When Grace (name changed) shared her account of ‘sexual assault’ with the Internet, it was up for everyone and anyone to view, read, and judge. The judgement, though, came faster than the empathy. Following the virality of the article, famed comedian Aziz Ansari was not only given the benefit of doubt, but Grace was accused of maligning the #MeToo movement, by portraying women as the weaker beings — the victims. We ask prominent feminists and thinkers what impact does Grace’s story have on the #MeToo movement — does it take it a step forward or backward?
‘Graces’ story has broadened the spectrum’
Naina Kumar, Research scholar
Grace’s story has broadened the spectrum on which we can discuss harrasment and sexual violations. It’s not always rape that traumatises a person. Even small gestures can be triggers. As #MeToo has always worked outside the domain of law, we should also think of the Aziz Ansari case as the one that can open up a healthy debate about the way we approach dating and the way we look at sex. It is not a story that should make us point fingers at anyone, but should make us reflect internally.
‘Not at all surprised about the backlash grace received’
Tejaswini Madabhushi, feminist
I am not at all surprised about the backlash Grace received, or the whole #MeToo campaign did. I was always expecting it — society is still very male dominant. People still despise women who have a strong voice. Coming back to this Aziz Ansari case, I think Grace’s article about her sexual assault account on the Internet became the talk of the town just because it was supposed to happen — either today or tomorrow — but sure it would happen. If Grace was not the person, someone else too would have faced the same backlash at this point of time.
‘Sexual misconduct is a grey area’
Romica Vasudev, sociologist
Grace’s account of sexual misconduct has given a new dimension to the #MeToo movement. The movement, which was about sexual harassment and assault at workplace has a new dimension of sexual misconduct added to it and that too between two adults who met as friends and did not have a working relationship or power play in it’s backdrop. I wouldn’t say that Grace’s allegations have shifted the movement backwards but it has broadened the issue. Sexual misconduct is a grey area where the idea of consent is not given too much importance. The sense of entitlement is so much a part of psyche of men that they feel that women who hesitate during sexual encounters have to be guided with men taking the lead. There’s a need to focus and highlight women’s psychology during sexual encounters and their bodily resistance.
‘Yet to see if Grace has done harm or helped #METOO
Shaili Chopra, founder of shethepeople
The #MeToo movement is to speak up about sexual misconduct and a very serious effort at bringing together women in a unified voice against harassment and assault. The Grace incident puts the movement in a precarious spot — one is left questioning if it is actually a date that ended badly or a real issue of sexual consent being challenged, and therefore of harassment. Given the description of the turn of events, is there a murky area we haven’t talked about? Is there enough of a voice to question and address relationships in a mess not amounting to #MeToo? At the same time are women in sexual encounters being decisive about saying no? I am yet to see if Grace has done harm or helped the movement but it certainly has opened a new space of conversations which may add to a healthy debate — what amounts to #MeToo and what doesn’t.
‘#MeToo campaign has made matters more transparent’
Asha Jomis, Entrepreneur
This incident brings a new dimension to various levels of abuse that are away from the usually debated types. What may appear harmless at first hand may actually need some serious thought and discussion. A man may feel it casual to pass a comment like ‘you look hot’ or ‘you look nice today’ to a female colleague, not knowing or not giving a thought on how it could make an impact in her mind. Sometimes a woman may stand perplexed for not being able to say ‘no’ to an abuser fearing the power position of that man. For instance, she may think about her job getting affected if that person is a boss or someone in a senior rank. If such a situation needs to change, our society needs to mature further. #MeToo campaign has made matters more transparent. Many women feel free and confident to make an open discussion. Women, the world over, now dare to speak up and discuss bitter experiences of sorts they faced. I believe, #MeToo may gather more strength from this experience of a woman.