As I scrolled down my newsfeed, I could see almost everyone I know, most of them women, put up a status on Facebook saying #metoo. Confused at first, I scrolled down past a few more status updates, some rather descriptive. The message was loud and clear. Somebody had started a trend, and it caught on, really well. I am glad that it caught on, but it was amazing to see the uncomfortable silence (me included) surrounding these statuses. I have scrolled down and read through every story I came across, but haven’t had the courage to like, or comment on any one of them. I don’t know what to say. I would like to apologize that whatever happened to them, but they aren’t looking for an apology. There was nothing to like about or react to their status – no response dignified what they were sharing. There was bravery in what they were doing, yes, but this was more than just them being brave. I could tell them that I will always be there for them, but they aren’t looking for someone reliable once it happens again, which it might. This problem is far from being solved.
The one thing about the #metoo campaign that caught me off guard, was that every other person I knew came out and shared their experiences. It was surprising, but I wasn’t entirely surprised, and therein I believe lies the root of the problem. We expect nothing more from our ‘brethren’. We don’t hold ourselves to high standards. I’m not sure if we did in the past, but we sure don’t anymore. It’s not normal, but it isn’t abnormal to hear about someone being sexually abused today. It happens. It happens everywhere, at home, in school, at work, on the way to any of these places, at hospitals or at religious institutions. We aren’t safe anywhere, and we know it. We aren’t okay with it, but we accept it, not completely, but more often than not, silently.
This isn’t normal, and it never will be. Through this campaign we are, in some sense, crossing that barrier of silence. I am not convinced on how much of an effect it will have in the long run, because like other campaigns, it is likely to see its rightful end until sustained differently, but I am glad that it has stirred up a conversation (though one-sided) and that is a start.
One, usually unanswered, question props up when these discussions take place. Who is to blame? Is it the perpetrator, the silent onlooker or is it the victim? Or is there a third (fourth) person responsible for all of this? While the victim has nothing to do with this, the crimes of the first two are easy to pin down. I believe that society, you and me, is responsible for this as well. Our silence, our indifference, our inability to stand up for ourselves and the people around us, out choice of leaders and our emotional investment in an already good narrative, with evidence clearly stating otherwise, are all small but relevant examples. Add to that the way in which education is perceived and delivered in India and our lack of investment, personal, economic and political, to bring about a change in it. We play our parts indirectly and we need to feel responsible for all that has happened and all that will probably happen.
Until we do something about it, the next time somebody else puts up #metoo, we can reply saying the same…