What is #MeToo? MeToo in India and India after MeToo.

metoo in india
#MeToo in India

What is #MeToo?

MeToo campaign started with the global outrage over the Harvey Weinstein incident in the West. Harvey Weinstein  is a noted . Hollywood film producer who has been accused of sexual harassment by over 70 women. After ' the #MeToo movement arrived in India several women have bravely come out with stories about harassment and sexual abuse at workplace at the hands of the powerful and higher-ups.

The #MeToo movement, started as a hashtag on Twitter ‘ in 2017 amid the Weinstein incident. The movement was created by Alyssa Milano, garnering support from noted Hollywood actors Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Jennifer  Lawrence, and Uma Thurman. The movement was chosen as the Person of the Year by the Tirhe magazine. It also gave birth to the more militant Time’s Up campaign.

#MeToo in India ↴

#MeToo movement gained momentum in India after  a comedian Utsav Chakraborty was accused of sexual . harassment by a writer and fellow comic, who also said that the company had not taken any action despite her complaints. Next in line was Queen director Vikas Bahl, who has been accused of sexual harassment by a former employee of Phantom Films, which has now been disbanded. The campaign became more popular in  media after Union Minister MJ Akbar, accused by six women joumalists of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour when he worked as a newspaper editor.

India after #MeToo ↴

#MeToo has become a  strong movement in India. It is courageous on the part of those large number of women  who are coming out in the open with .their stories of workplace harassment and unwanted sexual overtures from male colleagues. In a predominantly conservative ' setting like that of our society,these acts are no mean feats. If not for any other reason, these women need the support of society at large because they have mustered the courage to speak up.

Workplace harassment is not just a frivolous crime but a violent crime. Violence may be mental or emotional. A  person has the potential to outrage the feelings and emotions  of another through his words and deeds, This 15 much easier and more hurtful in the context of sexual harassment and intimidation.

There is a lack of strong system to act against the perpetrators in a big way. Victims silently Suffer violations without raising their voices too much due to social mores, stigma and familial sensibilities. This, in no Way means a small or a non-issue. Finally, when women are speaking up, it is not just a minor issue, but a giant one.

For every story told there are dozens of stories untold. Media and film industry being more visible have the opportunity to raise their issue to higher levels, but the victims are  everywhere from villages to rich urban households. Fear of societal reaction and stigma forces victims to suffer silently  or in extreme cases, to end their lives. It is our moral duty to stand up with those who raise their voices, to overcome the menace.

There may be people who will try to misuse the situation for their own ends. But that isn’t a valid argument for a good cause. There are instances of people misusing many 'laws to their advantage. But that can not be an argument against the law itself. What we can do is, further strengthen :the laws. Similarly with #MeToo, while those accused of wrongdoing may have a right to defend themselves, one or two unfounded cases can’t be held against the entire movement for the dignity, freedom and safety of women. We can't rule out the possibility of some innocents to be subjected to such innuendo and insinuation. These are the hazards that any reform entails. We must guard against them, but shouldn’t use them to stall the reform itself.

The #MeToo movement has achieved one significant result --  the hope that workplaces will now be safer for women. There is a hope that men will. think twice before indulging in Obscenities With their colleagues. But the larger question  is that of our attitude towards women. There are people who  consider women as mere object ;  While the other  subject them to countless restrictions in the name of protection. Equality and independence should be the twin mantras in. our treatment of women.

Safety of Women, is a major issue but, Should be dealt with stricter laws to ensure that guilty of harassment are  punished. The Vishakha judgment guidelines do provide many safeguards, like having an “appropriate complaints mechanism with a complaints committee” at  all workplaces.

But what women need is not just security, but dignity. Dignity can be accorded by society, not by laws. Dignity gives equal opportunity and independence of thought and action. It calls for a lot of courage to stand by those women who open up when a deafening silence overawes you. Let that hope, not mere empathy for the victims, nor anger against the accused who must have a fair chance to respond and defend themselves, guide us in creating a better India where our women will have more opportunity and freedom.

If we go back to the history of feminism, we can see that women’s struggle for emancipation has always been a quest for autonomy and equity accompanied by a strong sense of questioning of the social and political structures of a male-dominated modernity, This process of critical questioning of the sexual and the political became crucial and essential at every period of modern history where the male political power was put on hold by a revolution (French Revolution) or a may or social movement (May 1968) .

However, despite numerous successes exemplified by the efforts of women in the past hundred years, the modern idea of the “republic”, as elaborated by the American and French revolutions, continues to be perceived and practised on the basis of a sexual division of roles and spaces. As such, the public space is essentially thought and instrumentalised as a masculine space, while the private space is considered as primarily feminine. Thus, the res publicae (public affairs) has been essentially conquered and dominated by men, while women have been, generally, pushed back to the private space and defined as “mothers”, “sisters” and “wives” .

In other words, in many cultures of the world, women are still to be protected in the private sphere, instead of making use 'of their reason in the public space. Accordingly, a general view in many male-dominated societies of our time is that a woman who speaks openly and frankly in the public domain dishonours herself or more precisely disgraces her family and her community. Despite all this, the time for change has come. Beyond all social and political cleavages, feminism is the inevitable philosophy of the 21st century.

However, no other person as Simone de Beauvoir, and no other book as The Second Sex, have ever been at the heart of the cultural and political struggles of women against conservatism and conformism in our contemporary societies. The Second Sex, published in 1949, became one of the most celebrated and contested books of the 20th century. The scandal around this book was not only that it had been written by a woman-philosopher, who had the courage to question the values of the male chauvinistic society of her time, but also because it mainly redefined womanhood as a social creation and not a given fact of nature. Famously declaring that “one is not born a woman, one becomes one.”

Seventy years after The Second Sex, the #MeToo global movement, championing other women around the world against the arrogant and dominating attitude of men, is the unfnished business of the 21st century. But the truth is one cannot be a feminist today without looking back at Simone de Beauvoir’s audacity to think dangerously. The promise of freedom and equity, as Beauvoir underlined it, has never been an individual achievement, but an ongoing collective task whose challenges and sufferings we must take up together. As Beauvoir says: “We see that no existence can be validly fulfilled if it is limited to itself.”

But the fact is that despite these institutional processes and related amendments in the laws, the culture of male entitlement and patriarchy is still so prevalent that most victims have thus far preferred silence to the alternative of risking one’s career or facing the derision of colleagues. #MeToo is a challenge to these attitudes that enforce a culture of silence. By speaking out, if women force sexual predators to reflect and step back, it would be a giant stride towards a more gender equitous society.

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