About 10 years ago Tarana Burke, an American social activist, couldn’t get herself to listen to the heartbreaking story of a young girl who was being sexually abused by her stepdad. She cut the girl off before she could finish, unable to listen to her torment. She regretted not listening and wished that she could just say, ” me too”, at least to let her know that she was not alone in her plight. This led her to create a campaign -“me too” – to help women of color who were victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.
Burke’s campaign became the popular hashtag that took the internet by storm recently after actress Alyssa Milano encouraged women around the world to post their experiences of abuse under the ”Me Too” hashtag, following the numerous allegations of sexual abuse against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein was accused of rape and assault by many leading actresses, exposing the gross injustice against women prevailing in the industry.
Millions have come forward with their stories – stories that are common enough, but never given a voice. Sadly it is these stories that bind the women of the world together irrespective of age, color, nationality or wealth. It is never easy for a woman to open up about the most harrowing thing that could ever happen to her. But even then, if these brave women chose to tell their stories, there is a definite reason. They are shouting at the world to throw away the rose colored glasses that it has put on. They are reminding the world that no woman is an exception to harassment. It needn’t be physical, it could be a look, a gesture or a word. The kind of hurt it inflicts on a woman is almost unfathomable. It makes you feel exposed, powerless and leaves behind a permanent scar.
The society doesn’t encourage women to speak out and makes it even more worse by making them feel like it’s their fault. But the silence gives room for the abuse to grow. #MeToo may soon disappear into internet oblivion and we may move on to new hashtags, and women will keep encountering Weinsteins. But the stories will continue to haunt us as a reminder of the hypocrisy and misogyny of the progressive 21st century world. How is a world progressive when it’s women can never let their guards down, never feel safe in a world that they own in equal measure? This shouldn’t end as a viral sensation. For a woman everyday is a fight – from walking a few kilometres to riding a bus, we have to struggle with the ogling, the catcalls, the comments and the groping. A collective effort that cuts across gender, nationalities and color has to emerge because it just cannot be ignored anymore. Enough is enough.