToo raked up the old skeletons, it can also signify an era of much needed change and transformation in our societies if we choose to see it that way. We have to all participate to make that a reality.

Every uncomfortable experience can be a catalyst to change and I hope the #MeToo can be the uncomfortable, cathartic and revolutionary trigger to a much larger transformation in our world.

  • Nana Patekar: Tanushree Dutta was the first to break silence about getting sexually harassed by Nana Patekar on the sets of Horn OK Please in 2008. Patekar went for legal action against what he called false accusations.
  • Alok Nath: Actor Alok Nath was accused of sexually assaulting TV writer and director Vinta Nanda who also alleged that he harassed Navneet Nishan as well. Sandhya Mridul and Deepika Amin then gave their accounts of enduring sexual misconduct of Nath. Nath’s lawyer talked of a defamation suit.
  • Vikas Bahl: Queen director was first accused of harassment by a woman worker on the sets of his film in 2016. Next, Kangana Ranaut accused him of inappropriate behaviour like smelling her hair. Bahl has threatened defamation against Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane for speaking to the press.
  • Rajat Kapoor: A journalist  accused actor/director Rajat Kapoor of sexual harassment. She claimed Kapoor asked her inappropriate questions. Kapoor issued an apology for his inappropriate behaviour.
  • Kailash Kher: The singer was accused of touching a journalist during an interview. Singer Sona Mohapatra accused him of sexual harassment.
  • Sajid Khan: Came under fire after Saloni Chopra, Rachel White and Simran Suri shared their harassment stories.
  • MJ Akbar: The Minister of State for External Affairs was accused by a dozen women journalists of harassment leading to his resignation.

The fallout

The power of #MeToo has made women to come out and talk about their experience of sexual harassment at workplace but it has also been misused by many who target innocent men. With our campaign — Justice For Swaroop, we want to take this fight forward and make this a landmark case, especially for those men who have falsely accused in sexual harassment case.

Kriti Srivastava, wife of late Swaroop Raj

Decaying soul

The #MeToo movement cannot be resolved through the court of public opinion. There are people standing up for something. I would say more power to women who scream from the rooftop about something wrong done to them -- whether it is after 10 years or 20 or 50... It doesn't make a difference. You cannot deny the right to individuals to say what they say. But the question is whether the quotes are in sync with the legal system, which is based on a certain understanding. Are they in sync with this so-called enlightened new view that we have? If punitive action is not taken, the cynicism that nothing happens would be reinforced.

Mahesh Bhatt

cHATBOT SHAKTI

In the wake of the recent #MeToo India movement, Silicon Valley-based bot and messaging platform Gupshup launched a chatbot called 'Shakti' to help women in India find a voice against sexual harassment. Chatbot Shakti helps guide women on measures to be taken during an unfortunate event of harassment along with the details of relevant authorities they can reach out to. The bot is available 24x7 and can be accessed by logging into one's Facebook account and sending a message to the page "MeToo India".

54m Google searches for sexual harassment in US in 8 months after public accusations against film producer Harvey Weinstein and ensuing #MeToo movement

According to Google Maps Trends search, the maximum number of #MeToo searches in India has been reported from Goa’s Chicalim, Maharashtra’s Bhusawal, Punjab’s Zirakpur and Chhattisgarh’s Bhanwreli and Rajnandgaon. The most populous of these places is Bhusawal, with just 187,000 people

(The writer is Film actor and author of #MeToo movement in India)

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