Divided we are

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 17 Jan 2018 11:35:43


By Biraj Dixit,






What a divided world we are living in?!! Everybody seems in such utter disagreement with one another. Utterly devastated, warring nations are in disagreement when to call truce. Presidents utter un‘hole’y words that countries cannot just agree with. Nations cannot decide what to do of the referendums they pass. Even judges are not on the same page, these days. And just when you thought that after narrowing differences of colour, class and comfort, the entire womankind have come together responding to the clarion call of ‘#MeToo’, there are some who cannot agree to it. They say that they “don’t recognise ourselves in this feminism.” Darn! Life should be simpler, shouldn’t it!”

It is very fine, civilised, appropriate thing to ‘disagree.’ It has many benefits. It brings all angles and sides to fore making whatever agreements are arrived at, all-encompassing. It also often ensures that all agreements are not thoughtlessly nodded with. But on occasions it also kind of takes away the steel from the purpose of the agreement. It often happens that in the cacophony of agreements and disagreements, the purpose gets stifled.

On the face of it, the world seems united in agreeing that women should be treated with utmost respect. They should never, never be harassed. The world is as much theirs as is of the men and hence doors of all opportunities should be open to them. It is inhuman to ask them to put in extra efforts to get to a position where men already reign. The world agrees, in unison, to so much and yet…

…and yet, how little these globally-accepted values find acceptance and are lived by in our public and private spaces of daily existence is anybody’s guess. The #MeToo campaign highlighted a malady existing in our societies for long. A malady accepted and quietly borne with! The remarkable thing about women saying ‘MeToo’ was breaking away with the ‘quiet’ part of it and making things ‘quite’ obvious. It is being hoped that this disquiet gains potential to serve as a ‘deterrent.’ After all how many men, despite their previous abilities to ‘get away with it’ would want to find their names uttered in such shame? Bullying is great fun only till the time you do not get caught. And women here are saying “we will catch you and let the world know about it.” Since then, many men are losing jobs, assignments, businesses… even wives. People are applauding the move for it is finally not letting sexual harassment go unpunished.

Not all women are in agreement, though. The #MeToo campaign, they say, has led to “denunciations and public accusations of people who, without giving them the possibility of responding or defending themselves, have been placed on exactly the same level as sex offenders. This expeditious justice already has its victims, men sanctioned in their job functions, forced to resign, etc, while their only wrong is to have touched a knee, tried to steal a kiss, spoken of ‘intimate’ things during a professional dinner or to have sent sexually suggestive messages to a woman whose attraction was not reciprocal…”

This, they say, “has led to a fever to send the ‘pigs’ to the slaughter”, which far from helping women to empower themselves serves the interests of the enemies of sexual freedom.

Those defending the move are quick to retort that the harassment spoken about by most women were seldom slight in nature. Most had the propensity to come very much within the parameters of sexual offence and abuse of power. But then the possibility of using the tool of #MeToo to settle scores and ‘get back at’ cannot be outrightly rejected. We, in India, have many lessons to tell about the blatant abuse of power indulged by the ‘fairer sex’, who are armed with section 498A of the IPC. The adage ‘Power tends to corrupt’ is as gender-neutral as it is time-tested.

The group of women that opposes the campaign further state, “We believe that the freedom to say no to a sexual proposition is not without the freedom to importune. And we consider that one must know how to respond to this freedom to annoy other than by closing ourselves off in the role of the prey.”

‘Freedom to say no to a sexual proposition is not without the freedom to importune’ – we are too long into civilisation not to understand the mating game and its different nuances. The thin lines between affection and affectations, flirtation and indiscretion, romancing and philandering, though tripped often, are nevertheless lines that need respect. For, very often, they determine the character of ladies and gentlemen who form societies and nations. In open or closed societies, it is very unlikely that one cannot differentiate between harassment and flirtation, rejection and coquetry, a slight ‘no’ and a firm ‘no’. Freedom to importune cannot be infinite and without restriction. And these restrictions more than a society’s slightly-mentioned decorum should come as part of individual behavior. For, as records have shown there is also a very thin line between freedom to importune and sexual misconduct.

Harassment - sexual or otherwise – without doubt is more about abuse of power than anything else. #MeToo is a call against abuse of power. That way, it must remain, making abuse of power unacceptable and gradually unthinkable. A slight flirtation, little coquetry, some subtly and not-so-subtly expressed intentions has always been part of life, making the love games interesting. But abuse too has been rampant, too much to ignore. Need for discipline, sense of responsibility and sense of good behaviour for men and women of power and responsibility is more than necessary and must be stressed upon. There should be no disagreement at the least on that.

But well, with our societies constantly at war with themselves, we uphold the right to disagree!