Written by Apoorva Bapna
I have been reading a lot on #MeToo since this became the most trending topic on Twitter. Unfortunately, it caught the attention only when it went to social media, when so many accomplished women brought out sexual harassment stories of their past to the forefront.
Technology has been the single-most contributor to the empowerment of women and more so in the urban areas. In a world, where speaking about many topics is considered a taboo even today, sexual harassment being one of them, technology has almost given them wings to fly — to express opinions blatantly or anonymously.
Harassment has always been rampant and, in fact, starts at home. Nine out of 10 women would have been harassed in their personal lives much before they stepped into the professional world. A decade ago one didn’t even know what harassment meant. If you did, could you muster the courage to speak up? Could you speak to your own family members? Not really.
Even if you did, you were told to ignore and to be “careful” in future. Careful of what? Like, don’t come in front of that sick uncle who saw you as nothing but an object of his lust. Or stop learning music from a teacher who touched you in places which he should not have.
We live in a world where women are and will be subjected to this kind of treatment and such movements will come and go without changing much. Have rapes stopped after the Nirbhaya incident? The civil society made so much noise, the government machinery got into action and stricter laws were passed. But what happened? Every day a girl or a woman is still raped, assaulted or ill-treated. And so many of these incidents take place at home and not outside.
If we want to create a better world where women feel absolutely safe, men truly and genuinely respect every human irrespective of the gender and there is equality in its truest sense, we need to teach men to respect women. And women to respect women. And this can’t be taught when you have grown up, entered the professional world. It needs to start from the day the child is born. The sense of equality needs to be ingrained right from the beginning. It needs to start at home. Girls and boys should be taught everything — a boy should know how to work in a kitchen just as a girl should be interested in sports.
Today gender diversity at the workplace is a boardroom discussion topic and every leader wants to drive this agenda. We know an organisation’s sustained success is a function of how diverse the leadership team is and this has been proven and validated by many reports generated by the McKinseys of the world. But before it becomes a boardroom agenda, it must become every home’s agenda to create an inclusive family where everyone is treated equally, everyone’s point of views are respected equally and children are given equal opportunity to make decisions about the life they want to lead, whether it’s a son or a daughter.
I write this after having gone through a divorce which was my decision. It took me three years to convince my family that I needed to move on for my sanity. It wasn’t easy, but it finally happened. Even today, I am reminded of my decision and that I should have compromised or I was too assertive or I did not look after my husband well enough.
I don’t CARE. For once I chose to be selfish for me and my daughter’s sake. I was clear, I did not want her to grow up in a house where all she would see were two unhappy, distant parents. She would grow up to either hate men or marriage or both.
So while the #MeToo campaign is good if it is genuine and helps shame the men who need to be, but what we really need is a #WeToo campaign to make this world more equal, where there is genuine respect for everyone, laws that truly protect and create a sense of fear and strong set of values which helps in building a strong civil society.
It is easy to always blame “someone else” — like the system/the law/the government, but movement to create equality should begin at home, instil the right values in both the son and daughter and create a sense of respect for humans.
And then the world will surely become a better place to be.