A Mother’s Nightmare and #MeToo Movement
It all began last year when my Facebook wall was full of #MeToo posts. I kept reading the stories and realized that it was a movement against sexual harassment and assault. Dabbling in to this movement on the internet revealed, Tarana Burke created a non-profit organisation ‘Just be Inc’ in 2016, in US to help victims of sexual harassment and assault.
A small step soon arrived big at a global scale.
Thousands of women around the world have stormed social media with the hash tag #MeToo along with their sexual harassment stories/allegations. Actresses from Hollywood to Bollywood have spoken against sexism that exists in their own part of the world. The film industry has already earned an ill repute because of the issues of casting couch and sexual exploitation, not to forget the mention of the latest controversy created by Saroj Khan.
This is my #meToo story
#MeToo and the related narratives about casting couch transported me back to 1984/85 when I aspired to join National School Of Drama, Delhi. This dream wasn’t dreamy for my association with stage and performing arts went back to my childhood and I had won a few Best Actress awards also in Youth Festivals. However, even though I tried my best to secure my admission in NSD, I failed as I never got a call for interview.
Many years later, after my marriage, my parents informed me that they never posted my admission form as they were scared of the ill repute of industry and more than that they were afraid of my ambition to be the best at any cost. Well, I think they misinterpreted ‘at any cost’. I was shaken and shattered as I had entrusted my form submission with my parents because I was busy writing my exams. They broke my trust and that is why, later when I got selected for All India Radio, as Transmission Executive, I informed my parents about it only after getting the interview call. I didn’t want to take any chances this time as my parents wanted me to go for IAS or at least State Administrative Service, in place of any other “petty appointments”. Not their fault as this was very typical of educated parents of 1980’s.
The Big Bad World
Not letting me go for my dream of theater world, was indeed their way to keep their daughter safe from the ‘big bad world’ but what about the worse world that was all around me all the time as family and friends?
This takes me back to my 10 year old self. My mother, sister, a family friend’s teen aged daughter and I were taking this overnight bus ride to Delhi. I was made to sit with one of the ‘most decent boys’ my parents had ever known. Taking advantage of his good reputation, this so-called decent boy kept groping me. Despite hinting about the discomfort, my family could not understand my situation. This now, reminds me of that family reunion where one of the ‘uncle’ tried to fondle me while I was asleep at night?
Our indian families and the society suffers from a bipolar character solely branding issues as ‘black or white’.
For the most of us, ‘grey’ doesn’t exist. We howl and yell with the global outrage but prefer to hibernate when it concerns our own family. Strangely, we Indians, look at such incidents as isolated incidents or just bad moments, without realizing their impact. I could not shout out loud at that age, but somewhere in my being, I did loose faith in men. Thanks to my #MeToo experiences, I didn’t let any male hands touch my little daughter. I was always like her shadow, moving everywhere with her.
The day I saw #MeToo sprawled all over my Facebook wall, I almost wrote my #MeToo story. However, I decided to delete my comment. I still don’t know why? Instead, I went to my daughter and asked her if she had seen that #Me Too. “Oh Yes! My school mates commenting #MeToo is surprising!”, she replied.
I shuddered when I heard the names she mentioned for all these girls had very involved and informed parents. I sheepishly asked her, “What about you? Are you not going to write your story?”. This was the best way I could know if even she had been a victim of sexual abuse.
She looked at me and said, “Very strangely Mumma, I have no such experience to share with this #MeToo. I think you over protected me.”
Huff! I almost choked.
What a moment it was; a moment of relief, a moment of calm, a moment of victory and liberation as a mother and a woman. In that moment, apprehensions about my ‘over-protective’ parenting stood vindicated by this #MeToo movement.
The world out there hasn’t changed much but I am happy that I brought the change within my family. I cannot change the world but I protected my daughter’s childhood. Violence against women continues, sexual assault of women continues, the conviction rates are still low, reporting is still low but if we are careful about our own little world for our daughters (read sons too), we are helping reduce a few #MeToo stories.
Save your girls from becoming another #MeToo narrative.