The outpouring of sisterhood and support will hopefully solidify into something more sustainable.
It has been almost three weeks since the #MeToo uprising took off in India. And, the impact has been staggering. A minister in the union cabinet has resigned. Production houses have lost their shows. Film Directors have lost projects. Journalists and editors have been quietly bid adieu. Heads of agencies and creative directors have been sacked. Heads of educational institutes have gone on leave.
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And as more stories come tumbling out from the deep recesses of women’s memories, other women are emboldened to tell their story. And wave upon wave of stories and sharing has been unleashed. For a people reticent to talk about issues such as this, there has a been a fundamental shift in reality not just in the metros and among the elite, but across the country.
This outpouring of sisterhood and support will hopefully solidify into something more sustainable that helps dismantle entrenched patriarchy in organisations, and society.
At this point in time, #metoo is an uprising. A reaction to years of harassment and humiliation. There is no discernible pattern in the harassment charges. They come from everywhere. While the stories are coming out in random order, there is one thing that one can say for sure – this is a result of a severe gender imbalance in organisations, as well as the existence of massive power differentials between men and women.
Right now, women are simply putting out their story in public, because till now there was no one, anywhere to listen to their story. Now, there is a web of sisterhood, that is willing to listen, believe, and help.
According to an interactive map based on google trends and searches, the whole country lit up searching for #metoo, mostly from the smaller towns. On Sunday, October 21, the biggest searches were from towns like Chickmangaluru, Mandya, Davangere.
Greater awareness of #metoo is leading to behavioural change. Khabhar Layariya, the rural newspaper, run by women says the impact of #metoo is that men have stopped sending them porn clips; and this is primarily because they have learned that sending an unwilling woman a porn clip is a crime.
While #metoo is important in heightening awareness on the issues of sexual harassment, to ensure long-term change there has to more sustained interventions in organisations. The starting point of this is more gender diversity, indeed more diversity in organisations.
Indian organisations are still male bastions. And, the higher you go in organisations, the fewer women you find. While there have been women who have held and continue to hold high positions, they are the exception, not the norm. The Global Gender Gap Report (2017), that looks at gender differentials in organisations, puts India at 108 out of 144 countries. Women’s labour force participation is 28.5 percent compared to that of men which is 82 percent.
Organisations must improve their gender parity at the point of recruitment, and also provide mentoring to see women get to climb up organisational ladders. Fundamental shifts in organisational cultures are needed, where men are not emboldened to see harassing a woman as a fringe benefit of the position they occupy.
But, it is not just about reform in the workplace. Schools and colleges, along with parents and society must build a curriculum of appropriate behaviour in a modern age. And, much of this training has to focus on boys and young men, who seem not to have been taught the difference between right and wrong. Harassing women do not start in the office, it starts outside schools and colleges where girls are physically and verbally molested. Acts that are termed ‘eve teasing’ to make them seem like fun and harmless when it is neither.
Long Lasting Revolution
As #metoo makes an impact, as policymakers and corporations take cognisance of the fact that they have a sexual harassment epidemic on their hands, the #metoo movement has to go from being an uprising to being a lasting revolution that brings about genuine change.
For this, it will need to organise and become a powerful lobby for women and women’s rights. It will work best, if it ignores the temptation of electoral politics, and steer every government to doing right by women.
Harini Calamur writes on politics, gender and her areas of interest are the intersection of technology, media, and audiences.
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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