The hashtag is only half the fight
What’s the point?
I’ll put up a status on how someone molested me, keep checking my notifications every minute, and bank on the support provided by my peers.
I’ll be showered with condolences and tips on how to get back at my molesters. I will thank my supporters from the core of my heart.
But what change does it really bring?
Instead, the horrendous moments will flash before my eyes. Imagining people visualise how someone violated the privacy of my body, I’ll pray I shrink into a paperweight, unnoticeable and long-forgotten.
My mom will still make me change from a t-shirt into a kameez every time I leave my house. My father will continue to call me every few hours to ask: “Do you need more money? The CNG is safer than the bus.” I’ll secretly laugh at the delusion he lives in.
I’ll continue to withdraw myself from social gatherings because, well, who will ever believe me? The dirty face that only I have seen is the charismatic face that wins hearts at parties.
And when there is a family occasion, I’ll say I have work just so that I can avoid his eyes. Confident and supposedly pious, he is the father of a baby girl.
But it’s not just him. He comes in numbers. He comes in different ages. He is everywhere.
But hey. On the brighter side, I don’t have to be the centre of gossip. The stares! Oh, those stares can leave me. Instead of following me even when I struggle to go back to sleep after waking up from a nightmare.
The consequences of not speaking up are indeed far more quiet and convenient, and that’s what we as a society have always striven for.
I sound absolutely pessimistic. You are probably thinking I hate social media trends.
I don’t. I celebrate them.
A few years ago, it was probably unimaginable for someone to speak up. My heart leaps for joy seeing sexual assault survivors break the collective silence.
If you see women not posting #MeToo, chances are they’ve still been harassed, but feel silenced by a society that tends to punish her
The posts remind me that without these expressions, perpetrators continue to control information and disguise reality to make it appear as the fantasy they want it to be.
When I see the hashtag, I wish to envision a free, dynamic society, a breeding ground for new ideas. Unhindered speech is a safeguard against the abuse of power, especially when you realise sexual assault has everything to do with power and domination.
We are allowing an establishment of truth, because there is no cognitive dissonance in truth.
However, it also saddens me to think that we have to rely on the huge number of #MeToo statuses to understand the gravity of the problem.
I am surprised that the number is meant to come off as a shock to you. If you see women not posting #MeToo, chances are they’ve still been harassed, but feel silenced by a society that tends to punish her but not the harasser.
Let’s also remember our men. They are victims of sexual assault as much as women are. They go through anger, anxiety, fear, confusion, self-blame, depression, and suicidal thoughts just like all gender identity survivors do.
Without a culturally-approved outlet for their feelings, the stifling of emotions has led generations of men to unhealthy coping mechanisms and toxic masculinity. We are in this together, fighting the same fight — the fight against patriarchy.
The hashtag is out there, and you can already fathom the magnitude of the problem. What do you plan to do after liking and sharing the posts?
You and I can turn this game around.
Let this hashtag not just be a hashtag for those who can afford to be on social media. Let’s spread our roots so that whenever someone speaks up, we are there to support them. We shall not comfort them with lies, but break the news that what happened to them was wrong.
We will be there when they meet the eyes of their perpetrators after several years. We will hold them when the memories break them once again.
Otherwise, the work is half done. I’d rather continue living the life I have led for the last 15 years, convincing myself it was not what I thought it was.
Myat Moe Khaing is a Sub-Editor at the Dhaka Tribune.