The #MeToo movement has gained momentum in the last few weeks.
The #MeToo movement has gained momentum in the last few weeks. A few months back a survey conducted by Thomson Reuters hit the headlines and ranked India as the most dangerous country for women around the globe. Frankly speaking, it wasn’t surprising at all because, let’s face it, the government hasn’t done much for the safety of women. Let alone safety, it haven’t even taken initiative to change the patriarchal mindset of the society.
Talking about the rankings, the largest democracy of the world and most dangerous country for women are two things that don’t really go hand in hand. But the very tag of democracy is what gives us the fundamental right to freedom of speech. Although it comes with reasonable restrictions, it is something that can be used by those women who have been stalked, assaulted, molested or raped to bring out their sorrowful and miserable stories through electronic and social media and this is being done under the guise of #MeToo Movement which was born way back in the year 2016.
#Metoo movement: The bandwagon effect
Women didn’t just come forward from trauma, but also from fear. Fear of societal persecution, in a country like India where even consensual sex is taboo, abuse would rather make woman who has come out, to be considered ‘ruined’ or ‘unmarriageable’. Have you heard of the bandwagon effect, where the courage of one inspires others to get over their fears and come out? That’s what the #MeToo Movement is about. All the victims (women) have been coming out for one cause through the social and print media which has given voice to the voiceless and taken down the voice of many.
#MeToo movement impact on AIB: Pro-feminist structures are collapsing
A stand-up comedian from AIB was recently accused of sending explicit pictures to one woman who shared the screenshots of the same on Twitter with hashtag #MeToo. After gaining the strength, not just one but a lot of women posted screenshots of him sending them the same kind of pictures. Now when the AIB team came up with a statement totally disassociating themselves from the comedian, the audience became curious to know what’s happening behind the scene because previously, AIB had attained a reputation of being a pro-eminist and pro free speech organization and then the audience understood that perhaps, there’s a distinct difference between public image and the reality. AIB claimed to
promote feminism and causes, and yet, a few (not all) of their founders did dirty work behind the screen.
#MeToo movement: How predators are being stripped in public
The basic goal of #MeToo is to ensure safer environment at workplace for women and to prevent employers from sexually exploiting and asking sexual favours from women and it has certainly succeeded in that. The #MeToo movement comes with a whirlpool effect. It certainly be equated with whirlpool effect as how whirlpools in an ocean create a vacuum and absorb everything from its top layer and place them near the seabed till the whirlpool is over; #MeToo as a movement does the same in the society as it strips off people from power and reputation because of their predatory nature and makes them the target of #MeToo inviting more and more victims to come out and speak up until the predator remains near the seabed. #MeToo has, in most of the cases, brought down powerful men with revelations of their sexual misconduct.
But the day #MeToo gained momentum, I had foreseen the party in power to make the movement political in nature and use it for their political gains and this time surprisingly, they certainly did not disappoint me and made a few journalists the scapegoat of the movement.
Drawbacks of #MeToo movement
How much ever beautiful the goal of the movement may be, it definitely has a lot of drawbacks at the same time. The POTUS on the other day said that #MeToo movement is dangerous for men but in fact, in my opinion it is equally dangerous for women. The movement may have unintentionally caused workplace etiquette confusion and can even lead to fewer women being hired by men.
Will #MeToo movement impact hiring of women professionals?
The #MeToo movement might end up denting the hiring rate for women because the male employers would be significantly cautious. In many cases, the men would not travel with a woman colleague and more importantly will not engage in activities after business hours which is where the bonds and friendships develop between the employer and employee.
In many places, interacting with a woman might even get awkward for men. Equality at workplace would drastically suffer as the employer in a lot of cases will have gender biased behaviour which ultimately would lead to alienation of women. This movement has had both, negative as well as positive impact on women. It has strengthened and supported a few women who have come out, but on a larger scale, taken away the employment or growth opportunities of many.
#MeToo in its own way has promoted feminism but also heavily tarnished the goal of the feminist movement, which primarily is the growth of women in the society and gender equality. I sincerely wish that women should not suffer any kind of harassment anymore and speak up immediately and act, its better to strike when the iron is hot and not come up with it decades later.
#MeToo movement: How to differentiate fake claims from real ones?
The darkest side of the #MeToo movement is the fake claims that various women are making and it has led to many powerful men losing their positions, reputation and money. It is an undeniable fact that not 100% of the claims made by the women under the highly protected and powerful umbrella of #MeToo are true and honest and not all, but a lot of claims are made with malafide intention of defaming the man involved or for personal gains or benefits.
There have been cases in which men have produced enough evidence to counter the allegations made upon them by the woman where they have clearly shown that every act was consensual. The movement has unfortunately and unintentionally created another set of falsely accused victims for the Indian Judiciary which is already overburdened with a huge backlog of cases.
In my opinion this movement has led to various social media trials because of the fact that once the man is accused of inappropriate behaviour over social or electronic media, he is assumed to be the culprit of the act.
The recovery from this loss of reputation in society is so traumatic that an entertainment firm’s co-founder has already been rescued while attempting suicide after accepting his guilt.
Be that as it may, I would like to reiterate what I said in the beginning, that this is the movement which offers voice to the voiceless and will act as a deterrent to men who sexually harass, abuse women and get away with it because of the power and position they enjoy in the society.
Habitual offenders will now develop cold feet as they have to face the consequences sooner than later. While in the Indian criminal jurisprudence an accused is innocent until proven guilty, in the newly evolving #MeToo jurisprudence, it is all about being guilty until proven innocent.
(Mahalakshmi Pavani is Senior Advocate, Supreme Court and President, Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association. Views expressed in this article are the author’s own.)