New Delhi: #MeToo posts on social media have helped men realise how almost all the women they know have been victims of sexual harassment at some point in their lives. On Tuesday, men began using the popular hashtag to own up to having been a part of the problem as perpetrators of harassment. Though the number of such messages is small, men’s remorseful confessions and admissions of guilt have helped women feel heard. In one such post on Facebook, Chirag Tarsh talks about how he has encouraged men who harass women. “I have been a bystander to the bro-culture for long,” he says.
This is one of the things that women have been calling out when criticising the “rape culture” prevalent in the country. “When I was assaulted in a public bus, the man sitting next to me got up and left with no accountability,” says Ann Mary Thomas, highlighting how we, as a society, have failed to make our women feel safe.
Psychologists say this social movement is an excellent form of detox for the victims of abuse who have had to hide their stories throughout their lives. Purnima Nagaraja, a consultant mental health professional and therapist, says, “We have girls as young as 17 and women as old as 70 saying #MeToo. Assault and abuse transcend age, caste, class, gender, and time. The only difference is that people now have a platform to talk about the abuse that robbed them of their personality.”
Many people have also acknowledged their indulgence in casual sexism in the form of jokes or compliments. Shiva Sai Ram posts, “I’m ashamed to have laughed at and made jokes on rape. I’m guilty of using sexist/misogynist language. I’m guilty of trolling and slut-shaming women.”
However, such confessions have not gone down well with everyone. Oishani Mojumdar says, “We can’t appreciate a man for owning up to his mistakes. It’s like awarding them the privilege that initially made them commit the mistake.”
Twitter user Badboomtheory points out, “If people manage to become self-aware and apologise to the people they’ve violated, they’re still not owed forgiveness.”
So far, there are over 1.2 crore #MeToo Facebook posts and thousands of tweets, and women are largely appreciative of the impact that this movement has had. “I'm glad that this conversation is moving out of our comfort zones to a platform like this,” says Belinda Jones, a teacher.
This movement, however, is largely popular amongst the young and privileged, as has been noted by many. Varun Santosh tweets about how the educated youth are inherently sexist as they are raised to experience tremendous privilege as a result of their caste and class. Experts also highlight that most of the people posting under this hashtag are in the 20-35 age group.
“Middle-aged people have refrained from commenting; they can't be forced,” says Ms Nagraja.
A parallel tweet trend has started called #HowIWillChange which is seeing how men can respond just beyond arm chair activism and tweeting in sympathy.
Benjamin Law @mrbenjaminlaw #HowIWillChange: Recognise I don’t need to be a perpetrator to be a bad guy. Questioning harassment, not doing anything about it-all as bad
@AlexDruuuce #HowIWillChange Learning more about women's issues instead of expecting them to explain to me how they are impacted
Jesse T Smith @JSmith4Congress #HowIWillChange I will keep showing my 3 sons and one grandson how to honor & respect women.
Guys - meaningful change starts in the home.
If your timeline hasn’t blown up with #MeToo or #sodonechilling, you’re not following enough women. This is your chance to gain perspective.
Casual misogyny at home is not okay. If it’s your father, you gotta tell him. If it’s your brother, you gotta tell him. #sodonechilling.
Anya Rangaswamiþ @anyarangaswami
Call out friends/family when they post sexist and misogynistic content on Whatsapp groups and make them safe for women.
Angad Gummaraju, 20-year-old transgender woman
Sankskari sari was not enough to dissuade this molester, who went around filming himself touching women in crowded areas and posting the videos on Instagram