Opinion: #MeToo - sensitivity, sense fly out the window

The reactions from society to the #MeToo Movement has been as shameful as the silence when instances of sexual harassment take place. Photo courtesy Flickr

A video that we've all seen in recent weeks showed Tanushree Dutta trapped in her car, while several men shattered the windshield and tried to break the windows. It's the perfect metaphor for the #MeToo movement that has stormed the nation. 

Dutta's allegations against Nana Patekar about sexual misconduct that happened in 2008 received violent backlash but the situation has become worse with 'social media warriors'. People may no longer be breaking windshields, but they are certainly cracking keyboards while punching out judgements against the victims as well as the accused. 
 
As the #MeToo movement gained momentum and allegations grew exponentially, actors lost movie contracts, comedians quit their jobs and ministers resigned unwillingly. However, amidst all this, a disturbing trend of 'one-stop-judgement' has risen. While some Twitterati and Facebookers began pronouncing the accused as definitely guilty, some others questioned the victims: 'Why talk about it after so many years?', 'How did it happen?' and 'Give us details!' 
 
The mainstream media has also behaved in an insensitive manner. A recent video of Chinmayi Sripada - who had accused Tamil poet Vairamuthu of harassment - paints a grim picture of our attitude towards the victims. At a press conference, Sripada was hounded with questions and she tried to answer as much as possible in a polite manner.  She was even trolled on Twitter for announcing a US concert with singer Hariharan, marking his 40 years in music. People began warning Hariharan of probable #MeToo allegations if he were to continue with the tour.
 
Though scepticism has its place, the outright shaming of victims shows why they are so reluctant to step forward. 
 
The reactions from society to the #MeToo Movement has been as shameful as the silence when instances of sexual harassment take place. We are too quick to dismiss claims by the victim and accept a perpetrator's excuses. 

You say they have a right to defend themselves? What appears to be a common thread among all the defences is that the accused was "not sure if it was a no" or "misread the friendship". When Chetan Bhagat texted the journalist: “You are sweet and cute and funny and a nice human being. So I have decided to woo you.[sic]”, there seems to be a decision, not a contemplation. But hey, he apologised to his wife and the journalist and he argued that maybe he “was going through a phase, maybe these things just happen”.
 
These things do not "just happen". And insensitive reactions do not "just happen." A lack of understanding of what constitutes consent makes incidents happen and leads to such 'apologies'.
 
These actors, writers, politicians, comedians, activists need to own up to the epidemic of sexual harassment. The shadow of possible false accusations cannot nullify the stories of hundreds of women. However, there is also a need to keep the focus on the ones in the spotlight. And the accused should not be pushed into taking an extreme step. Like Anirban Blah, a celebrity manager who attempted suicide after he was accused by women in the #MeToo movement. Some of the accused may need counselling or psychological help and they should be encouraged to get it. 
 
Social media has made hounding people and launching attacks so easy. We are trying to break into people's lives through their screens. It is time we take a step back and contemplate our reactions to the many accusations. 
 
As for the ones who still believe 'there must have been a signal that led to the harassment', here's a video that should clear things up. For a country that loves its chai, what better than this to explain the concept of consent?

 

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Opinion: #MeToo - sensitivity, sense fly out the window

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