The #MeTooIndia movement has had many men on the back-foot. With women calling out a range of behaviours — from unwelcome advances and murky consent — that have not fallen under the previously straitjacketed understanding of sexual harassment, there has been some defensive backlash from men, who feel they're being unfairly targeted.
The sixth and final session of Firstpost's #MeToo Conversations, moderated by award-winning writer Meghna Pant, hoped to examine just this backlash. Tara Kaushal, Ashwin Mushran, Harish Sadani and Sudhish Kamat spoke to Pant about male impunity and 'subjective' truth in a session that garnered some interesting reactions.
Mushran began by talking about how men need to acknowledge their problematic behaviour before it can be changed. "And sometimes if a man comes forward with an emphatic narrative of his own, then he should also be heard," Mushran said. He also added that while this change wouldn't come overnight, #MeToo had at least provided a way for anger to be streamlined.
Pant, at this point, drew attention to the difference between how younger and older men had apologised for the cases in which they had been named — for instance, the quick apologies of the All India Bakchod comedians versus the denials of older male journalists.
Mushran said that this was because the older men were used to possessing immense power and having their way.
Among the arguments raised during the session was that men and women were interacting in newer ways than before, which meant that it wasn't always clear how these situations should be navigated. Like hooking up over Tinder, or texting someone over Snapchat.
However, Kaushal asked if things really had changed all that much.
"Sure, rules of engagement have changed. But what we have considered wrong has been the same for a while," she pointed out. "What has changed is men's acknowledgment that their behaviour may have been problematic. Men being called out is new."
The panelists agreed on the need to call out the normalisation of rape culture, and also discussed other issues like how to establish the authenticity of a #MeToo account (especially when shared anonymously).
Sadani said male entitlement to privilege and the idea of the "dominant man" that had been reinforced by the media, needed to be questioned. "People don't talk about the roots of gender-based violence," Sadani said. "This is an opportunity for stakeholders to take proactive measures."
Adding a note of caution, Kamat concluded: "It is important to hear all voices. Anonymity is a power that can be used or misused. It is also time to exercise responsibility for the statements we make."
Updated Date: Nov 28, 2018 17:00:35 IST