#MeToo – Origin , Evolution & Suggestions

#MeToo – Origin , Evolution & Suggestions

Does it all have to start with a hashtag to get noticed, for eyebrows to get raised to what harmful acts are happening in the society?

Tarana Burke, an African-American civil rights activist from The Bronx – New York has certainly left no stone unturned when she began using the phrase “Me Too” as early as 2006.

However, it later became popularised by American actress- Alyssa Milano in 2017 on Twitter. Milano encouraged victims of sexual harassment to tweet about it (SPEAK UP) to give people a sense of the magnitude that the problem really had! There was an instant connection to this movement as many high-profile American celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence, Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow and Uma Thurman joined in.


This was followed by several hashtags, sharing stories about workforce sexual harassment such as #WhatWereYouWearing,  #SurvivorPrivilege, #MyHarveyWeinstein and #YouOkSis.

The Me Too movement or #MeToo movement that has many local and international alternatives is a movement that has been created against sexual harassment and sexual assault, especially in the workplace (corporate world).  Some of the local alternative hashtags include:

·      Arabic-MeToo
·      Canada- MoiAussi
·      China - WoYeShi
·      Finland - #memyös
·      France: #balanceTonPorc
·      Italy: #QuellaVoltaChe
·      Japan: #私も(Watashi mo)
·      Spain: #YoTambién
·      Taiwan: #WoYeShi

This was followed soon after more than a  dozen women accused Harvey Weinstein – an American film producer of sexually harassing, raping or assaulting them.

A hashtag which has trended in at least 85 countries, this movement is certainly not a gimmick or just another social media trend. In countries such as France, India, Japan, the US, Italy and China there has been a lot of discussion in the media about whether cultural norms should be changed for sexual harassment to be eradicated in the workplace.

These allegations in fact precipitated a wave of national reckoning against sexual and assault in the United States which was known as the Weinstein effect. In addition to this, the #MeToo hashtag campaign and other sexual harassment cases that occurred earlier that year,  many individuals were encouraged to share all their suppressed stories of sexual misconduct. So, why was everyone quiet for so long and where did the courage to speak up stem from?

In India, this hashtag has rapidly spread via social media as people have quickly turned the interpretation of this conduct (sexual harassment) as eve-teasing which is actually very misleading and in fact decreases the severity of the crime.

Many notable people have expressed their opinion regarding this movement: Jasmeen Patheja, an activist who is also the head of Blank Noise - a community/public art project that seeks to confront street harassment, -eve teasing,  where she stated that #MeToo’s power is in demonstrating that India can no longer be ignorant to the depth of this problem.

Even, Kaimini Jaiswal – a lawyer of the Supreme Court of India stressed the importance of of how women, especially those who lived in the rural areas of India needed to know how to read, as most of them were illiterate and completely financially and emotionally dependant on a male relative.

Many men are also in fact speaking up as a part of the #MeToo movement and this included discussions regarding consent and how even some men were also abused.

Blogger Sheena Dabolkar also had a viral tweet #MeToo that resulted in the boycott of Khodu Irani’s popular Pune pub-High Spirits by many well-known performers. Even Rina Chandran from Reuters questioned in her #MeToo tweet about the ignorance of the 16 million women in India who are sex workers AGAINST their will and are destitute, having no family or education.

At a time you would think one would be happy was ironically and unfortunately a sad time for many women who reported mass sexual assaults during the the 2018 New Years celebrations in Bangalore!!

This was of course a repeat of 2017’s New Year’s eve molestation on Brigade Road and MG Road. That was a time when there were horror reports of girls being groped, pawed and even abused.

Of course, these incidents were dismissed until somebody uploaded CCTV footage of the assaults on social media!

A list of the names of alleged rapists and harassers started to spread on social media –which is inclusive of 60 of the most respected academic men on October 24th, 2017. A second list came out a week later, bringing the total to 70. The most recent accusation has been on September 27th, 2018 by former actress Tanushree Dutta where she accused Nana Patekar for sexual harassment.

The problem in today’s time is that  there is hardly any room for a no to be accepted gracefully. In such cases tactics such as sexual coercion, manipulation and even guilt tripping are used. Unfortunately, this is viewed differently by men and women, even in this time and age of self-awareness.

Sexual violence, assault or any sexual misconduct can leave behind many damaging scars on a victims life:- emotional, psychological and even physical. Depression, flashbacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, self-hard, sexually transmitted infections, dissociation or even suicide.

Anoo Bhuyan, a reporter from the website The Wire had accused Mayank Jain, a fellow reporter of the Business Standard newspaper.  Further allegations from other people have also cropped up: where Gautam Adhikara – the founding editor of DNA Mumbai and former executive editor of the Times of India had resigned as a senior fellow of the fellow of the Center for American Progress (CAP) after he was accused of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.

As recent as a couple of days ago –on October 6th,  Vikas Bahl-Bollywood director (of Queen fame) had been accused of forcing himself upon a crew member. This led to the dissolution of his production house –Phantom Films that he had set up with three others Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane and Madhu Mantena.

Ammu Joseph, a senior journalist and co-founder of Network of Women in Media, India –the association that provides support systems and resources for women journalists said ““If one person comes out it emboldens the others.” She further added,  “It almost feels like an obligation. If one person has outed somebody, then other people feel it’s better that they also come forward so that the one person is not victimised.”

To make matters even worse, the country’s leading comic content-production house –All-India Bakchod stated that two of its four co-founders will be stepping down from their position; until of 
course there is any further notice.

Tanmay Bhat –AIB co-founder and CEO resigned in light of his inaction despite a woman accused a former colleague Utsav Chakraborty of sexual assault. This doesn't even end here, as more allegations have been made; this time against Gursimran Khamba –another AIB co-founder.

Suggestions: What could be done to prevent this?

·      Implementing Vishakha Guidelines –These guidelines which have been instituted by the Supreme Court of India should be strictly enforced.

·      Mansplanning and other such conducts such as male entitlement needs to be removed from society; but this can only happen when our society takes steps to remove patriarchy and other forms of oppression from society.

·      Film festivals need to change their ways and pledge a commitment to gender-balanced programming.    

·      To make use of co-working spaces  which are highly populated by nature so that it becomes difficult to harass a woman compared to regular, small offices.

·      Business meetings should be held more often in public places, malls, cafes, co-working places, etc.

·      There should be more women in leadership roles.

·      The HR should be approached more often so that not only is the system alert.

·      Invest in women. In China for instance women have become billionaires because of their capabilities.

·      Women should also use their independence and break the stereotypes of the past where men have been dominant.

·       Women run a lot of risk if they complain about sexual harassment at the workplace. Thus, their interest should be protected and perhaps positively rewarded when she identifies a proven offender.

·      Women have rescued many families from poverty and dire situations. Their economic contribution needs to be acknowledged. 

      While allegations pour out on social media, against people from the media fraternity regarding #MeToo, Lynzy Lab- a singer, songwriter and choreographer points out the inherent privilege for men in a patriarchal system in a song A Scary Time.