Tuesday, October 17, 2017
#MeToo : Tales of victimisation in real life as well as on internet
CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER
Way back in 2012 my sister gave me some Hollywood magazines which she was reading in her long flight to India. These are the tit-bits for any reader who would like to know what is happening with the lives of film stars and celebrities who mesmerise us on screen. I got to see how several film stars of West including Hollywood were affected by voyeurism by enthusiastic fans and profit making photographers. Indeed these fans and photographers may make huge money because of a huge group of consumers: the common cine lovers. Soon there was more news about celebrity hacks; their gym photos, private holiday photos, private moment photos, private bathing photos were leaked online and by the time one or two victims could get back to the police; the world knew about their private lives. The positive point to think over this issue is, several women film actors had taken such online privacy infringement seriously and either took the matter to the police or had filed law suits against gossip magazines or channels who unethically published their private photos or videos. I call this “positive” because these women had defied the common understanding that approaching the police or the courts for online harassment including sexual harassment like leaking of private photos or videos is nothing but publicity stunt. Unfortunately in India several female film stars including upcoming film stars or serial actors also fall prey to the same sort of victimisation and when they turn towards the police or the courts, many a times, it is seen as publicity stunt: not to forget, their Western counter parts also do go through the same. But at the same time, I have not found many Indian women film stars and serial actors who took the matters of online sexual victimisation as seriously as their Western counter parts ( I addressed this issue in my article “Celebrities and cyber crimes: An analysis of the victimisation of female film stars on the internet” http://www.doiserbia.nb.rs/img/doi/1450-6637/2016/1450-66371604355H.pdf ).
But women actors may be the most ‘exploited’ species among working women: consider the blunt, straight forward speech of Madona during Woman of the year award in 2016. Social media channels were flooded with comments, emogies and thumbs ups praising her for boldly expressing how she had been sexually violated in real life and how she continues to be violated online at present. Why she had to be the victim of sexual violation? Apparently it is because of the presence of ‘God fathers’ in the workplace who may coerce the women to enter into a non-consensual sexual relationship which would ensure continuous job protection. For the last couple of days, several female actors from Hollywood have started protesting against such sexual exploitation with #metoo . The campaign had been so strong and viral that it has touched almost all continents and millions of women who may have been sexually victimised or violated either by way of penetrative sexual assault or by non-penetrative sexual assault or by sexual harassment in workplaces, public places as well as in their homes, have opened up about their victimisation.
India has also been touched by #MeToo campaign. Several women have expressed their solidarity by pasting on their time line the following lines:"Me too... If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me Too' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Please copy/paste.". This was originally shared by actress Alyssa Milano and others as a protest against sexual victimisation by Harvey Weinstein, a noted producer-distributor who had been ousted from Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on 15th October, 2017.
Most of my 900 friends on Facebook who had been sporting #MeToo in their profile time lines for past 72 hours had been sharing several forms of victimisation; most common is definitely sexual gazing at public places and work places. I had posted in my time line about online sexist comments and pornographic stuff including misogynist posts which I often get to see in my message box (thanks to continuous privacy ‘tactics’ that I practice for my Twitter and Facebook timelines, I do not get to see such violating and victimising stuff in my time-line except on rare occasions). Several of my friends and acquaintances have simply shared the “metoo” message to show their solidarity with the cause, which I am sure, has definitely affected them, but they may not be feeling comfortable to openly express the same. Two posts however have actually attracted my attention even though they do not speak about cyber sexual victimisation or workplace victimisation : one by Sauranshu Sinha from Delhi and the other by Dr. Kalki Subramaniam from Pondicherry. The latter, a transgender activist and a trans-woman herself wrote a poignant note using #metoo. A part of her message (which is open for public) reads as follows “.........................................Around the world, every transgender woman, and in India almost every cis/transwoman goes through this brutal, uncouth, insensible torture. No more can they do it to me today. I stand tall and strong. Yet, i must say I was a victim too.”
Sinha is the first man I noticed who wrote about his experience of being sexually violated when he was a 6th standard student. A part of his message (which is open for public viewing) using #metoo stated that while he was travelling in a bus, a man touched him inappropriately and opened his zip to show Sinha his private parts (translated from Bengali). Sinha was a victim of sexual exploitation as a young boy who shared his solidarity with #metoo.
I know several of my friends, women and men who did not share their own experiences or neither shared #metoo, would have been victims themselves at one or other point of time. There are several individuals who may probably never understand that even comments like “hi sexy” or “wanna talk, reply back” may also be victimising especially when the receiver feels insulted, hurt, alarmed or feels his/her modesty has been harmed. There are several victims of online sexual harassment who may never speak up about their bitter experiences due to fear of more exposure. Thousands of women may remain silent even when their friends are marching along with #metoo to expose the sorts of victimisation they had gone through and alert the society. Yet, I welcome #metoo campaigners. When people dare to share, there remain positive chances for the policy makers and law-makers to executors to note the pain. Let us hope that #metoo brings a change not only in the mindsets of people, but also in the process of implementation of laws. We need to understand that women who had been victimised and turned up to share their experiences, should get due protection and respect from all of us. Let us unite to defy sexist misogynist trolls from making #metoo and all of us victims again.
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