#MeToo took over the social media last couple of days, but the sad part was it took a social media hashtag to realize the widespread scale of the issue. The question we need to ask as men is that why did these stories and shares surprise us? What was about this trend that made us uncomfortable? Is it the fact that so many women we know have suffered the ordeal or is it that they dared to share?
Sexual harassment and assaults are not exclusive to any gender, age or era but that doesn’t mean that we can just ignore the fact that it is in fact a pressing issue of our time. Like many other things that start and die on social media, we can’t let this one fade from our memory. As a man I probably will never understand
- What it feels like to live in constant fear of getting assaulted when walking down the streets, boarding a bus or working in the office.
- What it is like to be always be extra careful and protect the body from prying eyes and hands. It must take a toll and that is why some women probably give in.
- Why a woman should be afraid of being alone all the time.
Unless convicted, no man has to give up his life for the assault but the society forces the woman to give up everything to escape the nightmare. From 2001 Mardi Gras celebrations in Seattle to 2015 New Year’s Eve in Cologne, men have encouraged the assaults either by participating in them or being a mute spectators. Sometimes our cultures have tried to legitimize the practice as fun activity by naming them Taharrush or Bachabazi.
We have all been part of the problem knowingly or unknowingly. We have shared crude sexist/ misogynist stories, failed to understand the feelings of others, talked over others, made assumptions about others’ looks/ capabilities and got defensive when someone pointed at us. From men who have used their power position to get what they want to men who have asked their daughters/ wives to stay quiet because this is what happens in real world, we are all guilty.
What can we do?
#HowIWillChange is a welcome start but I think as men we need to pledge “I won’t anymore!” Not participate, not ignore and not stay silent. I see some men asking for context on the #MeToo posts and it is shameful that we want the woman to relive the moments when she was most helpless and vulnerable. It shouldn’t take a woman to remind us that an assault is wrong. It is important to listen and act on what we heard. We shouldn’t feel that the women in our life need protection from predators but we should instead the men in our lives should be reminded that it is not ok to be an enabler. As fathers we should be educating our sons that ‘No’ means back off. Only then there will be no need for a documentary like ‘The Hunting Ground’.
Till our mindset changes, trends like #MeToo will continue to haunt us and even after hundred years from now we will still be debating the same.