What is #MeToo to a working-class woman?
‘Madhumita lost her mother at the age of ten. She was then under the care of her paternal aunt who considered her nothing more than an irksome burden. Madhumita’s father was a happy man who would drink to his liver’s content and lived somewhere where no one could find him. When he visited Madhumita occasionally, it was to raise funds for his upcoming bottles, by means of his stupid emotional ravings.
As would happen in a lower middle-class home, the five-membered family at her aunt’s place would sleep in the living room, with just enough space for the legs and hands to tuck within the torso. From the time Madhumita reached puberty, the son of this aunt would sneak his hands under her bed sheet in the middle of the night, fumbling at her breasts and into the pyjamas.
Considering the plight of where she was in her life, she would remain motionless as though it was all happening to her in a dream and she was never consciously aware of it. And the next morning, while he would act an honourable cousin, Madhumita would have to remain unseen from him to bury her shame.’
This is a true story I have heard first-hand from the survivor (name changed). A female dead body raped inside an ambulance, a maternal uncle thrusting ‘his most superior weapon’ into the back of a young nephew, a university professor trading a student’s virginity for a thesis approval – I have heard, you have heard, and the world keeps hearing thousands of such stories every day!
Are survivors really heard? Especially, when he or she is from a working-class?
Do we even know what #MeToo means to Madhumita?
With #MeToo at its truest form today, I asked Madhumita if she doesn’t feel compelled to rip-off the mask of her cousin. She replied, “First of all, I am not a celebrity like Tanushree Dutta. I don’t have a Twitter account. Even if I had had one, my #MeToo tweet would have found its grave under the piles of the millions of tweets. Well, even if it were to get viral, do you think people would empathize? No. I’ll be giving away free passes for men to vividly visualize how that rogue touched my breasts and what his fingers did under my pyjamas. I would be ‘shaming’ my husband that he, after all, was only offered a ‘second-hand’ product. And, of course, a survivor’s tale is a cue to several men that ‘this girl has anyway gone through it; so, she is now eligible to be done this to by whosoever likes her’.”
Did I forget the family? She said, “I may get out-casted because on top of having lost that ‘something precious’, I was ‘shameless enough’ to talk about it. What will happen to that ‘honourable’ cousin of mine? He isn’t a celebrity either. So, none would bother to interrogate him. His wife isn’t going to divorce him because he is ‘her husband’ and the ‘father of her children.’ The whole story would end up in his favour as ‘an adolescent thing done years ago which is now irrelevant.’ And I would be slammed to better shut up!”
To Madhumita, #MeToo is just a piece of news about men and women in the top-class communities. Her story – her #MeToo – will continue to fail her to live in peace.
Better shut up as women shut up!
“Tanushree Dutta opened a can of worms…” was how most leading dailys reported this incident when it was out. I felt stuck with this sentence. Shouldn’t it rather read “Tanushree Dutta opened a league of justice…?” Why is reporting sexual crimes equated to releasing a can of worms? If the most progressive news media channels are going to carelessly project a ‘disgust’ associated with women opening-up, what effect will a movement as sensitive as #MeToo have on a working-class woman? Like what Madhumita says, they are indirectly told to better shut up.
Amidst the run and chase of everyday lives to pack the tiffin boxes, catch the bus and meet the family finances, an ordinary woman is made to feel that a college chap, several years younger to her groping her butt in the bus, and a peon, several years older than her humming a vulgar tune as she passes by the gate is all normal; a part of everyday life!
Most women have endured such sexist menaces to an extent that their dried-up emotions no more cry for voicing-out or justice. Do in Rome as Romans do; better shut up as women shut up! They know that no grievance cell or police station can speak up for them. If a beast who had thrust a rod into the vagina of a live human being can continue to live like you and me in this country on the account of having been a juvenile then, a groping here and there and crossing-the-limits now and then are definitely harmless acts of wise men.
We need real humans with life and emotions
As I write this today, on the International Day of the Girl Child, I dream to seed in girl children some hope on men – hope that men aren’t predators. Whether what I am writing now will get published somewhere someday, I know not, but I will continue to dream that little girls of today will be made to feel warm and safe in the coming centuries, if not in the coming decades. And I believe my dreams shall take wings subtly! And I also believe that we don’t need laws, punishment, guidelines, awareness campaigns or comic illustrations to explain to men what is expected of them. Men know! If changes can happen in order to restore our faith on men, may the following be a part of it too:
Maybe you never cared about it before. But will you now? – Unethical lust! Will you forego it?
Can more and more men please come up with your support? Actor Siddarth has already seeded that hope – the hope that men can support #MeToo. Will all of you too?
This one can come as a shock, but let me say it. Can men who have intentionally abused women through words or action, come up with a #MeToo – A ‘MeToo’ to confess for having contributed to someone’s #Metoo? Well, why should you? To give us, the world, hope – hope that men are mending their ways.
Can we please request the film industry to ban all the item numbers, song sequences, dialogues or any part of a movie which objectifies women from being telecasted? Can movies henceforth be censored for anything that derogates women sexually?
Can product marketers come up with ideas other than glamorising women in their advertisements? Can the media put some sensitivity before their TRPs?
A war between the men and the women isn’t going to help anymore. We need humans – real humans with life and emotions.
Image sources: MeToo – Voice of People Today, International Day of the Girl Child – India.com
This post was originally published at Women’s Web on 11th October, 2018