It has been almost a year since the Me Too movement went viral. The movement caught the attention of the world and appealed to an audience that was diverse in age, religion, gender, and ethnicity. Social media handles such as Facebook and Twitter were pouring with personal stories and accounts of abuse. A year on and this hashtag trend has grown into a global community that continues to grab headlines in its endeavour to help and assist survivors.
The Me Too movement caused people to sit up and recognize that sexual discrimination and abuse against women was a very relevant problem. It provided a microscopic view of how deep this social ill has penetrated into our society and how its venom has spared only a few. Victims of sexual abuse were no longer just names splattered on news channels and articles. There were faces to the names, they were our family members, friends, and allies. It was the boy you sat next to in class, it was your sister, it was people you interacted with on a daily basis, and people you looked up to. The movement came to people’s doorsteps and screens, bringing the reality of sexual abuse much closer to home than most imagined.
Rape culture is a very prominent issue, that is acknowledged only by a few. In 2016 alone, reports from agencies in the field put the number of daily rapes in India at a mind-boggling 106; and four out of every ten females were minors. As women, there are several measures we take on a daily basis to ensure our personal safety. We second-guess what we wear, how we commute, and how late we stay out. We would like to assert our individuality and sexual freedom but are held back at times for we fear for our lives. We carry mace or pepper spray in our bags, we are alert every time a man sits next to us, and we think a thousand times before walking out at night. We would prefer to attest to our independence and liberty, but the reality is that we do not have the same carefree liberal spring in our walk the way our male counterparts do.
Women do not take for granted a lot of freedoms the way men can. The most simple things get robbed from us because we live in fear. We do not want to live in fear, we do not ask for this fear, but this fear is second nature to us and a part of our reality.
It was 7:00 PM on Friday and I had made my way to a park in my neighbourhood for a run. The streets were dimly lit, and when I got to the park there were a group of about ten men sitting there. Yes, they had the freedom to be there, and I had the freedom to carry on with my run. But I turned the other way and made my way home instead. I could have possibly continued on with my run and maybe nothing would have happened to me. But, it was in a quiet residential area, it was dark, and the risk was not worth it. If it was up to me, I would want to carry on with life with a careless shrug, but the reality of the situation is that I need to be wary and alert always because the possibility of danger lurking in any and every corner is a living nightmare for most of us.
A frustrating and incorrect understanding of feminism is that it ends with the belief that women should have the same rights and liberties as men. This opinion holds true only if you are looking at it through rose tinted glasses. The need for feminism is far from over. We have come some way since the first wave of feminism started and while we share in some of the rights and liberties that the male gender has, we do so with limitations; and the way we go about our daily lives is a reflection of this. Sexual taunts and abuses form only one part of the conversation on gender discrimination- cases of dowry, female foeticide, unequal pay, domestic abuse, are still the reality of many. Marriage, to some means signing their lives away to be ruled by one man, it is not a union of two people, it is one individual subjugating another. Women are forced to quit their jobs and are silenced in their own households. In an Economic Survey conducted by the World Bank, India has the lowest participation of woman in the workforce in all of South Asia. It is because of these realities that the Me Too movement and other movements like it are crucial.
The Me Too movement has often been criticized for its elements of “elitism” owing to its presence and awareness solely being on the internet. The internet is still not as widely accessible as we think. While the movement has not reached more marginalized areas, it has created a community where a lot of women feel comfortable and safe to share their stories. Even with its reach being limited, there were 7 million posts put up on Facebook in one afternoon alone. It has shaken industries and increased awareness amongst communities, and its value cannot be so carelessly dismissed.
India has had movements which are similar to the Me Too movement, and in their own capacities have stirred conversations and changes around issues circling gender discrimination. The Pinjra Tod movement works to break the sexist curfews existent in most college hostels, there was the SlutWalk in 2011 which was against victim blaming, there were the vigils and protests for Nirbhaya, and these are all examples of how our society continues to fight the disparities. We are in the middle of the Fourth Wave of Feminism and all these movements will be remembered for tackling new age issues that embrace sexual freedom which is for all women, irrespective of age, sex, caste, or creed. Feminism still has a long drawn battle ahead of it, but if women’s history is anything to go by, it is that we can win even the most insurmountable battles.
Author: Camilla Lyndem
Camilla Ann Lyndem is a Staff Writer. Based in Bengaluru, she is a graduate of St.Stephen’s College, Delhi, where she completed her Undergraduate and Postgraduate degree in English Literature.Although a hardcore liberal arts student, she enjoys coding and has worked on building smart models, including a smart irrigation system (take that CS students).