The couch Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein did his casting on is reportedly lying vacant in his Manhattan office – the couch where it all began. A year now since the women who were startled on it started to speak. 365 days of MeToo-ing around the world, with woman after woman recounting tales of ‘touch’. The accounts so similar that the predator could be just this one balding man with a paunch in a bathrobe demanding massages. You’d think molesters had a manual.
Those of us who studied/worked alone in cities, away from families, perforce staying out late with hearts in our mouths, were always alert to the possibility of sexual assault. If anything our mothers overdid it, rendering us wary even in the company of own husbands of many wedding anniversaries. Men were not to be trusted, went the whispers. They take plain breathing for a come-hither signal, ‘no’ is foreplay. In buses, bedrooms, bistros, bars – nowhere are we safe. Even a lioness in a jungle doesn’t walk alone at night; lions will mount her.
As women we got used to tiptoeing around men, we perfected the useless art of pleasing everyone. And we were in it together.
Oh, those men who take us for an emotional ride with their lies about harridan wives! Oh, those men who catch us at a weak moment and take the next bus out! Oh, those men who call us ‘my woman’ and we pay the price with bruises and cuts! Oh, those men who menace us as dad, husband, brother, son, boss, colleague, co-passenger, mentor!
MeToo did bring on an initial sorority daze, but women can’t be a lumpen lot. Each brings her unique experience, her reactions, her understanding of what’s going on and her grasp on grammar to the accusation, setting it apart from her sister’s. ‘He said, she said’ soon turned into ‘she said, she said’. BFFs are coming to blows. Your husband vs my husband. Female seniors who did nothing then but are me-tooing now. And the latest: 'she harassed him'.
Thus the hierarchy; women who cry wolf vis-a-vis the 24-carat victims. At the bottom of this pile are women suspected of having cashed in on precisely such men; those who got the roles, made the promotion, kissed and never told. Suddenly the sisterhood was split: one painfully, bravely talking of her trauma, the other riding on the former’s frock-tails, the ‘me too!’ to the #MeToo.
MeToo is ostensibly about men, but its subterranean subtext is for women; do we buy into our own truth? Are we ready to take this to the next level? We secretly never really trusted men – they are a strange alien sex and smell of socks – but now it seems we never trusted each other.
Man-woman ties will limp along as before with traditional hostilities more distilled, in keeping with new post-MeToo laws, but woman-woman ties are at flash-point. We were to speak in one voice being the same sex. But here we are venting, not sure who is listening.
Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.
Disclosure: All matters brought to Network18’s attention which are within the purview of the workplace have been forwarded to our Internal Committee for Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the workplace for appropriate action. The Internal Committee is independent and all recommendations made by it are followed through by Management action. Network18 Group has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment. The company complies fully with all legal provisions and seeks to ensure a speedy and effective Redressal on complaints.
First Published: IST