Indian women are now strong enough to say #MeToo—but the men haven’t grown up at all

Time to change.
Time to change.
Image: REUTERS/Issei Kato
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Misogyny is a kind of hatred a citizen feels when a fellow citizen, deemed inferior, refuses to inflate his damaged self-esteem.

Metaphorically, it is the festering wound of a chained soul that dreads the very idea of freedom—and anyone who is free.

And that exactly is why sexual violence is not about pleasure. The predator intends to wound not the woman’s body, but her dignity—she can’t have something he lacks.

Yet, it is only expected of people, like a union minister, to laugh off India’s #MeToo movement as a “perversion.” One cannot blame him. For our society has never taught men like him to apply in daily life, the lessons he learnt in classrooms and law books.

The untaught lessons

An Indian man is never taught that like any specimen of Homo sapiens, women can be angry, lustful, cunning, vehement, and destructive, besides being kind, patient, and affectionate.

He is only trained to be revered by his mother/sister/wife/daughter/mistress. This is so deeply ingrained that an average Indian adult man expects the same reverence everywhere—classrooms, workplaces, public spaces, and even parliament.

A “no” in a relationship would perplex him.

Hence, I find this doubt of the union minister very innocent: “If someone makes an allegation that…when the incident happened, we were playing together while in class 5, would it be fair?”

Very pertinent.

Was any #MeToo allegation based on incidents that happened in class 5 or 10, and involving children of the same age group? No.

Many of the survivors were, indeed, very young or even minors when they were violated. But the predators were all adults, more powerful, and more privileged. It is not a coincidence that one of the accused, a renowned journalist, used almost the same words as the minister: “Thirty years ago, some woman felt that I did something that troubled her…The person who has been accused has no option but to deny these allegations.”

Here we come to the next lesson Indian men are never taught.

In the Tamil film 1996, there is a scene where the heroine asks the hero if he has already gone too far after having dropped her at her destination. His reply is loaded: I remain where you had left me (he’s seen waiting at the same spot).

The heroine has moved on in life, married another man; the hero stays a virgin, cherishing her memories.

This fascinating scene describes the modern educated men around us who simply refuse to move ahead after having travelled a finite distance. They remain exactly where they once dropped their dream girls, while the girls move on, waiting for none.

Women today are not really who these powerful men imagine them to be, and as depicted in stories written and movies made by men—such women exist only in fiction.

The gap between the intellectually empowered women and increasingly disempowered men is widening. The latter are caught unawares when confronted by questioning, challenging, criticising females. Not their fault. Those poor men were taught over and over that all good women are subservient to them, implying that all men are unquestionable. And as an empowering ritual, these men need to overpower the women for the rest of their lives, only to reassure themselves of their own relevance.

This could be a reason why scholarly and intellectual men prowl on women much younger than them.

And it reflects in the way they react to #MeToo allegations.

For instance, the older men—young in the 1970s and 1980s—blatantly deny having done any wrong, defame the survivors, or just ridicule them.

The younger ones, hearteningly, are relatively more sensitive and sensible. For example, some of them accepted their mistake. Some even gracefully apologised.

The wounds take time to heal

So unless we start teaching our men to be themselves instead of pretending to be macho, #MeToo is going to be disastrous for everyone. For not only does it break the accused, it also devastates the women who love them.

And there is no point blaming the delay in making the revelations.

The #MeToo survivors took such a long time to speak up because of two things: how deeply wounded they were, and how dominating the accused was.

Had there been any attempt to heal the wounds, they wouldn’t have let it fester for decades. The delay merely proves #MeToo’s grit, not its vengeance. In a society that accepts and even celebrates violence as an empowering ritual, talking about it is the only possible survival mechanism.

#MeToo is, thus, a healing process. It is the supreme act of liberation for a woman.

Some of its allegations could even be fake and deceptive. What to do? To quote the early 20th century Bengali actress and singer, Binodini Dashi, “You only taught us to deceive!”

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