#MeToo is a women’s empowerment campaign, which went viral in October of 2017, gaining unprecedented momentum after the sexual misconduct perpetrated by certain public figures came to light. When Women’s Day came around, I revisited the campaign, but with a thought to look beyond and find perspectives of people for whom campaigns like these are meant for and who can make a difference at the ground level.
My interest in feminism introduced me to many important and new perspectives. One of these was from the speech by Emma Watson in the United Nations, 5 years ago. She stated and justified how the issue of gender equality is an issue for men too. She invited men to be a part of the fight for equality and launched the campaign ‘HeForShe’. This idea stuck with me and I wanted to know what are the thoughts on the other side of the table.
I have the opportunity to interact, live and study with few of the brightest minds of the country. With IIM Rohtak having a strong male base of 120 out of 240, men of our batch who come from all over the country were to be my subjects for interrogation. Thus, began the in-depth interviews or should I say, many chai-pe-charchas at our very own ‘tapri’.
What do you know about ‘Me Too’?
The answer to this question, surprisingly or not so surprisingly was, ‘It is a social media campaign which started with the Hollywood actress Alyssa Milano coming out against the Hollywood Director Harvey Weinstein. Thousands of women got inspired by her bravery and spoke their part of the story similar to her, where they too were sexually harassed.’
The answer above might seem correct for many but, the roots of the words 'Me Too' are a little different. Only one out of the 10 male students I talked to knew that this campaign was originally thought of by the civil-rights activist from New York, Tarana Burke, 13 years ago. In 2006, Burke began using the phrase "Me Too" to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault in society. This phrase was then revived or popularised again by Alyssa Milano and then, by approximately, 6 women in just one day.
What is your perspective towards the campaign?
“This campaign created a platform for women to come out and speak. It showed the harsh reality many of us were unaware about” said Nikunj Parikh.
Everyone in my focus group appreciated this initiative. They realised how one step or rather one tweet became a chain reaction for many and how steps should be taken against every culprit despite their status or anything else. A few of them did show worry as to the confusion this change brings about. The blurring of lines in what constitutes inappropriate or criminal behaviour is, according to Abhimanyu Sharma, a thing to be dwelt upon. He further emphasized on the point that the even though, there is a huge need to make stringent laws, there also is a need to make sure that there is no misuse of the laws meant to protect women.
Talking more about problems like these, Siddhant Singh talked about this as collateral damage. He said, “In order to bring out 100 right cases where justice should prevail if one case of misuse comes out, we should not back out from the cause behind it. Although false allegations must have repercussions, it shouldn’t discourage people from taking the initiative of 'Me Too' forward.”
Why do you think it took so much time for women to come out? Why did it take them years to ask for rightful justice?
Even though a generalised answer to such questions is not possible, Navjot Singh Bhatia tried to explain this by saying that, “In our society, women do not feel that they are supported. They are unsure of taking the risk of speaking out loud. We need to be more accepting towards her and what she has to say.” Few of them were unsure about the specific reason as to what took women so long. One of the respondents admitted that he believes that there might be some hidden agenda behind the women opening up after so many years, especially in the case of celebrities.
The expanse of gender equality, of sexual misconduct and the perspectives behind it, go a long way. With every new person, comes up a different spectacle to the same view. The fight which has resurfaced from these two words, 'Me Too' is a fight for everyone and not just one-half of us. The fight which has begun from hashtags has come to discussions and now, it needs to be integrated to see our own reflections of wrongdoings. The fight needs to go on and needs solid, true action from us all in order to bring a change.
Emma Watson said that in moments doubt and uncertainty, she thought of the quote, "If not me, who, if not now, when".
If all of us start to think like this, 'Me Too' might become a short-lived, lesser used and most importantly, lesser felt phrase.