Resilience through the ridicule
Cracking and sharing jokes on the #Metoo movement needs serious attention, feel thinkers.
Even before girls learn how to count or spell, they are taught to be alert at all times and make sure that while walking down the road, while sitting in class, while playing in the park, or even at home, nobody touches them inappropriately. You know, the usual nudging, palming, or pinching. As women, we have accepted this as a regular part of life that we have to deal with, whether we are 8 or 80.
From the beginning of time, men have taken no responsibility for their attitude and actions towards women in this regard. The perpetrators have had no accountability while the victim has been burdened with the blame for letting themselves slip to be violated.
And now that women have had enough of this lopsided logic and started calling out their perpetrators, holding them responsible for their actions, they have unsurprisingly been doubted and judged for taking names. But what’s worse is that their movement has been mocked by men and women who do not understand its significance.
A popular joke circulating on WhatsApp features a photograph of a girl romantically piggy-backing on a boy with the caption: Today’s Sweetu may become tomorrow’s MeToo. Furious at this uneducated nonsense, author Saaz Aggarwal, says, “I received this twice in the last few days —both forwarded by women with trigger-happy WhatsApp fingers. Clearly these women, and the others who have forwarded it, have not understood that in any interaction, Sweetu can become MeToo only when one of the participants is only thinking of himself/herself and exploiting the other. To me, this is a serious issue and not a joke, and I find it upsetting that so many people do not understand that. I believe that people who forward such facile messages probably don’t have relationships of any depth. They don’t understand their own or others’needs and may actually be incapable of doing so. We all need to introspect and try to understand the realities and not engage in any kind of levity about the issue.”
Some time back, A Delhi journalist tweeted a thread about how horrified she was to hear Annu Kapoor recall an incident on the radio when a director pressured Madhuri Dixit to do a rape scene. The punchline of his narration was “Rape scene toh hoga” and while Kazmi felt sick to her stomach, her cab driver found it hilarious.
How long will sexual harassment of women be funny and easy to dismiss? The #MeToo movement targets this very attitude for reformation.
Author Kiran Manral, who came out in support of Priya Ramani when policitician and journalist MJ Akhbar filed a defamation case against Ramani for accusing him of sexual harassment, has not come across such lewd jokes yet, but she has been appalled by the skewed perception of the movement posted by Geetanjali Arora on social media where Arora states that women play the ‘abla nari’ card to gain sympathy. “The post categorises all sexual harassment survivors as opportunists, which is absolutely crass and insensitive. I find it appalling that women themselves would put down women who have suffered sexual harassment.
“These are not sob stories, there is immense courage needed to share traumatic experiences. As we are seeing, men intimidate women who speak up by all means, including defamation cases. Some have complained but have not been heard. Some had to move away from the organisations to stay safe. Others lost jobs. I say it takes courage to talk about sexual harassment in an environment that will question you, second guess your motives for sharing, put you down, insinuate various motives, start victim blaming you. If you cannot support a woman who speaks about being harassed, don’t question her motives,”she says.
The stories that have been brought to light, even if they happened decades ago, are just the ones that women can bear to tell. Every woman in India, if not the world, has a #MeToo story, and it is her right to want to tell it and deal with the consequences it comes with, or to keep mum.
Aggarwal adds, “I completely disagree with women who say things like ‘When it happened to me, I slapped the guy and you should have done it too, stop whining.’ They are speaking from a position of privilege and arrogance and are in fact siding with the evil predators and are no better than them. I don’t believe there is one single woman in India who has never experienced some kind of sexual harassment or abuse. Many are never going to speak, ever, but we must all support the ones who do.”
What are you mocking?
While some people think the #MeToo campaign is just another fad that will fizzle out, others feel that it is a paradigm shifting movement that is vital for making the world safer for women who are easy preys in the patriarchal system of society.
“I think #MeToo is a movement that had been long in the making. For too many years, women in the workplace had been tolerating unwarranted sexual harassment and abuse, and often with no redressal or recourse. What will come of it, I hope from the bottom of my heart, is the awareness amongst men that such behaviour will no longer be tolerated, that women aren’t in the workplace to be the objects of male amusement,” says Manral.
Heedless audiences who make a mockery of the movement by finding cheap humour in it, probably don’t realise the gravity of the situation. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, and say they don’t have correct context, all they want is a laugh.
For them, Aggarwal explains, “The #MeToo movement has already made people more aware that women should be treated as individuals with their own opinions and needs, and is likely to continue to do so. I do believe that young men today will learn something from it that they did not learn from movies or peers from whom expressions like kya cheez haiand kya maal haimay have previously indicated to them that women are objects,” she says, adding that though the really big, ugly predators exposed by #MeToo are likely to remain remorseless of their evil actions and try to torch down all the women who try to unite against them, there is hope for future generations.
Where there is an uprising, there is resistance. And women who are fighting for an equal footing in society just have to be more resilient and hopeful.