#MeToo is not for you to like

As Facebook begins another campaign, we need to ask an important question: is this all we can do?

Women are joining in to speak up

I woke up today to stories of harassment and assault all over my news feed. Most confessions came from women, and I was not surprised. I don’t think any woman was. Sexual harassment has been so much of a lived experience for most (all of us, I’m tempted to say) that sometimes we don’t even acknowledge it. We let it pass, we do not discuss it, because it is ‘too small.’

‘He just brushed past me, at least he didn’t pinch.’

‘He’s only staring at me (you-know-where), at least he hasn’t come close.’

‘He’s only been following me, at least he hasn’t pulled me into a corner and force himself on me. Not yet.’

There are degrees of harassment that women talk about, a measure — as if an assault on the self can be measured, as if the trembling fear of being in a crowd can be measured , as if the courage to enter your boss’ cabin alone can be measured, as if the goosebumps before entering a cab in a city of 1 crore people can be measured at all.

Which is why, #MeToo is bold, significant, and essential. What I’ve read since morning from women I know in my daily life and some I haven’t met in a while has left me with a sense of hope drenched in melancholy and rage.

Because #MeToo, but what can you do?

I do acknowledge that speaking up is an important first step, especially in a repressive and stolidly patriarchal culture like ours. But, I’m afraid that it’s going to be left at just that — the first and only step. Because what happens when this volcano of voices cools down? What happens when Trump makes another disastrously misogynist policy decision, or Modi renders us cashless, or another Kardashian gets pregnant — social media distracts people with yet another fickle issue and everyone forgets #MeToo?

So here’s how in my little way, I think we can ensure that we offer more than just words and posts to those around us.

Let’s stand up for the women who were groped in the street, instead of asking her to ‘forget it’ or ‘leave it.’

Let’s ensure every minor act of harassment is reported and law enforced against the perpetrator, instead of telling her ‘why make a big deal out of it?’ (Guess what, it is a very big deal).

Let’s ask our social media platforms that so proudly endorse women’s rights campaigns, to initiate strict and stronger actions against online trolls and harassers (even, and especially, if they belong to positions of power — because that’s where patriarchy penetrates from).

Let’s write to our local governors and MLAs about better security measures in public places.

Let’s stand up for the rights of the girl molested on the street, instead of blaming her clothes or behaviour, her rights to security and safety, her rights to her own space, her rights to her body and what she does with it.

Let’s spread awareness on the law and on how to take action against harassment of any kind.

Engage with organisations that are actively working towards fighting for these women, urban and rural — I don’t think our social media would be able to handle the amount and extent of #MeToos the villages in India would generate.

Here are some organisations you can support:

SNEHA provides emotional support and counselling to women who’ve faced violence.

Akshara Center not only rehabilitates women but is trying to make cities safer by engaging with communities and governing bodies.

Majlis Law offers legal awareness and litigation to women to fight for themselves.

These are just a start, a simple Google search will tell you which organisation is doing good work in your city.

Take action in any way you can. Because your like on my #MeToo isn’t offering me much comfort.

Take action. Because if you don’t, you side with the perpetrator.

Take action. Your ‘like’ on my #MeToo is not enough.

Written by Fatema Diwan with inputs from Malini Bhattacharya.