It is a movement where women are sharing publicly their experiences of being sexually harassed, especially at the workplace. The movement began in the US and the biggest name to come out was that of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who was accused by tens of women of sexual harassment.
MeToo came into prominence in India when former Bollywood actor Tanushree Dutta accused actor Nana Patekar of having sexually harassed her at a movie shoot ten years ago. Since then a number of women, mostly in media so far, have publicly shared their stories of sexual harassment.
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is sexual advances towards someone without their consent. This can include sexual conversation (you look very sexy today), an unrequited kiss, inappropriate touching (rubbing up against someone), sharing sexually explicit pictures to physical molestation and rape.
What is consent?
Consent simply means saying yes. Agreeing to whatever is about to happen, explicitly. Saying yes when you mean yes but equally important is saying no when you mean no. The power and ability to say no is important to the concept of consent. Often people, mostly women, find themselves unable to say no explicitly because of a variety of fears and complex emotions (I will lose the job, what if he harms me, I am not ready but he loves me, this is what one has to do, it’s important to him etc).
Why are these women speaking up after so long?
It is not easy to talk about sexual harassment. It takes courage and support from others, which is not readily available in our society. Sexual harassment comes with loads of taboo, of the women having ‘lost her honour’ (izzat lutna) in the act, even though it was forced. This shaming prevents women from speaking up. Also, the fears that led to the situation at the first place could still be relevant.
How can you help?
Almost every woman has had an experience of sexual harassment. The first act is to acknowledge it and start talking about it. What prevents the women from speaking up against their experiences is the lack of support.
Women often hear
'She did it for her own benefit'.
'Why is she speaking now?'
'With that kind of dressing, she was bound to face this'.
Well, nothing justifies sexual harassment and it is this kind of talk that prevents women from opening up about their experiences.
If we could acknowledge that yes sexual harassment is an everyday experience for women, talk to our friends, family, and partners, open these conversations in everyday life and check friends who make light of sexual harassment, more women would be able to share their experiences.
Also, the act of bringing these acts in the public eye would hopefully prevent future instances of harassment, as the harasser can no longer feel safe in the assurance, 'Oh she won’t talk'. The stronger the possibility that she can talk and people will listen, the lesser the chance for a future generation to go through a MeToo. There is still a long way to go through.