By Aditya Aamir
Dissecting #MeTooIndia is dicey. It’s still the tip of the sword but might morph into a weapon of choice in the hands of the righteous avenger. Any woman with a grudge can lend it to misuse. Even otherwise, #MeToo by definition is anti-male, and the degree of male resentment against it can only rise. The trust deficit between male and female is widening. Men are sensing power slipping from their hands. Women are smelling a power shift.
#MeToo is a loose cannon with a sniper-scope. It can swivel and fire at the drop of a word, a gesture – a lift of the eyebrow, the tip of the tongue licking the lower lip, salacious! It is making genuine emotions go below the radar. People are no longer their own selves. Fake veneers are being cultivated and creativity is lost in the morass of pedestrian ordinariness. When half the species walks on tiptoe, power sprints to the head of the other half.
Already, there are sections of women who are gloating, openly talking of being “excited” at the catharsis and the catalyst. “Oh! There is this event on #MeToo in Bengaluru, where Barkha Dutt will be speaking to Tanushree Dutta. I’m so excited, will you be there?” At least one woman journalist, who shared “data” on “predator-journalist KR Sreeniwas”, with Whatsapp screenshots for corroboration is being hailed as “Durga” and “Shakti” on Facebook.
What has #MeToo given to women? Unbridled freedom to share stories of sexual assaults on them, tales dating back in time, bottled in the deepest corners of their brains. Stories that liberate and exhilarate following release. It has given women a sense of empowerment to speak truth to power and patriarchy. One woman posted a Whatsapp screenshot of a man repeatedly texting “Hello” past midnight to her, labelling it ‘sexual harassment’. Another woman posted that “Hello Babe has changed to Hi Sister!”
The flipside is #MeToo tweets targeting men of power are coming thick and fast and it’s difficult to keep track of them. Twitter is snapping up sexual assault stories as if it’s on a solely #MeToo diet – 140 letters and a man’s reputation in tatters. Believe the heart wrenching account of the survivor or get the wrench on the face. Noses of the guilty and maybe innocent are being ground in the mud but nobody dares raise a finger. Political parties are wary of when #MeToo will strike, and who it will hit. The feeling and the word is “inevitable.”
Journalists on legacy media are busy flaying their own caught in the #MeToo net. Those choosing to speak of the “outsiders” are solidly on the side of the ladies. #MeToo is an urban legend and so far it has largely targetted Bollywood predators and Journalist-perverts. And it’s changing the dynamics. In Kerala, women are talking of packing offices with 75% female workforce to keep sexual harassment at bay! In numbers lie the odds to win.
Is that what #MeToo is all about, a power-push? Fact of the matter is #MeToo has a single-point agenda: Expose and destroy. But resurrecting past wrongs to name and shame individuals upsets their present and jeopardizes their future. All that is required is an accusation of sexual assault to maim, but not kill though the target will wish he was dead!
Character assassination comes natural to #MeToo and is worse than a bullet to the head. Nobody is bothered about “the truth”. It is “her truth” against “his truth”. Granted it is traumatic for women survivors of sexual harassment to report abuse for years. But they have to open up someday to somebody, anybody – parents, colleagues or friends. To hold back and come out decades later, asking to be believed, simply won’t work without evidence to back up accusations though a survivor’s statement is more often taken to be gospel.
What’s startling, however, is the survivor seems to be without mercy, collateral damage be damned. It’s tribal! Not only should the accused predator pay for his senseless audacity; his wife, son and daughter should also cry themselves to sleep. Indicting Judge Bret M. Kavanaugh for a 36-year-old “sex crime” was not enough for survivor Dr. Christine Ford, she had to take it out on Kavanaugh’s wife and also punish his two school-going daughters for their father’s alleged felonies.
So, what’s it about #MeToo that is disconcerting/dangerous? It’s in the intention: Where is it taking man-woman ties to? The explanation is that the woman cannot get over the violation of her body. Circumstances and a general reluctance and feeling of shame keeps her from reporting the crime but the trauma remains embedded in the psyche and leaves her in tears whenever memory triggers. Dr. Ford’s shrink nailed her tormentor, got his name out of her and left it at that. But when it became certain that the 17-year-old high-school student would soon become a 53-year-old Supreme Court justice, something snapped!
Such ‘outings’ pose more questions – What kept her silent for so long? More important, why should she be believed? What if he’s telling the truth? The possibility of revenge in her disclosure after years of silence and lack of corroboration injects doubts in her narrative, of “then” and “now”. And the language is so unreal, vacuous and fake: “’I believe everything Tanushree says happened to her, but where’s proof? Dr Ford’s story is so credible, but does she have corroboration?”
Those are the pitfalls of coming out late, decades late. More so, if the survivor shows a reluctance to lodge a case. Questions are then asked. Doesn’t she believe in the law of the land? She should know the law is there to protect her; that laws against sexual misconduct are very strong, especially after Nirbhaya. “She looks emancipated, is definitely educated and absolutely articulate, what held her back? O! She seems only interested in naming and shaming and destroying a good man. What a shame!”
It happened with Dr Ford, it happened with Tanushree Dutta and is now happening with the nine women journalists who have come out after decades to accuse Minister of State for External affairs MJ Akbar. But where’s the FIR, and evidences, where are the witnesses? Tanushree Dutta and actor Fiona lodged FIRs; Utsav Chakraborty did “dick act the other day” and actor Alok Nath allegedly raped. But the rest of the #MeToo revelations are in the realm of ‘bakchod’ – standard “he says/she says.”
In Kerala, CPM MLA and actor Mukesh is in a #MeToo fix for making after-midnight calls to Tess Joseph, a 20-year-old casting director, 19 years ago. Tess says Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien helped her “get out” but an unflappable Mukesh says he cannot “stop laughing” even as “filmmaker Nishad” holds forth he will henceforth not make movies with women in them! “Men on the sets will be petrified with women around, who wants to be #MeTooed?” he asked. For now, the #MeToo culture is in a petri-dish! (IPA Service)