Impact: awareness. Hopefully, with an added sense of boldness and a diminishing sense of blame and shame…
When it started, #MeToo was about sexual harassment at work. Whether you were a secretary, a struggling actor, a pop star, a teacher or a colleague, many seemed to have ‘been-there’, ‘seen-it’, averted-it’. Harvey Weinstein’s decades of abuse across generations of women then – quite suddenly – struck a chord among the common woman.
With a blink of an eye – the hashtag generated a wave of declaring/coming out/stating/sharing/empathising sexual harassment per say – not just at work, but within families, among strangers, in private spaces and public places. It all seemed shocking at first, and then just familiar and a matter-of-fact global issue that could be shoved under the carpet or overlooked as it wasn’t of ‘much consequence’.
And then, within a matter of moments, #MeToo took a life of its own. The wave turned into a stormy sea of emotions – disbelief, frustration, guilt, and anger; perhaps relief and a feeling of liberation of having let it all out- including the baggage of ‘self-blame’ that many are socially tuned into.
Through it all, I first thought: Yep, the celebrity world is known for its murkiness. I tut-tutted and without so much as raising an eyebrow went on with my life. I had only read the Weinstein news then.
Then, the likes of Jane Fonda, Gwenyth Paltrow and more were being mentioned… The twitter-handle became the centre stage of revelations. Twitter drew my attention – and I thought: What’s the bru-hu-hu about? Lewd comments, sexual overtures, it’s common; but you can’t take every barking dog seriously – can you? End of story.
Facebook threw up #MeToo from far and wide – as well as from the near-n-dear ones. Cousins, friends, men and women of all ages and races across the globe were hashtagging their status lines! Curiously I read – not just the hashtags, but the comments that followed. Everyone I knew had had encounters. Many, including yours truly, had not even paid heed to them as they were “common uncouth behaviour”. So what if someone on the bus rubbed against you – it was a crowded bus after all – it might have been an accident… So what if you male teacher repeatedly dropped his pen in front of you and waited for you to bend down and give it back to him. It was just an accidental drop of an object. Despite having parental support and security, and my mother’s insistence that any untoward act be told; I didn’t think of that odd touch, the sickening look, the filmy whistle-blowing roadside Romeo as being something to be reported! It was normal to be nudged and pushed back then – but like I said, to my own shock – I had been labelling it “normal”, “no big deal” as long as no harm was done. But harm had been done!
I was ashamed.
Standards of socially acceptable behaviour had fallen. Acceptance of a disgusting act, considered ever so small – be it a real touch, a feeling of being stripped naked under the dirty gaze of a passer-by, a wolf-whistle, or lewd remarks in the garb of ‘beauty appreciated’ and eyes following you – had become a norm. So much so, that unless you were molested or raped, you hardly took notice of “smaller, less devastating acts”. And men had been through it as well. So it wasn’t just gender-based – it was a sickness growing without any limits, without any real notice – plaguing and tainting society as we knew it.
Twitter and Facebook were flooded with stories of assault. This was an unkind, brutal, horrific reality and the extent of this sickness had been ‘allowed to grow’ over the years. Globally. Across genders and generations. Allowed to grow by choosing to ignore. Allowed to grow by not reacting (read: subtle acceptance). Allowed to grow by me and you! It suddenly felt that someone had punched me hard in the lungs and expelled every last ounce of air out of me. Was it real? Was I really a part of what lead to #MeToo? I felt devastated. Not alone; yet not part of the hashtag. Not guilty, yet guilty of allowing this to go on without taking note of it…
To prepare the next generation. Correctly. With zero tolerance towards sexual overtures – however mundane and harmless they sounded to me through my awkward years of growing up. Instilling belief that the kids can tell their parent with anything seemingly not correct – with the complete trust that the children will not be judged, shamed, blamed, ridiculed or exposed. To ensure the next generation is trained to respect – self and others, and to equip to self-defend fearlessly.
And a strong message to those who have felt that ever so slight hint of sick behaviour: Fight it back if it ever-ever-ever happens again! Go mad – kick, hit, yell – make a noise and beat the creature to pulp. Then, give yourself a pat on the back for simply saying ‘NO’ – and report the incident to an authority that will act!