year has passed since the US-originated social media movement by women known as #MeToo, and women have come out with what looked like “exposes” against men who, they say, had sexually harassed them at workplace or elsewhere in the past. With Indian women joining the movement by their hundreds and similarly exposing men in high places, the political, media and entertainment industries are faced with a season of embarrassments. Some heavyweights like journalist-turned Union minister of state for external affairs MJ Akbar and top names in the entertainment industry like Nana Patekar, Alok Nath and even one of the senior-most popular actors are among the high and mighty at the receiving end. Shamed, some have quit their jobs or assignments and others are busy issuing denials.
That women are not safe at places of work and in public places, and even at their homes is no longer an issue to be debated. This scenario is no more confined to any one nation, and is reflective of the changing times and the pitfalls in situations wherein men and women get increasingly mixed-up socially and in terms of work environment. Women are acquiring a new sense of boldness in naming and shaming the perpetrators of such acts. No one knows how many more such exposes are going to happen and how many heads would roll. It is simply a matter of conjecture. This surely is a well-intentioned campaign. Only doubt is whether this positive movement would last or simply fizzle out like so many others, once mainline Indian media gets something else to hang on to for higher subscribers’ ratings.
Following in the good traditions set by Indian culture, no right-thinking individual should think of misbehaving with women. These events, however, prove that there is nothing solid in Indian culture that binds this country together that we can claim as being ‘good’ in modern times. With consciousness rising, old values are staring down at Indians and pointing out to us how perverted all of us have been for ages. It is just that our traditions, religion and false customs forced us to close our eyes to the horrible perpetrators who escaped under the guise of our ugly culture.
The age old claim that there are more goddesses than gods in the Hindoo pantheon means very little to the present day. The doubts being created that under the guise of praying to Goddesses, the Hindoos actually might have been using women for various purposes would seem blasphemous in today’s charged atmosphere. However, the Devadasis in the temples are a nagging thought that persists and strengthens the arguments of those who cast such inconvenient doubts.
Women are supposedly glorified and revered in our epics but the Sita moments, the Sati practice, and more embolden those who question that all the glorifications are mere eyewash and had never any link to true lives led by the common men of this subcontinent at any given point of time in history. Today, we notice the superficiality of even this great moment. All of us know that it is not just the high and mighty who commit such heinous acts. Even piddly men in small positions of work also do not refrain from harassing women working alongside them. Sometimes, even elders cannot resist temptations and trouble girls of the age of their granddaughters. It is such people who are gleeful that only known names are getting hit with #MeToo. They feel they are safe and can carry on with the usual mischief while pointing fingers at others.
Women are not to be at the mercy of men, though this has largely been the case in male-dominated societies. The ideals of equality in life and equality of opportunities at workplace are a work in progress in India. There is need for more of efforts in this direction.
At the same time, the #MeToo movement may get waylaid by people who will start pointing out that it is going overboard. There may be claims that this is what happens when one drives things to extremes. The push loses its sanity and sanctity. One tends to start suspecting the bona fides. So the #MeToo movement could be tarnished by these very petty men who will love to give it a bad name before killing it completely. Although it is sad that even casual flirtations may get publicised and get seen as exposes, yet the wrongs of centuries and the mindset created by them need a drastic change in approach if things are to be set right. No soft approach has worked. Only one point that needs to be stressed is that in our country, let the #MeToo not die out with only a few celebrities being netted. Few senior movie stars, politicians, one High Court Registrar or a handful of journalists are not the only ones.
This movement must continue and pervade to all sections of social, economic and even religious levels. It is only when such a movement is encouraged by society and our system that we can expect just behaviour by men towards women at all levels. A Nirbhaya case became known because of media attention. A million such cases must have been covered up in the meanwhile by our police and the system across India. To fight this, #MeToo must be encouraged to go in the direction of excess. No harm at all.