Rudhdi Walawalkar is a first year law student at ILS Law college, Pune. She reads, writes and paints as much as she eats and sleeps! I think it’s nice to have an opinion in a world where everyone wants to be politically correct. Passionate about women’s right, cats, dogs and pretty much everything under the sun. Oh! I always strive to be a better Gryffindor- where dwell the brave at heart.
The viral spread of hashtag ‘me too’ has burst the dam of several thousands of repressed voices, those voices that were downplayed by years and years of normalization of sexual harassment. The crack in the dam has witnessed sporadic seepage of outbursts of voices throughout the years.
It goes as early as October 1798, during the ‘Women’s march on Versailles,’ which started as a French food riot, over scarcity and high cost of bread, and later merged with activities of revolutionaries seeking political reforms. We know of different waves of feminism having played monumental roles in securing rights for women. There was also the ‘Rojava revolution’ of Kurdish women, which saw an increase in women’s participation in politics, helping women dealing with sexual assault, etc. with the advent of technology and social media, we find hashtags we can relate with, which aim at starting discussions on social issues and bringing about a positive, wholesome change. Here are some of the hashtags- http://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/21-hashtags-that-changed-the-way-we-talk-about-feminism_us_56ec0978e4b084c6722000d1
Coming back to the most recent one, #metoo and why it is so very important. Truth be told, it shouldn’t take a hashtag to realize wrongs in society, but where self-realization has clearly not brought about the required change, such a push is meant to do the trick.
The first time that I was molested in the general compartment of a local train, I was in shock, I couldn’t react. I quickly got down at the next station to board another train. I cried all the way home, wiped off my tears to avoid unwanted questions. I didn’t talk about it to anyone. I thought I could deal with it in my own way, despite recurring nightmares, reluctance in getting into general compartments, being hyper vigilant all the time in public spaces. I felt guilty, I was ashamed, and for the longest time, I thought it was my fault. Since then, I’ve learnt to fight back, to yell, call for help, slap, hit with an umbrella, etc. because I can’t seem to catch hold of the running away perpetrator to drag him to the authorities.
Even though I know I have law on my side, I look down and quicken my pace when someone catcalls or throws obscenities or masturbates publicly as I walk down a street. I think and rethink before wearing my super comfortable pair of shorts, I avoid crowded places, public celebrations of festivals and deny myself of a number of things. This is exactly the product of normalization and victim shaming. I’m trying to change this and I hope I succeed. When my timeline floods with similar stories, I want to give strength and warmth to all.
So, how is this one social media hashtag going to solve the gargantuan problem before us?
This is a start to a discussion. This is victims coming out and no longer staying quiet fearing victim blaming and shaming. This is every person who has faced sexual assault realizing that it is not normal or okay or accepting and digesting what befell them. This is for those living in a bubble to realize the gravity of the situation when not only some person in a news report faced sexual harassment, but also almost every other person on your friend list, who you are close to. It is for people to realize that not only females but also males and many other cis/trans persons have suffered. It isn’t easy for people to read these statuses which have probably been triggers for many.
This is a social reverberation of existing and potential influencers of change. It is not just for you to realize and change yourself, it is also for you to influence others and make sure people around you don’t go back into the quagmire of sexist and racist comments/jokes, insensitive, misogynistic way of life, etc. We can call out perpetrators, help out victims, show solidarity, not brush over voices of minorities and underrepresented. We have the ability to do a lot if we put our minds to it.
We have the power break these shackles of normalization and trivialization of social problems. We have it in us, to slowly, but surely, bring about a change for good. Let this fire never die down.
Opinions are of the writer.
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