The MeToo hashtags can become the pivots of women empowerment & societal change

In certain jokes floating through the social media I have seen the phrase “That escalated quickly”. Given the situations it gets used, I find it hilarious. The same happened with the MeToo and MeTooIndia hashtags on Twitter but in extremely serious way. They started trending slowly but then hit the high notes so loud that mere hashtags are on the brink of creating a social movement.

It all started with the details of one powerful man floating around. But no one was ready to take out his name. Then someone did. Women journalists pounced on it and his name became a raging wildfire. M J Akbar, a lion in journalism and now a cabinet minister in the central government. Turns out he was a predatory lion, using his mammoth stature in the journalism industry to sexually abuse young women journalists and use his cape of fear of power and influence to devour their self respect and dignity. Then came Alok Nath’s name out. The epitome of culture, decency and manhood. Turns out he is a good old rapist. The burning embers had caught fire. Names of corporate honchos and familiar names from the movie industries followed. Social media has lit up. Journalists and common people alike are baying for the blood of sexual predators.

I got into a row with popular South Indian singer Chinmayi on Twitter. She had called out the name of Vairamuthu, a song writer of almost legendary status who has collaborated on many of the Tamil songs of A R Rehman. Many aspiring singers and artists who had been abused by him were reaching out to her and taking her help in disclosing their experiences anonymously. My problem was two fold. How did the situation deteriorate to the level where so many women in the case of M J Akbar are reporting their abuse sagas and some of them happened 2 decades back? They kept quiet. So I wrote to Chinmayi requesting her to reveal the names of the victims as keeping quiet for so long and hiding behind anonymity are the reasons why sexual abuse has become a daily affair and common practice in the corporate world. She replied saying they have their career to worry about which is why they cannot call out their abusers. Exactly. Abusers are feeding on this fear to continue abusing. If Chinmayi had spoken out about her experiences long back, many younger singers may have escaped being preyed on by Vairamuthu. This is just one aspect of the situation. Victims are compromising on their self respect and dignity by choosing to suffer the indignity in silence. What is more, all men have become potential predators in the eyes of women. It is scary how women see men trying to engage with them in lighthearted conversations as flirting.

Women are also complicit in helping create such a toxic work environment. They have waded into a male bastion demanding equality in work and social status. This is not a Utopian world where men would step aside and let women take over the reins of power from them. What would men seek from women in return other than sexual favours? The ones who agreed laid the foundation stones of the system. From then on, everyone who went on to enter the system were conditioned to live in the system. From bedrooms sex became an accepted practice inside boardrooms. Women who couldn’t digest and come around to accepting all of this were scarred mentally with abuse. The heritage of the system has been handed down to the next generations of men who have only grown on to become more brazen in their actions.

What is astounding now is, other than a few murmurs in the movie industry and corporate offices, there is almost a deathly silence. It is improbable that the world of glitz, glamour, fashion and wealth could be a perfect world. Rather, it almost seems like everyone has taken shelter for the storm to pass. Shobhaa De the acclaimed writer and journalist was on TV to talk about sexual abuse in Bollywood and she said the ones who have been caught in the net are the expendables and small flies. The big and the mighty ones are hiding in plain sight. She was right on the money. Women have had to go through hell and back especially in the movie, aviation (airline) and healthcare (nursing) industries to even hold on to their jobs. But not a single mouth is opening to complain. Goes to show the heights of male dominance which in turn shows how low women have allowed themselves to be buried in the mire of sex, abuse and oppression.

Every individual’s responsibility in the society is to make it better for the next generations. It is not enough that we only try to make our children’s lives better. A life with self respect and dignity should get priority over everything else in society. All urban men who become influencers in the society are raised up in similar environments. Then how do some go on to become such wily predators? It is upon every individual to introspect and ask do we want to continue living inside such a slimy system where we have to keep worrying about our women’s safety and well being all the time. MeToo and MeTooIndia is a desperate call for change. They are the atomic bombs of the urban society. Their explosions have been triggered. What the abusers and predators fear is the mushroom cloud that emanates from it and envelops one and all. This may be the only chance for women to go up in arms against their tormentors. This has to become a movement, cleanse the urban world and it’s fire should then spread into rural heartlands. Women have always called out for equality and empowerment. Their time to take centerstage seems to have finally arrived.

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Sexual harassment thrives only on the fear and complacency of women

Bollywood actor Tanushree Dutta seems to have opened up a massive cupboard of skeletons of sexual harassment. So many women in the corporate world are taking to Twitter to narrate their tales of similar sordid experiences at the hands of men and vent their anger. The hashtag Metoo is trending like fire on Twitter. Though I am glad that this discussion is finally happening, sadly, women are opening up with their stories years after their ordeal. Why? Because they were forced to hush up for the sake of their careers and lives. Why again? They were more fearful of the backlash and repercussions from the society. They simply had nowhere to go so they had to gulp down the venom and stay quiet.

