Sexual Violence: From #MeToo to #NotAllMen to #HowWillIChange has been edited by Aashna Kanuga.
It was a normal morning. I was woken up by my mother shouting at me for not getting up on time, and how burdened she was with all the work that pops up around festivals. Everything was the same till I checked my Facebook account, which was filled with #MeToo posts. Friends, batchmates, family members; so many people had put up this status on their walls:
“Me Too. If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me Too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. “
I do not know whether this gave people a sense of the magnitude of the problem or not, but it definitely made one thing very clear – that sexual violence is present everywhere. It can happen to anyone, irrespective of gender, age, religion, region, and colour. When Alyssa Milano, an actress who is credited with revealing Harvey Weinstein‘s sexual assaults, started a call to action on Twitter, millions of women, as well as men all over the globe, came out to share their own stories of harassment and abuse.
Be it celebrities, public figures, and the common man – they all came forward with their own horrifying experiences. With each #MeToo, sexual violence was being exposed. It stood exposed – lurking in parking lots, in streets, marketplaces, in parks and schools, in offices, in buses, trains and cars, and in our own homes. Every #MeToo story sent chills down my spine. They spoke of a world where we are not safe, no matter where we go.
The #MeToo campaign gave a platform to millions of people to talk openly about sexual violence. It encouraged not just women, but men as well, to talk about the harassment they have faced, the incidents which they were never allowed to talk about, incidents that have burned dark memories into their minds. It encouraged dialogue and conversations. Of course, no amount of conversation can completely eliminate the horror, but it can help a victim in throwing away the robe of shame that society often forces them to wear whenever such incidents happen.
#MeToo is helping people realize that sexual assaults happen irrespective of where and with whom the victim was, what clothes they were wearing and what time of the day it was. That none of the “conditions” of sexual violence—clothes, time of the day, or the place—are valid. A woman wearing a salwar kameez is as prone to assault as a woman in shorts. While the Nirbhaya rape case happened at night, there was also an incident where a woman was raped in Vishakhapatnam in broad daylight in one of the busiest areas of the city.
However, while #MeToo gave a voice to millions of people, some men started #NotAllMen to defend themselves. This trend is being followed to shrug off a perceived accusation of sexual assaults that they think have been made on the entire male community, changing the subject of #MeToo campaign from harassment to accusation. That you are not an abuser brings no relief. The fact remains that sexual assaults are happening, all over the globe, and that is being voiced.
You are saying, “But I do not harass or assault”. That does not negate the violence. It does not solve the problem that everyone is trying to bring into the light. Please understand, that all that we are trying to do is highlight the rape culture that is so deeply rooted in every society, that harassment is not even looked at as something wrong. All we are trying to do is address the problem, try to find a solution and implement it to make this world a safer place for everyone. And everyone includes you too.
While #NotAllMen made me think about how things trying to bring about some good can be misinterpreted, Benjamin Law’s #HowWillIChange was just what was needed. Through a tweet, he urged men to take actions to change the situation, do their bit in preventing sexual violence. This is what is expected from everyone. This is the need of the hour.
Call out harassment when it is happening. Inculcate respect for women in young boys. Do not catcall, do not blame a victim, do not indulge in derogatory conversations. Confront sexist jokes, call out toxic masculinity. Listen.
These are some of the actions men have pledged to take against the rape culture. These might seem very small steps, but if everyone practices them, then maybe no one would have to use #MeToo.
But till then, till #MeToo becomes history, I hope it does not die like other social media trends. I hope #MeToo and #HowWillIChange will go hand in hand to address the issue of sexual violence. I hope both men and women realize that both genders are being assaulted. That it is the responsibility of everyone to stop it. That women too, have to support other women. I hope men realize that we are not blaming the male community for the violence, but the culture of violence. Hope keeps the world going and actions bring changes. I will do my bit, and I hope everyone else does too. Because this problem cannot be solved by one person alone.
To read more by the author of Sexual Violence: From #MeToo to #NotAllMen to #HowWillIChange click here.