Over the past two days social media has been flooded by #metoo. Women and some men across the world have tagged themselves in posts acknowledging that they have been subjected to sexual harassment or assault. The hashtag was started by actress Alyssa Milano in support of the multiple women who have accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and rape.
Weinstein is the latest among American media and culture leaders to be seemingly felled by accusations of sexual violence. Tens of women have come forward to accuse comedian Bill Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them over the years. Former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes was sacked over similar charges, as was Fox star Bill O’ Reilly. In all these cases, it was considerable power that was wielded against women who were just trying to do their jobs. This power ensured the silence of the women abused and will no doubt ensure the ability of the accused to make a ‘comeback’. However this problem is hardly restricted to Hollywood and Weinstein.
In India, the powerful men abuse their positions across industries and sectors. From a mason harassing a construction worker, to a producer asking for sexual favours to cast a young actress, the issue, as #metoo shows, is pervasive. And yet, despite the tide turning against Weinstein and others of his ilk it remains a reality that the onus remains on women. It is up to the women to protect themselves, to speak out when harassed or assaulted, to pursue justice at great personal cost, to fight physically, emotionally and financially to be believed and accepted and to survive. It is time the onus was on the perpetrators of such crimes, most of whom are men. It is time consent is part of school and college syllabi and discussed, especially among boys and men. Patriarchy oppresses men as well, and they need to be taught to fight their conditioning, to the extent that even a ‘feeble’ no is heard and understood for what it is—‘no’.