Men beware; women don’t want to take it lying down any more. The harrowing reality of sexual harassment has been brushed under the carpet for far too long. When sexual allegations first surfaced against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, few imagined it would snowball into a movement of sorts. The Weinstein saga started just like yet another case of impropriety, wrongdoing and misuse of position of power. However, the plight of victims has found a surprising and welcome resonance among millions of sexually harassed women across the world, India included. Whether Weinstein’s sex scandal changes the culture of the casting couch in Hollywood remains to be seen. However, one can sense the ripples of openness closer home.
It might be tempting to dismiss #MeToo as just another transient social media-fuelled fad. But its underlying significance can’t be missed. No one is suggesting that the call, given by actor Alyssa Milano, implies the battle against sexual predators has been won. However, the response to her message on social media is a not just a pointer towards the magnitude of the problem, it’s also indicative of new tidings. From victim shaming to #MeToo, a massive cultural shift has taken place on how we look at issues concerning sexual assault. In Weinstein’s fall from grace we hear the echo of women rising in unison.
Some, like actor Mayim Bialik may, sadly, continue to maintain that dressing down and modifying one’s behaviour can ward off sexual assault. But the upside is that she is clearly outnumbered by those having the tremendous courage to shout out and point out the assaulters. Not too long ago a victim here in India showed the way by refusing point-blank to hide her identity. Today, hordes of women have followed suit to share their predicament and suffering. As indignation replaces resignation, a change, at least in the mindsets, is all too perceptible. For a society where social mores, and even the law, demands victims remain anonymous, coming out of women in the open is a victory in itself. But it will be a strong blow for women’s rights if big names in Indian film industry choose to come out against the ‘bad apples’ — and we are sure there are many — openly so that it serves the predators a lesson, and also inspires many young women to be more cautious and bold in the future.