What started as a Twitter hashtag a few years ago by Hollywood, the #MeToo movement has managed to stand out as one of the effective tools to fight the disparity of social stigmas and tyrannical abuse in India. Needless to mention, the fight is against any form of abuse that chokes the basic humane quintessence. However, is this tool turning into another controversial feminist strategy to achieve absolutely nothing?
Until recently, before Tanushree Dutta accused Nana Patekar of sexual harassment, the storm had not gained much momentum in India to par with real crises. Ever since Tanushree’s allegations shed light on the issue, many are continuing the #MeToo trend and more and more well-known names are being highlighted on a daily basis. It is a part of the escalating resistance against the gendered violence experienced by women and young girls who have been a victim of the callous miscreant.
This is not the first time that India is looking up to a trend to expose injustice and atrocities against women. In an age where the attention span has been minimal, many such campaigns have come up in the past, which gave a heads up to the social breach and dominate a platform to give a voice to it. The confidence did not build overnight but was soared chronologically. The many feminist networks worked to thread the regional views of these issues to global scrapes. Many ‘desi’ retorts were put to place while fighting the horrifying experiences.
Bell Bajao was a campaign started by Breakthrough India in 2008 with an aim to address the issue of domestic violence. According to a survey, among the married women who have experienced physical violence since the age of 15, 83 per cent reported their present husbands as perpetrators of the violence. The irony is that the issue of domestic violence is so deeply rooted in a land where people worship women as a source of energy (shakti). This campaign gave a shout out to the men who are on the other side of the violence, to interrupt overheard violence. Bell Bajao was a hit as it inspired ‘disrespect for the privacy’ of those committing domestic abuse.
The Pink Chaddi or Pink underwear campaign was initiated in 2009 and called for a break away from the stereotypes of traditional orthodox mentality of a political leader. A unique protest, just like the name suggests, was targeted at the saffronised right-wing political party that was ‘supposedly’ doing their job by attacking women and couples who committed the ‘sin’ of enjoying themselves at a pub in Mangalore. Pink underwear was sent to its leader, Pramod Muthalik, who was ‘flabbergasted’ by his arrest for doing his ‘responsible duty’ of freeing women from committing a sin according to him.
As the name suggests, this was a raging protest by women who faced sexual abuse on the streets of this ‘holy’ country. The name of the campaign literally means ‘I’ll hit you with sandal’. The campaign that was initially started by five students in Mumbai soon refashioned to instilling confidence in women by empowering them through self-defence training. Although the campaign received a spurting support during the initial days, six years hence it has largely died out as a movement today.
The 2015 revolutionary campaign that was started by college-going women in the National capital Delhi, Pinjra Tod (Break the Cage), shed light on the vision of young women in India – the freedom of movement at night. The common curfew timings faced by young women in their respective PG accommodations or hostels as compared to the male counterpart was challenged by this movement. The mission was to shift the focus of security to the actual perpetrators from taking away women’s freedom during the eventide.
The foreign, but locally used #MeToo movement
The biggest argument that comes alive after the outbreak of MeToo movement is that it is majorly restricted to the online space and cannot be yet compared to the impact that can be created to the protests in the past, like the 2012 Delhi gang rape protests. Rather, #MeToo has emerged precisely because of the local, national and global initiatives. The movement has worked to expose the bigotry by raising questions to the supposedly harmless and majorly normalised practices of sexual harassment and molestation that affect women in public spaces and within families, across class, caste and religion.
The movement has raised awareness among people to realise the harm that has been caused to them. The hypocrisy of this society would have silenced them, but #MeToo has given the courage to shout, to acknowledge and to fight the wrong, the injustice and the inhumanity. The movement has changed the scenario as women can feel free to name and shame their abusers. #MeToo has brought a positive impact on the empowerment and sense of freedom women are able to experience.
Bollywood actor Tanushree Dutta spoke about the issue after more than 10 years of being sexually abused as alleged, and this instance gave courage to many voices that were silenced before by the society and sheer fear.
#MeToo, though still limited to digital space, has managed to empower women and their voices. However, until a legal proceeding is not followed and the culprit not punished for his crime, this tool may remain just another controversial feminist strategy to achieve absolutely nothing.