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Has #MeToo lost focus?

Earlier this week, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children marched across the US in the ‘Women’s March’ to highlight the need for women to be represented and treated fairly in all walks of life. But even as the #MeToo and ‘Time’s Up’ campaigns pick up momentum, the movement has received criticism, being called everything from a ‘witch-hunt’ to turning awkward interaction into harassment. Has the #MeToo campaign lost its focus? Gulf News readers debate.

  • Luis Vazquez/©Gulf News
    Image Credit: Luis Vazquez/©Gulf News
  • Luis Vazquez/©Gulf News
    Dheeraj Ramchandani, Marketing and communications professional living in Sydney, AustraliaImage Credit: Supplied
  • Luis Vazquez/©Gulf News
    Rehan Khalid, Events manager living in DubaiImage Credit: Supplied
  • Luis Vazquez/©Gulf News
    Dr Shannon Dea, Associate professor of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo in Canada, whereshe teaches Image Credit: Supplied
  • Luis Vazquez/©Gulf News
    Aroushi Malhotra, Psychology and management graduate living in DubaiImage Credit: Supplied
Gulf News

Both sides

Campaign has enabled suppressed stories to surface

Lending a unified voice to abuse victims, the #MeToo campaign draws force from the power of its simplicity. The social sharing phenomenon has enabled suppressed stories to surface bypassing all existing broken structures – social, cultural and legal – to bring violators out in the open. This unprecedented awakening has been long overdue.

In the course of this conversation, we have seen accusers being questioned about their motives and the movement itself termed a ‘witch-hunt’. There may be cases that are built on alternative motives, but this should not lessen the importance of the movement in its entirety. The voicing of abuse must be taken seriously, at every instance, just as the legal system - which is relied upon to validate or negate these claims - would demand defendants be kept ‘innocent until proven guilty’.

I have personally witnessed both sides of the coin – a close friend who confided in me about an abuse experienced (and did not report or speak of it to others), and an another who was falsely accused (and rightly proven after a lengthy legal battle) of assault. The bottom line is that there are real victims on both sides.

The #MeToo campaign has merely unveiled the tip of an iceberg, and it is bound to see some cracks – victims will be questioned, and stories will be doubted. At its core however, this movement’s heart and focus are exactly where it needs to be, simply and powerfully making way for these vital stories and courageous voices to be heard.

From Mr Dheeraj Ramchandani

Marketing and communications professional living in Sydney, Australia

Time’s Up

This will have an effect on industries beyong Hollywood.

I understand the criticism that people have of the #MeToo campaign when they say that sexual assault and harassment shouldn’t be grouped together, but we also should not dismiss the allegations that are coming out because people feel harassed and it represents the pain that people have endured. At the same time the campaign is also empowering as it allows them to speak out about their experiences. We feel vulnerable when both happen, so you can’t dismiss sexual harassment as less serious than sexual assault.

When people come out and claim that they have been assaulted and harassed, it is true most of the times but I am also not dismissing the fact that there can be people who would want to misuse it to tarnish someone’s image. So, there should be a clear process followed and evidence viewed if possible, to verify the claims and allegations.

With Woody Allen or Harvey Weinstein, though, because they were famous and in the limelight, when the ‘Time’s Up’ campaign was launched there was not a lot of time for people to verify the allegations. That does not mean that they were innocent but I think it is important to verify claims. Things become complicated with technology and the media, because they want to get the story out as soon as possible. The just process, on the other hand, takes time for obvious reasons.

When I saw the Golden Globes Award ceremony earlier this month and watched all the people who spoke out and stood up against sexual harassment, I really felt that the ‘Time’s Up’ campaign has the capacity to revolutionise not just the Hollywood industry but industries worldwide.

From Ms Aroushi Malhotra

Psychology and management graduate living in Dubai

Mistrust

Social media is not the platform to deal with these issues

The reason why I did not follow #MeToo too closely was because it was limited to those who were on social media. How many campaigns are conducted on the internet but do not reach those who are uneducated or disconnected from social media? For example, the incident of the eight-year-old girl Zainab Ansari that happened earlier this month in Pakistan took the whole country by storm.

There was such a big media uproar, people came out in support and created hashtags. Then what happened? It died out in two weeks. The authorities didn’t do anything. The social media influencers did try to raise awareness but that was just through ‘likes’ on their own accounts. I feel like nobody is out there to take any action at the bigger level.

I do agree that social media has power but it is still limited in its influence – if you want a brand to be boosted, yes social media can help. But when it comes to justice, when it comes to sensitive topics of this nature, I don’t think social media has the power to create that change. If somebody wants to get up and make that change within their community or district, that will probably have a bigger impact. Instead, if I write a blog on the Zainab rape case, for example, and post it on social media, what am I going to get? Ten people will ‘Like’ it and two others might share it. But what is the bigger impact? I think social media is not the platform where these issues can be effectively dealt with.

More so, if you look at the judicial system in the subcontinent, for example, regardless of the social media uproar and the campaigns that try to create an awakening, there isn’t really any change seen on the ground level. Unless the authorities rectify themselves and the system is changed right from the bottom up, no real change will happen. From Mr Rehan Khalid

Events manager living in Dubai

Change

The awakening has changed the conversation. The question is what are we going to do about it?

I think it’s too soon to say whether we have entered a new phase of the #MeToo movement. When Tarana Burke created the movement in 2007, her goal was to let young women, especially young women of colour, know they are not alone. Burke created the movement not to “out” harassers but to start a conversation among women and to promote healing among survivors.

One of the interesting things that has emerged from Hollywood actor Aziz Ansari case is that the conversation Burke started has now moved beyond harassment and assault to focus on broader issues of consent within the intimate context. I’ve seen powerful reflections on the case that say, “Look, every sexually active woman has had experiences like those described by Grace (Ansari’s accuser - her name was changed for privacy reasons) – experiences of having to decide what to do when a partner puts pressure on you, and doesn’t pay enough attention to verbal and non-verbal cues that you’re not into it.” Now, what are we going to do about it?

It’s clear from the reaction to the Ansari case that men and women in general often have very different perceptions of what’s going on in many sexual encounters. I hope that the current conversation helps us move beyond a place where it’s still normal for men to push. When I was in my 20s, the rule was “no means no”. I think we need to do better than that. The question should not merely be “has my partner declined?” but rather “is my partner enthusiastic about ... me?”

Some people have been asking whether #MeToo is fair to men. I would ask instead whether it’s fair to women that we have for so long had to live and work in environments in which a lot of men felt like they had some entitlement to our bodies and affections. The social, emotional, and professional costs for women of occupying that context have been enormous. Change is long overdue.

However, it’s important to remember that men like Ansari have messed up because they were socialised in a system that tells them it’s okay to push. While I think the focus should be on women – on survivors – I hope that the #MeToo movement evolves to a point where we can contemplate redemption for men like Aziz Ansari. We should focus on ways for all of us – men and women – to do better.

From Dr Shannon Dea

Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo in Canada, in which capacity she teaches and researches about gender and feminism

— Compiled by Huda Tabrez/Community Web Editor

Gulf News asked: Has the #MeToo movement lost focus?

Yes

No

Have Your Say

Do you think the #MeToo movement has lost focus? How do you see the renewed conversation affecting the way people perceive harassment and imbalance in relationships? Do you think it is forcing men and women to change their own behvaiour in relationships? Write to us at readers@gulfnews.com

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