#MeToo campaign will remain largely ineffective if it remains restricted to a small cross-section of society
The #MeToo campaign ran out of steam prematurely, partly because it was so severely limited in social terms and was carried forward by a small number of people.
It is a sobering thought that in a nation of 1.2 billion people, the #MeToo net captured one minister, a handful of actors, some producers and directors, and a clutch of journalists. The unedifying ease with which the fourth estate fell upon its own is a saga in itself. All in all, there is not much evidence of the movement having been as revolutionary as it has been touted to be.
There is even talk about how these past two weeks have cleaned up the dirty stables of the workplace and now these workplaces are being projected as squeaky clean. So, was it a sincere movement that just ran out of breath, or was it just a passing fancy, a fad that took off on course and then fell back to the ground?
It is a bit presumptuous to assume that equations have changed dramatically in the work environment. Many men will soon return to bawdy locker room humour and tasteless jokes, if they haven’t already done so. Yes, those indicted have suffered, but most of them will probably return to their professions through the back door. If you ask the average Indian, he or she will be hard placed to name even five people who are facing accusations.
While some high-profile trendsetters of modern Indian society paid fragile lip service to the #MeToo movement, it is possible that for many of them, their hearts were not really into it. Because of the conspiracy of silence, huge swathes of the nation were left untouched. The political firmament, leaving aside the case of MJ Akbar, was left pretty much unscathed.
The situation is similar with respect to those who work in films. No one wants to mess with the movie mafias. The corporate world never even got a look-in, and to believe that no woman has been harassed or sexually assaulted by the suit and tie hierarchies is pushing the bounds of credulity. The professor-student equation, the conduct of the police with women, the arrogance of the bureaucracy, the corporate hubris, the misconduct in the armed forces where rank can be misused, the caste hierarchies, the sahibs and the servants — all these got a free pass. Now, regrettably, the #MeToo train has left the station with a toot of its horn. Most men who have committed acts which can be said to be predatory are likely to have escaped any consequences.
And the odds are they will continue to get away with it. The #MeToo campaign ran out of steam prematurely, partly because it was so severely limited in social terms and was carried forward by a small number of people.
The purpose of saying this is not to scoff at the effort, but to put things in perspective. Male chauvinism is so deeply ingrained in our DNA that we are members of the Donald Trump club.
For the movement to be a success, the rich and powerful must join in, men must have a change of heart and those who have the public stage must affirm their togetherness. Unless that happens, there is always the risk of things getting worse rather than better. The campaign must not remain restricted to privileged sections of society. However, at this juncture, it is very much in danger of imploding.
Network 18, of which Firstpost is a part, has received complaints of sexual harassment as well. The complaints which are within the purview of the workplace have been forwarded to our PoSH committee for appropriate action.
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