EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED

A Google Trends map shows #MeToo has spread to every corner of India

All of the lights.
All of the lights.
Image: Google
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India’s #MeToo movement, run down as elitist and urban by critics, may not be so after all.

For around three weeks now, a number of Indian women, particularly media and entertainment industry professionals, have come out with their experiences of being sexually harassed and raped over the years by male colleagues. The countrywide furore they sparked has even knocked at the doors of the government of India by now.

Some commentators, though, found the upheaval “irrelevant to the real horrors Indian women face,” since those making the revelations are largely city-based, well-heeled women.

However, Me Too Rising, a Google Trends data visualisation tool created this April, may prove them wrong.

The platform lights up the locations on a world map where the term “Me Too” is being searched for most frequently. The map doesn’t measure the total number of searches. Instead, it considers the number of times “Me Too” is locally searched compared to other phrases.

And India currently shines far brighter than any other country or region on Me Too Rising.

Surprisingly, the “top searching” cities and towns are tiny by Indian standards. For instance, early in the morning on Oct. 16, they are Goa’s Chicalim, Maharashtra’s Bhusawal, Punjab’s Zirakpur, and Chhattisgarh’s Bhanwreli and Rajnandgaon. The most populous of these places is Bhusawal, with just 187,000 people. 

Meanwhile, indicating a broader regional interest, two of the other countries in Google Trends’ top five, Bhutan and Nepal, are also in south Asia.

Image for article titled A Google Trends map shows #MeToo has spread to every corner of India
Image: Google

Guiding lights

One feature of the map is that when you click on a specific city or town in which “Me Too” has been trending, the website shows stories that reference the #MeToo movement, specifically pertaining to that place. Interestingly, many of these stories were written much longer than a week ago, demonstrating how #MeToo had considerable geographic reach in India even before this recent wave.

Here are some of the local stories featured on the Me Too Rising map, with some lines excerpted from each:

Jaipur: 

The Story of Bhanwari Devi, India’s #MeToo Woman,” from News18 on March 08, discusses the legacy of a woman from a village outside Jaipur, who took her case to court after she was gang-raped in the 1990s. Devi’s grit has been inspiring to many, and eventually even led to the creation of India’s first guidelines for dealing with workplace sexual harassment. The News18 article says:

Has the villagers’ attitude changed now? Bhanwari says it has. But I learn from women’s rights activist Nisha Sidhu in Jaipur that attitudes towards her have changed just a tad. People still maintain their distance. Recently, in fact, she was refused water from the village hand pump. And she still goes to a nearby village to grind her grain.

Mumbai:

India’s actresses are starting to seize their own #MeToo moment,” from the Washington Post on April 11, discusses Bollywood’s culture of silence around sexual harassment, and the cracks in it that were beginning to emerge. The Post says:

Former Bollywood actress and talk-show host Simi Garewal said it is unlikely that Bollywood’s influential men will ever undergo the same scrutiny as Hollywood’s. “In America, you have checks and balances,” she said. “Here, if you criticise a male star, you’re not going to get any roles.”

Srinagar:

#MeToo and Kashmir,” from Greater Kashmir on May 03, contemplates #MeToo as a framework for Kashmiri struggles against the Indian state:

The idea here is not to restrict or manufacture a particular direction to the campaign but to highlight the greater malignancies in the system here in Kashmir that even a global movement might not be able to penetrate. The aim is to bring to light a systematic war that is being waged on the bodies of the women.

Kolkata:

#MeToo draws cop attention,” from The Times of India on Oct. 18, 2017, discusses how the Kolkata police responded to the #MeToo movement:

“We urge you to be strong, we want you to be very, very angry about the leering, jeering, threats, verbal and physical abuses, we are asking you to be not afraid and to report to the police every time,” the police statement said.

Chennai: 

Creepy shadows stalk women everywhere in Chennai, even though city enjoys tag of ‘relatively’ safer place,” from Feb. 05, in the New Indian Express, is a detailed report on the factors that make women in the south Indian city vulnerable to harassment:

In some cases, even the persons who are responsible for stopping the perpetrators of crimes don’t take complaints from women seriously. Women say the bus conductors don’t bother to question the men, but just advise the women to change their seat.