The #MeToo campaign has set the world of entertainment and politics ablaze. Everyday more and more celebrities are being accused of assault and harassment, breathing new found life, fury and frenzy into the 24 hour news cycle and the vast landscape of social media. From tinsel town to work places to classrooms, Twitter and Facebook have mobilised multiple survivors to call out their tormentors.
The #MeToo movement is growing and empowering all women to speak out, yet in the pursuit of eradicating taboos, it seems to be creating its own. Insisting that all survivors move the law and order machinery against those who harm them is often met with outrage and dubbed as 'victim-shaming'. While we must celebrate and laud survivors of harrowing trauma to speak out, why pull the handbrake there when the pursuit of any righteous and noble movement is no more than justice. Tanushree Dutta has taken the legal route, but why has it become blasphemous to ask other survivors to follow her?
Financial loss, shame and regret - are we satisfied with these punishments for predators who walk among us? When a woman is raped in rural India, we outrage on behalf of their families who struggle against the police to file an FIR. Yet, those under the #MeToo banner who are clearly more empowered, why do they draw the line after naming and shaming their tormentors? From the Nirbhaya rapists to Tarun Tejpal to RK Pachauri, people united and created pressure to demand police action against them. Why in the majority of recent cases is there resistance to invoke the law and order machinery? Why aren't the furious feminist voices of the nation guiding or supporting victims to seek legal action against those who may potentially be a threat to other women? Have we reached a stage in our culture that our sense of outrage has overpowered our pursuit of justice, simply because the latter is harder than just typing on a computer or giving a press conference?
The #MeToo movement is evidently suffering from the biggest failure of contemporary feminism - the 'Carnival of Outrage' - the lazy pursuit of freedom and equality, with no preparation for the responsibility. Feminism today rattles its sabres against patriarchy, yet seeks protection from the same archaic order shunning the responsibility to empower the self to tackle the beasts of society. It is content with empathy in the face of abuse and shies away from the rigours of moving the wheels of justice. The #MeToo movement runs the risk of blunting its impact to just a force of moral indignation if it allows shame and financial setbacks to replace handcuffs and a jail cell.
Patriarchy was never weakened with men and their power structures being shamed into providing justice and equality. For decades empowered activism has moved the law to provide those sacred tenets. February 2018 marked 100 years of the Suffragette movement, where women fought and died for the law which allowed them to vote. This year itself Triple Talaq was declared unconstitutional, women earned the right to enter Sabarimala and Section 377 was scrapped, not because of social media posts, newsroom debates or press coverage - but because female heroes fought and persevered through the convoluted maze of courts and politics for all men and women.
If the #MeToo movement sees itself in the image of these feminist causes, then its leaders, advocates and outspoken icons should call on all survivors to face the grime, frustration and rigour of the police stations and courts, and promise their sustained support. Everyone must be empowered beyond just speaking out and wield the law to achieve real justice. Create the fear of real punishment to achieve real change.
The author is a Delhi-based journalist. Views are personal.
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