Hello. I have emerged from the depths of motherhood and its associated brain fog to grab your attention for just a moment. Though my writing has become seldom, I do nevertheless scroll through Facebook far more often than I would like to admit. My thumb is in perpetual “scroll” mode. You get the picture. I say this only to bring attention to the fact that my constant perusal of various social media has given me a high tolerance for inane posts, although irksome I pass them by with mild amusement. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and if it is that irritating I have the choice not to see it anymore. Simple. I am sure my own shares/posts have annoyed many a friend. Such is the social media life. Alas, when I do get bothered, boy does it get under my skin. It festers until annoyance turns to anger which inevitably turns to me sputtering some inarticulate verbiage to my husband who by now has learned to decipher the point I was trying to make.
This brings me to the #MeToo campaign. In the last few days I watched as my newsfeed flooded with the hashtag. Each time I was surprised by who had written it. My reaction to this baffled me until I realized I have a disproportionately large number of South Asian women on my Facebook network. Typically, we as a group don’t tend to admit to vulnerabilities on such a public forum. I can’t speak for other cultures, but ours has been one of brushing anything untoward under the rug or else face humiliation (add to that the burden of bringing shame to your family). Our society suffers from the ‘log kya kehen gey?’ (what will people think?) syndrome. This thinking has become pervasive, instinctual and it’s the women who suffer the most because of it. So, when I read their Me Too posts, one after the other, in such volume. I felt a powerful solidarity. It gave me strength to share my own experience with sexual harassment.
Now as with anything that goes viral on the internet, the opposition party soon follows; the trolls show up, the sanctimonious, the alt-facts. That is expected. And to reiterate, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But when you read comments from your own fellow women asking what the point of Me Too is? When they reduce it to just another social media hashtag that can’t be expected to bring about change; When they even have the audacity to ask why admit to this now when you should have back then? Dear What’s-The-Point, you are attacking the very same woman who chose to share something painful, that she worked hard to forget. Do you know how difficult it is to admit out loud that you have been victimized, harassed and humiliated? I do. I was 12-years-old at a busy airport, excitedly waiting in the crowd to receive guests as a disgusting man pinched my breast. There was no face. Just a hand that disappeared. I was scared and confused then angered at the violation. I was helpless. Then humiliation set in. That feeling of disgust never quite goes away. I developed a bad posture because it took me a long time to learn to stand confidently, without fear. And this is just one story.
I am all for constructive discussions and finding ways to ensure action is taken, and hell yes get the men to take ownership, get them to name and shame and figure out at what point their “boys club” membership meant degradation and violation of others. But woman to woman please understand we are fighting to get heard on every level on whichever platform is available however we can. Don’t criticize just for the sake of it. There is no compulsion on any woman to share what she does not want to, but do not impede the way of the woman who chooses to be heard. Don’t make my Me Too seem unimportant, because it took a lot for me to say it.
Let’s try this again. What is the point of Me Too you ask? It is awareness, because there is strength in numbers. And I think it made its point loud and clear by the reaction of the men on my newsfeed who were astounded and saddened by the sheer number of their own friends and family affected by sexual harassment. Suddenly a topic many men were far removed from because it didn’t affect them directly, became personal. If this causes even a single man to change his behaviour towards women or helps him stop his male friend from misbehaving than the Me Too awareness has prevailed. But yes we do have a long road ahead of us. Each day brings with it a new battle. And so we need our women and our men together to help fight the good fight.