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The #MeToo Movement and the Ephemeral Flash of Change

In October 2017, the world witnessed a new milestone in female empowerment as one voice acted as the catalyst for all those that had been suppressed by patriarchal power dynamics for a very long time. A spark started by activist Tarana Brooke soon turned into a raging fire on social media under the hashtag ‘Me Too,’ an umbrella term that turned into a space for victims to speak up and own their narratives. In the flash of an eye, the courage of one woman who spoke up about her experience of sexual assault translated into an international movement that brought down several men from their positions of power and privilege. While the #MeToo movement definitely played a role in shifting the power dynamics and paying attention to the victim’s side of the story, the question still remains as to whether the movement has been effective in holding the perpetrators of violence against women accountable for their crimes or whether the initial blaze faded away after the moment of sensationalism passed. 


 


WHAT CHANGED WITH #MeToo


Every change starts with a small step of courage. In that regard, #MeToo indeed was substantial in creating a space for discourse on sexual assault. We cannot dismiss the significance of this space created by the movement because prior to this, the perpetrators of sexual violence were let off the hook quite easily, thanks to patriarchy and its ability to put the onus of the crime onto the victims. Women often kept quiet in fear of the society that turned a deaf ear to their side of the story. Because speaking their truth involved more than just owning their narrative. It involved the perilous effect of shaking the foundations of privilege, and by default, disturbing the status quo.


This plight changed with #MeToo - the movement facilitated a crucial readjustment of focus, thereby throwing light on the realities and experiences of victims of violence. As Dr. Denis Mukwege stated, “I think only when we can shift the shame from the victims to perpetrators, the change will start there.” In short, #MeToo added a filter of truth. 


 


A MOMENTOUS CHANGE OR CHANGE FOR A MOMENT?


#MeToo shook social media and society for quite some time. However, the question we need to ask ourselves is whether the movement was just fiction that seemed real for a sensational moment. In retrospect, the #MeToo movement started on social media, which raises the question of inclusivity. While social media is a useful tool for creating awareness and space for discourse, it is limited to those who have digital access. If this is the case, what about the stories of women in places without internet access? Does this mean that #MeToo failed with regard to inclusivity? Change becomes complete only when it touches different sections of society.


In addition to this, there is the herculean task of translating discourse into actions. What is the point of change if the accused were reinstated to their previous positions after the initial wave of sensationalism passed? Why are victims still blamed for the abuse they suffered while the perpetrators walk free, devoid of any accountability and responsibility? All these questions are proof of the fact that consent and agency are still alien aspects for people, with many having the audacity to state that the “lives of the accused are also ruined.”


To sum up, while #MeToo has the potential to effect change, it is often hindered by the limitations of access and the invalidation of experiences of women. We still have a long way to go and several layers of conditioning to break before we can reach a point where the space created by the movement becomes synonymous with momentous change. 


 


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Tags: #women #change #empowerment #metoo



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