Count me in for #MeToo

Your daughter or sister suddenly keeps herself away from family gatherings. Disconnects social contacts and can be seen wearing a ‘plastic’ smile. She stays several steps away even from her father or brother. A closer look would say panic or fear written large on her face.

It is time one sat next to her and let her speak from her heart. There are sexual predators everywhere around and make sure she doesn’t suffer it silently. When we failed collectively in this, came the #MeToo movement on social media.

We copy from West, they say generally. And we have been vehemently denying the statement. But call it a coincidence that after the expose on Harvey Weinstein in Hollywood, the can of worms around us is opened.

It is the same #MeToo movement that has gathered momentum on social media. It is nothing but allowing women to pour out their anger and frustration at sexual harassment which one in every three suffers – be it in the family, work place or educational institution.

A victim gathering guts to express her agony is a welcome sign. Gone are the days when they were asked to shut up and bear it all on their own. Public shaming of celebrities should be seen as a warning bell for those masked ordinary men around us who utilise every little opportunity to cross the limits of decency.

No matter how many Vishaka Committees are set up in offices, the sexual harassment of women is a continuous saga. May be a #MeToo and fear of public ridicule will nail the coffin. For all these days, these helpless women bore the pain silently.

Rather than asking a woman why it happened and when it occurred, itÂ’s time we allowed them to speak out. In a society where a victim is often seen as guilty, #MeToo provides a platform to put their head up and walk with courage. What happened to your mother or sister should not continue for your daughter.

And for those who ask, why did she not speak when the incident happened, the answer can be had from their sisters and mothers in their family. The emotional trauma – more than physical abuse – makes her dumb.

The #MeToo movement is one of solidarity and sisterhood. The premise of the movement is that survivors will be believed and their stories will be heard with empathy. This has given a lot of women the courage to speak up about what happened to them after so many years.

May be it is a lesson for all men. We men have failed to win their confidence. They see us with suspicion for we never learnt to respect them and their emotions. It is time we say to #MeToo – count me too in your battle. Come what may, we will stand by you. We are equal.

And, finally, one may wonder why me for this column by women and for women. Call it collective confession. A representative among men asking sorry to women.

M BHARAT KUMAR