The #metoo movement began in the USA when allegations against Harvey Weinstein sparked a series of allegations against other powerful and influential celebrities. For the few amongst us who are unaware of what the movement is about, basically, victims of harassment show solidarity by sharing their stories. They do so by using the hashtag #metoo. This not just takes away the shame associated with confessing to having been assaulted, it also safeguards people by punishing the culprit, and helps victims recover from their bad experience.
More recently, it has taken our nation by storm, when actor Tanushree Dutta accused actor Nana Patekar of sexual harassment. After Tanushree Dutta’s confession, numerous celebrities joined in and shared their stories of harassment. This brought to light many sex offenders who had been getting away with their deeds for ages. Many of the accused have used their power and influence to file defamation cases against their accusers.
The debate surrounding the movement
Those in favor…
As mentioned earlier, such movements take away the shame and stigma that surrounds a victim of sexual harassment. It encourages one to speak up without the fear of mockery or threats. Indian women, even at this day and age, are subject to so much inequality and discrimination in their personal and professional lives. Issues such as harassment or assault are just swept under the rug, to ensure influential sex offenders don’t face any hurdles for their actions.
Thanks to the #metoo movement, a lot of criminals have been called out for their deeds. They have been shamed publicly and even been given fitting punishments. Many archaic and redundant laws have been revised to suit the needs of the present environment. Special emphasis has been put on women’s safety at the workplace, due to the numerous work-related harassment stories that came to light.
Although such radical changes and the excessive media coverage of the same may get in the way of our mundane lives, this movement ought to be viewed as a mere phase that will bring us closer to equality, freedom, and justice.
While it may seem like nothing bad could come out of a movement like this it is not entirely true. Few women have unfairly accused innocent men for their 5 minutes of fame or in order to get even in some private matter.
The number of false accusations is also on the rise and this has marred the flawless reputation of many hardworking moral men. False accusations have a long-term if not permanent impact on the life of the accused. It could get in the way of the accused leading a nice future elsewhere.
Thanks to the movement many people have received their due. Laws have been revised and enforced. One such law is the Defamation Act, which protects the falsely accused and punishes the person making such claims. Due to false accusations, there is now an even stricter requirement for concrete evidence at the time of filing a complaint.
A note to the women and girls
We as women should show support and reach out to women and girls who have been wronged. Even women (and men) who haven’t personally gone through the harassment themselves are still allowed to file complaints, provided they have proof backing their claims.
We ourselves should be well aware of the committees or centers established in our workplace to seek redressal and educate others regarding the same. If any untoward incident takes place, we shouldn’t propagate the archaic belief of blaming the victim and instead encourage the party so affected to take appropriate action.
Be your own hero
We should take complete charge of our safety and make sure we aren’t unintentionally putting ourselves in danger. Remember, if something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t.
Try being in well-lit public places at all times. Make sure someone (an unbiased responsible third party) is witnessing your interactions with a superior. Don’t accede to any inappropriate demands made by anyone, no matter how precious the job. Your submission could encourage them more. Learn to be stern and assertive from the very beginning, coming off as friendly or approachable has sadly given off the wrong signals to these offenders. Even for casual interactions at a cafeteria, or parking lot, and so on make sure your interactions take place in areas that are under CCTV surveillance. Use the available technology to your advantage.
This may seem like an unnecessary amount of vigilance but with such things, one can never be too sure. It is sad that us women have to lead our lives by an entirely different rule-book and exercise so much caution, but until everything else falls into place, it is important we do our best to safeguard ourselves and those around us.
A note to the men and boys
Women-centric movements such as these exclude and even antagonize men. It is seen as a case of us against them. But it is important to remember that the #metoo movement calls out harassment in general, not just harassment of women. It aims to specifically throw light on cases where a subordinate felt exploited at their workplace (irrespective of their gender).
Men have equal freedom to come out with their stories if they feel they have been harassed. This should be seen as a chance for men to speak up as well and let go of all the bias associated with men being the victims of sexual harassment. Men’s voices are often not heard amidst the din of feminism and women’s rights.
That being said, it is crucial that men and boys show their support to women who have rightly spoken up against various people. Workplace harassment should be seen as the society’s problem not just a women’s issue. Men should also inform and educate those around them regarding their rights and duties. If you witness any sort of coercion or misbehavior in your vicinity, try to at least guide the ones affected as to how they can seek redressal. You do not need to testify in court or be a savior, even moral support will do.
What you can do?
If you’re worried that you may be victim to a false accusation, fear not, for now, the law is on your side and you remain innocent until proven guilty. There are laws protecting men as well. You cannot be blamed without reason and proof.
Just as mentioned in the above section under the note to women – make sure you aren’t completely alone with any female colleague. Be in areas of CCTV surveillance or in the public eye as far as possible. In case of a complaint filed against you, your intention doesn’t matter, it is your action that takes precedence. So exercise as much vigilance as possible. Make sure your language is free of any sexist slurs or anything offensive that could be later held against you. Many of us are in the habit of using swear words far too casually.
#Metoo – in a nutshell
The #metoo movement is an all-inclusive movement that calls out harassment and encourages people to speak up. It has paved the way for a safer work environment and also made each one of us evaluate our actions and responsibilities. It is a call to action to make our society a better place. Hopefully, in the future, we don’t need a movement to rescue us.
So, what is your opinion on the #metoo movement? Is it really meant to bring out the buried crime or just another segment of the modern-day feminism.
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