Before getting into sexual harassment we need to understand what sex is. The answers are in the very foundations of our existence. We share many common traits with animals and one of them is procreation. Why do male species of animals exist? Essentially to reproduce. Their purpose is to pass on their sperms to the females. Male butterflies and males of some species of animals engage in a frantic race without even having food to deposit their sperms inside the ovaries of as many females as they could before they die. There are many more bizarre cases of reproduction process in nature. In many species including ours, males have evolved into taking care of their families. Human males have never been monogamous which is why society was created and marriage as a concept was enforced upon us. Marriage to me was actually a desperate measure to control the reproductive urge of men. When this was not enough, prostitution was created. This is why the Devdasi concept was introduced in ancient Indian society. Upper caste males were allowed to prey on girls and women from the lower castes and satisfy their sexual needs so that they would stay away from girls and women of their own castes. The term sex in itself exist only in our world and is not part of the animal world. Intercourse is just one aspect of the entire process of procreation among animals. But we have made it complex and convoluted. From discovering and understanding foreplay to creating contraceptives to writing an entire book on sex positions, we have actually wasted a humongous amount of our time and energy on something that was actually meant to be a clear and simple process.

Now where does sexual harassment come from? Males of all species in nature are supposed to woo females before mating with them. They engage in fierce battles to win over the right to mate with females. Male birds dance before the females, bring food, build nests and do an array of other things as part of the wooing process. This is why males of all animal species are beautiful and brightly colored. Only among us are women required to color themselves up and look good which for me is one more example to illustrate how male chauvinism dominates human society. What we call as flirting is actually the wooing process in nature. Thousands of years of societal rules have ensured that men don’t ask for sex the moment they like women. But there are men who do it nevertheless. One category consists of the ones with prominence in the society who misuse the value bestowed upon them by people and who knows how to use their influence to clamp down mouths and keep their dirty secrets in the dark. The other category consists of people from the lower strata of people without enough education and without proper nurturing who grew up seeing women getting treated with contempt and without value. The raging debate currently is about the first category. But there is only a thin line that separates the two categories. In both cases, men begin with flirting and move towards seeking sex. When both doesn’t work, men of first category resort to sexual harassment and men of second category indulge in rape. Why? The only difference is, men of the first category have too much at stake to lose if they resort to rape.

But why does all of this happen? Because women blame fellow women for their ordeals. Why? Because there is a huge gap in the mental makeup of women from older and current generations. Women from older generations used to suffer immensely and surrender to the whim and fancies of men to keep the relationships from breaking apart. But this goes a lot deeper. Men with power and influence in the past used to try and hook up with women they fancied. Some women in turn used men’s lust for sex to satisfy their own societal needs. This is very much in relevance and vogue even now. This is the origin for the need of complicity. This is why men expect all women to comply and give in to their needs which is why men often say when another man’s wife doesn’t have a problem doing something why are their wives complaining about it. So the burden of blame falls squarely on the shoulders of women who do not want to comply. This is why women cannot go to other women and open up about their ordeals because of the fear and apprehension that older generations could put the blame on them and use it as an opportunity to make them give up their careers for a domesticated life and their more naive friends and peers could possibly advise them to give into the wishes of men and keep quiet about it to save their careers.

Women of modern times have hardly reasons to complain though. Here is the amazing and heart wrenching saga of Nangeli (https://www.speakingtree.in/allslides/did-you-know-19th-centurys-breast-tax-in-kerala-is-the-darkest-spot-on-humanity-ever/401758). In the erstwhile Travancore kingdom in Kerala about 300 years back, women from the lower castes were forced to walk around without covering their breasts and had to pay taxes based on the size of their breasts. Nangeli chose to defy the demented rule and all the ensuing odds by covering her breasts. When authorities came to collect taxes, she chopped off her breasts, gave them as tax and bled to death. Her act of unimaginable courage was enough to stop this horrendous practice forever. When the entire society was complacent, all it took was one woman’s sacrifice to bring about the change.

Its a pity that educated women still fear backlashes from men and society, suffer the ignominy of sexual harassment and choose to speak about it much later. They need to look for inspiration from history, from the lives of heroic women like Nangeli who chose to not bow and lay down their self respect and integrity at the feet of men and societal diktats. Sexual harassment and sexual predation continues to exist because women in the past have shied away from opening up their torturous lives to the world. Speak up and force the society to change now. That is the only way to make the lives of the future generations of girls and women better and safer. Nangeli, Joan of Arc, Rani Laxmi bhai and countless more brave heart women must be looking down and smirking at the pathetic state women have put themselves in.