#MeToo, against all the odds

By Shaikha Shuhada Panzeree

Vogue

Some opinionated people have reacted to the recent #MeToo campaign in the following manner, ‘what really is the point of speaking up about the personal traumas now, but not talking about it at the time of its occurrence?’

This sudden dissemination of the traumatising experiences women have undergone throughout different stages of their life has created a big fuss. Some are appreciative of women being vocal on the issue of sexual harassment, some hold the view of this as yet another short-lived social media phenomenon, some are opposed to or critical of a futile demonstration of private traumas.

If seen objectively, any suppressed person, be it a sexual assault survivor or a victim of oppressions by someone with power, voicing it over to the public is definitely a bold move, making people aware of the situations that may arise at any given place and time, of the criminals that roam around us looking for scopes to exploit. Knowledge is power, rightly said!

It takes courage to describe a trauma relieving the anguish of those memories. According to actress Milano, the initiator of the campaign, the aim was to give an estimate on the magnitude of the problem, which happened to some extent.

But as some people say, the moment you decide to go public on an issue, public does hold a ground to comment on that! In this case, some opinionated people have come up with their apparently legitimate perspective.

If you didn’t speak then, why now?

Some strongly believe that not speaking out immediately has not helped, as it has rather boosted the ego of predators making them confident about their mischief and inspiring them to continue. Whereas, making it known at the time of the crime, could have resulted in prison time for the offenders, as the law enforcement is supposed to arrest such criminals based on even a verbal statement or complaint.

Although taking immediate steps is preferred and could potentially get desired result aka punishment for the offenders, but in sexual harassment cases, especially in our part of the world, one has to take a few things into consideration before jumping to such notion.

How does one speak, when someone else has the hold of one’s tongue?

Most of the victims that shared their stories were mere children when the assaults took place, vaguely aging from 5-12, when they could not quite comprehend what was happening to them. The victims grow up only to realise what had happened and to bear the trauma for the rest of their lives, without getting any justice as the crimes are way in the past, the criminals are probably not around anymore with no evidence to the incidents. Victims could not share with the parents as either they were shocked and since they received no such warnings before, didn’t know who to share with; in some cases, even if they did, parents mummed them, as these assaults are initially done by family members or relatives. Thus they learnt to go dumb the next time the predators preyed on them.

One does not have many options when their own parents or siblings or someone respected exploit them. Social shame is a factor here and no one simply would want to go through more condemnation when as a society we speak ill of victims, bring out juicy gossips over one’s trauma, and mostly hold the victim responsible for their pathetic fate. Such is the case of Purnima Shil, who was gang raped at 13. Around 12 years later, people opened a pornographic Facebook page with her name, photograph and telephone number. The society is largely to blame for such activities.

Not everyone can become a wonder woman!

The assaults that take place in the roads, most happen fast, offenders vanish even faster. Some people flash themselves, swiftly touch private parts of women, and get lost into a crowd fast. How does one catch them and bring them to justice? It is true, some women are fast and brave enough to catch one right in the act, publicly shame them or hand them over to the police, but the possibility of this is probably one in a hundred or a thousand.

Generalisation equals to mindlessness!

People having opposing views to the campaign mostly generalise on one aspect and reach a conviction that the victims did not take actions when it happened. Questions remain, how are they certain that the victim did not speak out? What about getting no justice while doing so, instead being blamed for becoming the victim? There are plenty of rape cases not filed, police officials refuse to take General Diary complaints at times, not to mention tries to settle rape cases with the amount one well-off person may spend on a meal.

Are you sure you are not offending the victims too?

People blatantly blamed the victims to be pointlessly ‘whining’, especially when people posting #MeToo statuses are privileged given that they have smartphones or computers to do that.

Some have claimed that victims seek sympathy by sharing their experience. This is an outright audacity to put such claim on the sufferers. Sympathy is the last thing someone would seek who have been through traumatic sexual assaults.

And even if, someone did not speak out, did not do anything about it, for whatever reason there maybe, do they, as rational human beings that they seemingly are, have the right to belittle one’s trauma for not taking an action on the due time?

Everything has a beginning!

Arguments and counter arguments could thus go on. All existing stances considered, this campaign is definitely a positive one. Victims started speaking up, they will take rather prompt actions later on, everything has to start somewhere. The millions that updated #MeToo posts, mentioned multiple incidents, referring to a few times more number of offenders than the victims. Isn’t this statistics enough to point it out to everyone where we stand?

A reformation of collective mentality is absolutely necessary in fighting hideous crimes such as sexual assaults, be it against women or men. Thus it may be suggested that, if one has not walked in the victims’ shoes and thus if they cannot appreciate the initiative, should refrain themselves from criticising it altogether.