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Post-MJ Akbar resignation: #MeToo movement and fears of backlash

By Sheshu Babu*
For the last few days, #MeToo movement has picked up momentum and many women are coming out with horrific tales of severe harassment in their past lives. They are not afraid anymore to expose famous persons including those at ministerial levels. As a senior journalist Neeraja Chowdhury opined (“An exit, a beginning”, October 18, 2018, indianexpress.com), "The #MeToo revelations are like the eruption of a volcano which was imminent, given the journey working women have covered. It was not easy to make public what they had gone through,and take on powerful men.”
Thus, a government which 'distanced' itself from the controversy surrounding the minister MJ Akbar for nearly ten days, had to face the heat of public criticism. Ultimately, he had to resign from the post.
Though the movement is gaining in strength in its goal of projecting extent of harassment by dominant male, the patriarchal order entrenched in society is retaliating with force almost equally.
In an interview, Shatrughan Sinha said, “This #MeToo campaign is being blown out of proportions” (October 18, 2018, indianexpress.com). He also said that the problem of sexual exploitation doesn't end with some names being put out in the social media. Opposition to the movement from male is, thus, growing.

Backlash fears

Some women have also become sceptical. French actress Catherine Deneuve was one of the signatories to an open letter from 100 women that suggested that the movement had gone too far and was risking infantilizing women and denying them agency and becoming puritanical. The letter suggested that the movement seemed to be condemning even flirtatious behaviour (Backlash to the #MeeToo movement, freethoughtblogs.com).
 Another author Margaret Atwood has sparked controversy after writing an op-ed titled 'Am I a bad feminist?'in The Toronto Globe and the Mail voicing concerns about the direction that she saw the #MeToo movement as heading towards . These indicate that some opponents may try to weaken the movement.
As Neeraja Chowdhury says, “Yes, there is the potential for the misuse of #MeToo. Anyone can level a charge against anyone on the social media and dent a reputation - to fix a political opponent, to get back at some one who ' wronged' the woman, not necessarily sexually, but by pulling her up or by not giving her the break she was looking for, etc.”
But any law or effort has potential for some misuse. The problems should be addressed as they crop up and safeguards must be put in place. “The #MeToo movement is a direct response to a system that has punished victims, rather than the perpetrators, for coming forward, writes Liesl Gerntholz, Executive Director, Womens Rights Division, Human Rights Watch (January 29, 2018, “Beware The ##MeToo Backlash – It Masks Ugly Lies about Women”, www.hrw.org). 

The future

The answers to fairness and proportionality concerns lie, in not discrediting victims and their undermining their complaints. The workplace must put in place fair and transparent procedures to receive, investigate and respond to allegations of sexual abuse and harassment.
Change is often difficult, and when it's personal, it can be downright stinging, says Michael Cohen (“Backlash against MeToo movement is unjustified”, February,19, 2018, thestar.com). This movement has made the vulnerable women speak out against the rules and centuries of exploitation.
It has given daughters to openly express their experiences of abuses to their fathers and also oppose their fathers if they are found to be charged with sexual harassment, as Nandita Das pledging support to MeToo, despite allegations on her father Jatin Das, as posted on her Facebook (October 17, 2018, kracktivist.org). He is noted painter. This speaks volumes on the impact of the movement.
Hence, the movement can achieve a lot in future.
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*Writer from anywhere and everywhere supports equality for all

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