By Arré Bench Dec. 29, 2018
The revelation that “the woke” didn’t shy away from being predators behind closed doors and mobile screens was the catalyst for India’s #MeToo movement. Here are extracts from some of our best essays on the subject.
As the global #MeToo movement turned one year old in October, accusations against comedian Utsav Chakraborty kick-started the Indian iteration. In the last quarter of the year, the power of social media and women’s collective voices brought down the big boys of many industries, from entertainment, the corporate world and media, literature, and even politics. It also rubbed the ugly truth in our faces, that “the woke” didn’t shy away from being predators behind closed doors and mobile screens. The outpouring of emotion led to a lot being written and said about the rise, struggles, and consequences of this drive, leaving us with more questions than answers. Arré writers too grappled with the subject – here are some of our best stories.
Why the World Needs More “Difficult Women” Like Tanushree Dutta
It was Tanushree Dutta’s outspokenness that really fanned the flames of India’s fledgling #MeToo movement. Dutta refused to take predatory behaviour from her professional counterpart, Nana Patekar, lying down, and chose to create a ruckus – it’s time for regular women to follow her lead with the men in our lives. “Real courage means speaking up in a space more difficult to fight than social media. I have attempted it, fought in my home, with men I love and admire – with lovers, friends, colleagues, family. Men who casually insert misogynistic jokes that I refuse to laugh at any longer. The result – I was in danger of becoming one of those dreaded strong women types men admire only in the movies but not in real life. I was becoming a ‘difficult woman’, the same label that was applied to Dutta when she refused to go along with the harassment.” Read the full story here.
The Decline of “Aunty Feminists”: Why Feminism Needs an Update in a Post-Me Too World
One of the first things we noticed about the #MeToo movement was how it had drawn a kind of rift between older and younger feminists, who viewed harassment differently. The challenges that older feminists grappled with were different from the ones that millennial feminists dealt with. We wrote: “Having come to adulthood in a time when feminism still meant arguing with your mother to stay out late and choosing to remain unmarried and asserting your right to make unconventional career choices, I’ve internalised behaviours that sparkling young women around me are refusing to accept. In the process, my feminism has proven in severe need of a software update. The world around us changed in the blink of an eye. I looked away for one second and the ground beneath my feet had shifted.” Read the full story here.
Why Has #MeToo Scared Every Man
As the women spoke up and asserted their rights across the board, no matter how minute they seemed, the men grew quiet. Those who weren’t quiet actively tried to pinpoint the #MeToo movement’s imperfections – by focusing on legal loopholes or that one woman who made a false accusation on Twitter. There was a reason behind it: “Truth be told, it is rare to find a man who is not guilty of having said something sexually inappropriate – intentionally or unintentionally. For the first time in centuries, we cannot dismiss our crass behaviour as locker-room talk or by simply saying ‘boys will be boys’. For the first time ever, women are not expected to forgive men. And hence we are more afraid than ever.” Read the full story here.
India’s #MeToo: Where Sexual Harassers Decide Their Own Punishment
After the storm, came the inadequate apologies and the shame leaves – many of them inopportune. “In the end, names of companies change. People? Not so much. Tarun Tejpal in his infamous apology letter used big words that basically said how he was punishing himself – by going on a self-imposed but short-term sabbatical – and that should be enough. Only in this country is the perpetrator brazen enough to participate in deciding the quantum of his punishment. And most punishment is nothing more than a PR exercise.” Read the full story here.
Why Indian Politicians Will Never Support #MeToo
Along with the silence of men, we had to contend with an unsettling quiet from India’s loudest community: the political establishment. Why were they shuttered? As we discovered: “Political parties find moral battles unworkable to their advantage. #MeToo will never affect their vote shares. Like a good poem, it might seize the heart for a bit, but it doesn’t do much for electoral wherewithal, which to those even modestly pragmatic is really all that matters. In a way, most men and women within political circles have surrendered enough of their will, to not express surprise when it is suppressed. But perhaps what makes moral battles like #MeToo unworthy of their attention is their inability to see political upturns in it.” Read the full story here.
Why #MeToo Needs to Percolate Down to Middle-Class India
One of the biggest critiques that emerged out of the #MeToo movement was how it was restricted to upper-class, upper-caste privileged women – but it was still a start. We hoped that its momentum might soon enable women across the socio-economic spectrum to call out their predators. As we wrote, “When the movement was restricted to the comedy and stand-up circuit, one hoped that Bollywood would speak up. Now that the #MeToo wave has hit Bollywood with Alok Nath, Vikas Bahl, Sajid Khan, and Subhash Ghai exposed, it has caught the attention of middle-class and lower-middle class India. It’s pushed our mothers and aunts to think about harassment and abuse.” Read the full story here.
Will #MeToo Help Us Become Better Men?
One thing became clear during the course of the #MeToo movement: Most heterosexual men are woefully inept at formulating their views about the subject. But discomfort is the beginning of introspection. “Men are only partially educated in the subjects of sex, sexual harassment, and woman-man relations. Their silence is complex, and our glorious ‘traditions’ may have played a role in them losing their voice. For common men, it’s an uneasy-but-constructive confusion to have. Discomfort is the beginning of introspection. One hopes this phase will lead to stock-taking, and provide men the opportunity to self-reform and become new, more attractive men.” Read the full story here.
After the storm, came the inadequate apologies and the shame leaves – many of them inopportune.
How Do We Sustain India’s #MeToo Movement?
The social catharsis occasioned by #MeToo, left us swimming in a sea of questions, chief among which was, how do we ensure that we don’t lose the momentum? We had few answers: “As the days pass, our collective anger and empathy tends to wane. Accusations refuse to shock us, even though they continue to rattle us. But our ability to be enraged diminishes with every violation made public. With the risk of our reactions becoming more and more subdued, I can’t help but wonder: How do we sustain this momentum? Because rage and empathy are not inexhaustible emotions – they are easily spent.” Read the full story here.
Compiled by Abha Mehra