Gender equality is an idea whose time has come: Jamal Mecklai, CEO, Mecklai Financial

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New Delhi | Published: November 6, 2018 1:25:55 AM

The real reason #MeToo has caught fire now is because the global political landscape is increasingly barren and is crying out for change.

#MeToo has dethroned 350 men from positions of privilege and power

In the last year, as per NYT, #MeToo has dethroned 350 men from positions of privilege and power, and has spread rapidly to poor countries, like India. It is clearly an idea whose time has come.

Of course, the idea of #MeToo is more than just about getting men to put their dicks back into their pants. It is really about the imbalance of power that enables (some) men to behave this way. And, in parallel, about how privilege is used as a licence by some people to disrespect and mistreat minorities—whether blacks in the US, Dalits and Muslims in India, Hindus and Christians in Pakistan; and to exploit working people, who generally get pennies out of the pounds of value they create.

Of course, as humanity evolves, many of these imbalances get redressed—on a macro basis, the world is a much better and more equal place than it was even a few decades ago. However, change at the micro and personal level is often very slow, and #MeToo is a strong kick in the pants, saying, “Hurry up”.

Its unique power is to unite women from different economic and social strata and with different political beliefs, many of whom have suffered—or have friends and family who have suffered—such visceral indignities. For instance, Ashley Judd knows what Bhanwari Devi must have felt like when she was raped and courageously took the battle to court over two decades ago; Tanushree Datta knows what Anita Hill must have gone through as she is being vilified for outing Nana Patekar. And as the movement percolates across different nationalities, income groups and political and social beliefs, it will increasingly harness people who live with other kinds of (non-sexual) abuse and discrimination. It will also attract support from open-minded men and women who have never been victims of these backward-looking power plays.

It promises to become a truly global movement; indeed, it already is—witness the international protests by people working at Google against its insensitivity in dealing with sexual abuse.
The timing of #MeToo’s explosive growth is also significant. It is not as if sexual harassment has just started; it’s been going on for hundreds of years. So, why has it suddenly become such a big issue now? Why did it not hit the headlines two years ago? Or twenty?

To be sure, social media is part of the story, but social media has been a world-changing force for close to a decade already. The real reason #MeToo has caught fire now is because the global political landscape is increasingly barren and is crying out for change.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989), liberal democracy, with financial markets at the centre of the global economy, became the only game in town. However, as predicted by Karl bhaijan, democracy was quickly captured by the market and liberalism became increasingly elitist and hollow. To be sure, the singular focus on money created huge wealth but the abdication to the market resulted in an unconscionably unfair distribution of value.

Discontent was spreading, and when the global economy collapsed in 2008, party rule—still alive and well in Russia and very successful in China—began to look attractive as populist demagogues in many countries jumped into the fray. Today, the ascendant ideology is nose-crinkling populist authoritarianism. But the good news is that this model is slated to fail sooner rather than later, since it does nothing for anybody but the boss—economies will stagnate and there is no humanity in the pot to even think of improving the balance between elites and non-elites. And into this vacuum, comes ta-ta-da—#MeToo!

This new paradigm, which is already upon us, will see women playing a much larger role in running the world. The number of women legislators in many rich countries is steadily increasing—there will likely be a large jump in numbers in the US Congress this year. Perhaps, more remarkably, women are playing larger political roles in the least expected places—in Ethiopia and Rwanda, for instance, women form 50% of the government cabinet.

In addition to bringing women’s rights front and centre, the new world will have a much more feminine—call it sensitive—approach to rebalancing power, money and assets. To accelerate change, fiscal policy will need fresh, radical thinking, perhaps taxing capital-based income much more than labour-based income. And the sensitivity will not preclude toughness in terms of suasion—punitive, if necessary—to bring a better micro balance to income, and, ultimately, wealth and power.

Asset prices will fall and inflation and interest rates will come down, which will be good for most people. In the early stages, growth may be slower, but as more and more people from a wider range of backgrounds are able to enjoy opportunities similar to those you and I have, look out—the global economy will explode off scale.

Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come.

The author is CEO of Mecklai Financial

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