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Beware the cynics who would undermine the importance of #MeToo

Sarah Hasan Aijaz Ganjami | Updated on: 25 October 2017, 16:40 IST

The insidiousness of abuse is not that it is a recreational pursuit of influential men. This is a given. If you look into the eyes of a man in power, you will see his swollen pupils, black and hungry, like a chasm ready to swallow women’s bodies into its prison. They are like small sarlacc pits, lined with hair for spikes and thorns; if you look deep enough into them, you can see your reflexion in it, naked, agile and glistening in his stink, no matter how clothed, stiff and anxious you are in your reality.

From childhood, women develop a seismonastic response to men’s touches, always subconsciously aware—where from the breeze, where to the breeze will settle. But no one trains women to function along with power. Denied these masculine spaces for so long, we developed neither a constitution of vigilance nor one of combat. So instead, we use our skills in bargaining to tolerate most forms of abuse for our greater good. Forced into an economic absurdity that requires the degradation of body and skill to earn our own life, one must also be comfortable with sexual degradation to afford pickle.

The greater evil comes not from the constant exploitation by our male friends and family.

Shrugging the outward expressions of lust and sexism to protect our livelihoods is the grunt work that forms the compensation of demanding paid labour. However, the greater evil comes not from the office or even from the streets—where our bigotry comforts us by relegating abusive tendency to slums populated by lower classes—but from the spontaneous and nonchalant exploitation by our male friends and family. Perhaps this is why #MeToo, albeit handicapped in its ability to unite women by the sheer limitedness of the internet’s reach in India, has gained so much narrative power.

With allies like these...

The motor has been turned on, the taps are open, it is only a matter of time before the gush drowns the cynics for good.

But wherever you will find women and men relating their trauma, you will find women and men annoyed by these public proclamations for bringing discomfort to their molester-friendly bubble; you will find women and men defending their resolute belief in the innocence of their favourite rapists and gropers; you will find women and men whose minds are so overproduced by Western feminist critical theory, they will deny heterosexual men a part in the narrative of abuse because what belongs to women, cannot simultaneously belong to men and other genders, too.

As if it is not disappointing that abuse is taken seriously only when we know the abused, somewhere in the constant flicker of stories told in two words or long recollections, radical gems such as ‘He needs help. Hopefully you can direct him towards it’ (Our duty to retrain abusers), ‘Stop with the hate and let’s be considerate for a change’ (Come on, girls! My molester mate simply didn’t know better.) and ‘Cis-men, stop co-opting #MeToo’ (No gender mixing) may devour what could be the beginning of real action.

There is a breed of men who think they are the real victims of their own reign of sexual predation.

The importance of #MeToo is not in the visibility of the abuse men and particularly women tolerate as a social duty to project a façade of civilization for those who would lynch us given enough motivations. There is a breed of women so angered by #MeToo, it seems to physically hurt their tender beings to listen to their friends recount the numerous ways the men they like are vile criminals. These ladies at one point would have been second or third in line to protest the most recent object forcefully rammed into a woman.

Then, we are met with a breed of men who have transformed themselves into the real victims of their own reign of sexual predation. For a gender so thoroughly invested in its own superiority and objectivity in all matters, spiritual and profane, today they have readily infantilized themselves to ward off any criticism of their behaviour, when it is prison sentences women should demand. Abusive men have been afforded enough mercy; this is the time to hold them in scorn.

The worst of the lot, though, are those politely chastising conservative or religious women telling tales of predation. Did you not know that rape culture is a by-product of karva chauth? Caught in the ecstasy of critical theory drugs, one must now undermine rape and molestation by noting conservative women’s obliviousness to the larger machinations of patriarchy.

Why must the abuse of one particular political group be deconstructed because it is averse to reading the latest in Simone D’Booboo. ‘Ah! Madam, I see you have been abused, but if you would have read the postcolonial deconstruction of the male gaze in a patriarchal dingleberry, you would have saved yourself a society that did not solely constitute of men of a predatory organisation!’

These are all the same “allies” who stand at townhouses to protest rape, yet perform a cognitive circus of exoneration that would burn the remnants of the Soviet circus to shame. It seems that some women are culpable in their own abuse, men are poor children that know not what equals molestation and still other women find that their filtered lives of pretentious fun and charades has been inconveniently darkened by the reminder of what their fathers, brothers, sons, husbands, boyfriends and best mates truly are—molesters.

Mercy for molesters

We do not need a French radical feminist or neoliberal American one to formulate the basic truths of our society. Harassment and molestation are social crimes, and have always been so. Men do not gain more from their obloquy or even hushed rumours, and they lose only little—we are a society more merciful towards criminal men than offended women. Mercy is our undoing, and it is done so with an understanding that men have a justifiable lust that is uncontrollable.

Molestation and rape, we are often told, is a game of power structures where there is always one traumatised loser and one satisfied winner. What we will refuse to acknowledge is that the men in our lives grope us, touch us, abuse us, mock us, objectify us and, finally, rape us because it is a pleasurable endeavour.

Men are truly sexual beings in a way women are not because they are allowed to own their sexuality.

Men are truly sexual beings in a way women are not because they are allowed to own their sexuality, and by extension, every “object” that can complement it, and objects don’t have voices, least of all a capacity to consent. If men are infantile, it is only in the sense that they seek sexual reward in the same way a baby seeks a teat, the only difference being that a baby is, for all purposes, stupid in the word’s truest sense.

First we are forced upon by men, then we are forced to out ourselves as survivors simply to prove the existence of abuse to sceptics, starting from our mothers to Facebook Geeta from some small-town hellhole in Jharkhand. Yet, we choose a myopic discourse on patriarchy rather than uncomfortable questions on sex and mercy.

It is safer to indulge in high critique of #MeToo and its limitations. Others will offer women an extra yard of cloth for protection, a few will offer us the incoherent ramblings of some culturally unimportant dead white woman, molesters will apologise to women by declaring themselves the greatest victims of social engineering, many more women will have broken themselves with self-inflicted cynicism (“Nothing will change!” also known as “Why bother going to the police?”), but no one will tell men Please be less sexual. Because you too.

First published: 25 October 2017, 14:02 IST