“Girls befriend guys and when differences occur, they level rape
charges…Boys will be boys. They make mistakes. Should they be hanged?”
said Mulayam Singh Yadav, three-time chief minister and the head of one of
the most powerful regional parties of the largest state in India, while
addressing a rally in 2014.
“You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful women- I just start
kissing them..When you’re a star, they let you do it. Grab ’em by the
pussy” said Donald Trump, the president of the United States of America, in
a videotape released by the Washington Post in October last year.
“I came of age in the ’60s and the ’70s, when all the rules about behaviour
and workplaces were different. That was the culture then” said Harvey
Weinstein, celebrated producer and Hollywood giant, while defending himself
against a deluge of sexual harassment charges including Hollywood A-listers
such as Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Statements such as these by powerful and influential men reveal that
there’s a thread that binds together cultures across the globe and this
thread which, more than binding, is snuffing the life out of the so-called
‘modern, civilised’ world is the all-pervasive phenomenon of sexual
Millions of women have responded to a tweet by US actress Alyssa Milano
exhorting anyone who has been sexually assaulted to reply and raise their
voice with a ‘me too’. The campaign has since then taken the internet by
the storm with a lot of men also raising their virtual hands and sharing
stories of sexual assault. It’s naive to think that sexual harassment is
anything but commonplace, however, the idea behind the campaign is to
humanise statistics. Each morning we wake up to stories of rape and sexual
assault targeting everyone, from a newborn to a geriatric. Yet somehow, as
we move from one news story to another, we’re shocked lesser and lesser.
It’s easier to distance ourselves from the horrifying reality when the
target is a stranger. But it isn’t always strangers that make up these
statistics, it may very well be your colleague, your school friend, your
ex-girlfriend, your teacher, your sister, your mother, your wife and yes,
even your son. This is what seems to be the point of the campaign- to drive
home the sheer magnitude of the problem.
While for some people, sharing their stories has been cathartic, others
have called into question the utility of the exercise. After all, the
‘pussy-grabber’ went on to become the president of the so-called Free World
and the most powerful man on the planet. So, what’s the point of this
campaign? In my opinion, we need to look at what such an initiative can do
as opposed to focusing on things it was never meant to achieve. It’s
ridiculous to even think that an online campaign will give way to a global
anti-sexual harassment law that’ll rid the world of this malaise. No. In
fact, if laws were deterrents enough, rapists would be history.
What the #Metoo campaign can achieve is jolt the conscience of the people
who think sexual assaults are stray occurrences. What the campaign can do
is force us to introspect about how we, as individuals and societies, have
faltered so terribly that it takes an online campaign for us to come face
to face with the gravity of an issue that regularly affects most of the
people we know. And, hopefully, in light of this ‘revelation’ we may work
towards informing ourselves and our successors better.
The author likes to be known as:
“A girl has no name”