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Monday, October 8, 2018

To be truly a Movement #Metoo has to become more Inclusive

#MeToo is hiding more than it is Revealing

This story goes many moons back. It was winter break at Delhi University and I was at home getting the TLC which is a hosteller’s right when the phone rang. My very good friend was on the other side. The only words she spoke on the phone were,’ I am coming to stay at your place’. Her narrative left me shaken and stirred. Her mother’s brother, at whose house she was spending the holidays, had on the pretext of sharing her shawl while watching a movie, touched her at all the places he shouldn’t have. She answered my unspoken question with a shake of her head and I nodded in agreement. It was understood that some things were best brushed under the carpet. Family was sacrosanct and it was the duty of each member to guard its sanctity and shroud the acts.

For my friend, just as for most Indian women, these ‘encounters’ have been scurrilous episodes of life, to be brushed under the carpet and forgotten. Well brought up girls don’t speak out and silence is golden. That silence was yesterday. Or is it really so?  Yes, today many voices are speaking out against male predators: Alpha men with narcissism and egotism so deeply etched in their flawed psyche that for them it is perfectly par for the course to try and stake claim to women who are not their wedded halves. Yes, these men have met their waterloo in #Metoo with skeletons tumbling out of cupboards at a deliciously dizzying rate. But the women taking the lead, so far, are either famous or working, or both. These are definitely empowered voices and the voices are not shying away from telling their stories on social media.

Men in media, films, corporate houses, politics are being called out and so are authors, writers et el. It is with pride that one follows the girls and women who are standing up to be counted. However, while this piece is not about belittling the brave vanguard voices, it is important to acknowledge that out of all the voices that have spoken out, there is no voice of a niece or a sister, or a sister-in-law, a daughter. The women of the family are still quiet. If men, all men, are really to be shamed into understanding that women cannot be sexually harassed then #Metoo   will have to be the confluence of many movements—involving the workplace, colleagues, friends, seniors and, most importantly, Family. As of now #Me Too seems to be shining light on the easy targets only.
The postulates or principles of a successful movement are so basic that we cannot hope to achieve anything unless the basics are in place. A dynamic, successful social movement really needs to be like the Ganga with its many tributaries. It needs to open outwards to people and be powered by a groundswell of voices. The #MeToo movement has to go deeper and scrutinize familial silence on sexually predatory behavior. It is an open secret that most families have their Monsoon Wedding moments. If women don’t do a Mira Nair then the movement will be hiding more than it’s revealing. By its silence on the aspect of sexual assault from uncles, brothers, relationships girls trust and don't have their guard up against, is #MeToo forgiving more than its holding accountable?

Movements such as #Metoo, with the wherewithal to transform mindsets, lives and society, need to emerge from a multitude of struggles. Their roots need to go deeper, searching for the origin of the rot. The origin of the rot is not the boss in the office or the office colleague. The rot starts at the hearth. In this search, the base of the movement will broaden to encompass those who are yet on the sidelines. The stories that have been heard so far are about men who were not related to the women they stalked. The women who have come out and spoken have not upset the house (family) of cards  
It is true that for a truly powerful defining movement, the answer for success is that the marginalised, the sidelined, those forming the bottom need to come to the forefront. It is this bottom layer that needs to become propellers for the movement and for the issues that the movement is trying to address. The untold stories have to be told: by the women of the family.