DHRecaps | #MeToo in 2018

DHRecaps | #MeToo in 2018

The #MeToo movement has come a long, long way from being a one-off phrase to a global social media movement that seeks to expose and eradicate predatory sexual behaviour, especially in the workplace. Let's have a brief peek into the movement's history and where it is today

The birth of the movement

Regardless of what the movement's Twitter presence would have one think, the term MeToo existed well before it blew up and became widespread. The earliest known use of the phrase was in 2006 by Tarana Burke, a civil rights activist, who coined it as part of her fight for a world free of sexual abuse. With MeToo, Burke wanted to give a platform for survivors to fight their abusers on equal footing.

Tarana Burke, the creator of #MeToo.

MeToo meets social media

For many years, MeToo remained a low-key affair. It all changed in 2017, however, when the first public use of the phrase took Twitter by storm:



The phrase took to Twitter, and faster than a wildfire, many stories came out - people opening up about past traumas. It quickly hit the bigwigs, with bigshot Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and stand-up comedian Bill Cosby among the first to fall to the hammer of justice, but they would not be the last.

Weinstein and Cosby fell from grace quickly and mercilessly.

In less than one day of Alyssa Milano's tweet, Facebook saw over 12 million reactions related to The #MeToo movement, a massive response to what was originally just a small phrase in 2006.

India's wake-up call

India has had a long history of sexual harassment, to the point where it's been referred to as the “most dangerous country for women”  It took its time to come to India, but when the MeToo movement hit the desi shores, it hit with the power of a tidal wave. Bigwigs from every nook and cranny of the many industries were put in the spotlight in a manner no one fathomed.

It began with Tanushree Dutta's naming of Nana Patekar, one of the most respected names in Bollywood, of sexual harassment. Patekar being accused was a seminal event, with Dutta demanding narcotics and lie detector tests against the actor and the actor himself vehemently denying any wrongdoing.

The event left a shockwave, opening up several doors from where the others came out with their stories. Actor Rajat Kapoor of 'Drishyam' and 'Mulk' was among the first to be accused in the wake of this and was quick to apologise in a lengthy post. The other big names included directors Vikas Bahl, Anurag Kashyap, noted actor Alok Nath, several news editors and the like.

But the biggest accusation was easily against M J Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs. It became a political nightmare for the BJP, after Maneka Gandhi's demand for a probe and the reactions from various members of the BJP concerning the volley of charges against the senior journalist. The episode eventually culminated when Akbar quit his post in a move to help the BJP save face in the battle of perception.

Of course, there were other, maybe unintended collaterals: Aamir quitting a project, Tanmay Bhat stepping down from AIB, leaving the future of the comedy group uncertain - the group has been curiously silent since the statement on October 8.

The MeToo movement even touched Bengaluru when an IISc professor was accused of sexual misconduct by a PhD candidate. The professor, Giridhar Madras, who worked in the chemical engineering department, was asked to 'compulsorily retire' just days later.

It even took Sandalwood by storm when Shruti Hariharan went on record accusing co-actor Arjun Sarja of misbehaving with her during the filming of 'Vismaya'. Sarja, for his part, refuted all the allegations she made and even said that he'd take legal action. The Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce stepped in to resolve the issue but failed to reach any conclusion. Sarja attempted to have the FIR against him quashed and cooperated with the police during questioning. However, Shruti, alongside other artistes, quickly found out that the cost of opening up with the MeToo movement was loss of work.

In another incident, Sanjjanaa Galrani, an actress who made her debut with Ravi Srivatsa's film 'Ganda Hendathi', accused him of forcing her to do "dozens of kissing scenes" and threatening to destroy her career. The team that worked with Srivatsa was quick to come to his defence, dismissing her allegations as a "cheap publicity stunt". Galrani later apologised to Srivatsa.

Elsewhere, the BCCI CEO Rahul Johri was hit by sexual harassment allegation alongside singer Anu Malik. Johri was told to explain his stand to the Committee of Administrators while Malik vehemently denied the allegations - but took a break from the TV show Indian Idol, where he was a judge. The CoA formed a 3-member panel to probe the allegations against Johri but his sacking was opposed by Vinod Rai.

The movement was not even spared as political ammunition, as Rajnath Singh co-opted it to launch an assault against Congress; saying that the "grand alliance" will start its own movement when it realises Congress cheated them.