We have all been familiarized with the hashtag, #metoo, in the recent past. Whether you agree with the stories that are being shared on the internet or not, you cannot deny that the force with which this hashtag has arrived in our lives today is nothing short of admirable.
Whenever a social revolution takes place, there are always some people who support the change, and there are some people who do not. However, this revolution brought a different nuance to our faces. The nuance of uncertainty. Uncertainty about:
a) What is sexual harassment?
b) What is acceptable behavior, and what is not?
c) Am I contributing to the failure of security of a certain being?
d) Am I being sexually harassed, or am I overreacting?
There have been internet memes like, “Aaj ki Sweetu can be kal ki #metoo” (Today’s sweetheart can tomorrow be #MeToo campaigner). Which might also be an opinion of some depending on how they look at the campaign. Nevertheless, a deeper look is what changes the dynamics.
A deeper look into our lives and our society, mirrors how we end up trivializing every important instance of change.
This phrase, “Aaj ki Sweetu can be kal ki #metoo,” only throws light on how normalized harassment is in our society. It’s thrown very often with a laughter that boys will be boys, and a girl’s no has a yes masked within it. As we know, it’s not a joke. It never was. The damage such statements have done is irreparable.
Sweetu here is someone who is in a consensual relationship with you, when you have consented in a relationship, whether or not it is approved by the society.
For instance, Sweetu and you enjoy casual sex together. While your Mummy will tell you it is not alright to be doing it, as long as Sweetu and you are two consenting adults who enjoy sex with each other, nothing that can be pointed here is incorrect, keeping aside your personal matters with Mummy.
However, if today’s Sweetu is not consenting to have sex with you tomorrow even if you are married, and you have been taught to believe that marriage is the key to unlock the door of sex, and you force her to have it, it is incorrect, least to say.
As complicated as these two notions have been made into, by numerous popular fiction ideas, the concept behind it is very very simple. The concept of Consent.
What is consent? It means to be willing to do something and agreeing to it. Anything. Whatever you desire to do. Whatever you desire to be. It all just comes down to having an agreement.
Is it okay if I desire to do something today, but a year from now I may not want to do it? The answer is Yes.
Humans are psychological and social beings. You may come across a cute guy or girl at work, and flirt with them. They reciprocate and you go on a few dates together. You start to like each other, until one day something ticks you off and you are not into them anymore, and you end things there.
The only bad taste of such a relationship should be at the most a little bit of social awkwardness between the two individuals. But if it leads to one of them thinking that they somehow own the other in some capacity because of what conspired between them a few weeks ago is where you are wrong and you need to stop. Because if you do not, Sweetu is most likely to become #metoo for you.
Complimenting a friend on their haircut is not sexual harassment. Complimenting someone in a manner that makes them uncomfortable probably is.
The very statement that some of us are unable to differentiate between the two is what alarms us about the state we are living in today. It just shows us, as I read somewhere and could not agree more, “People are angrier at imperfect feminism than they are at systematic misogyny.”
Our lack of judgement when it comes to consent has created a very systematic form of misogyny in society. We have been unable to teach our boys and girls what is acceptable and what is not. And it all begins from the simple notion of consent. Something that we, as families, as a society, fail to teach our kids, especially boys.
People need to get it that a ‘no’ simply means ‘no’, there’s no other side to it. And need to understand two basic concepts, a) Consent b) Non-Interference
Consent for everything, right from financial to emotional. In every relationship, whether it is between a parent and a child, a group of friends, a couple, two siblings etc, consent is always the key to make it work correctly.
If an individual does not wish to do something, you don’t need to force them to do it. It can be something as simple as letting your child pick their own clothes or letting your partner pick their own way to spend the weekend.
The second concept is of non-interference. Letting people be who they wish to be. Letting them choose their own paths, their own careers, their own sexual orientation, partners, etc.
When we, as a family, practice this with our children, we teach them not only independence but also ownership.
Ownership of their actions and of what they choose in life. And how the repercussions of their decisions affect them and those around them.
Two very basic concepts that can lead to a humongous change in the dynamics of society.
If you go through the numerous stories of #metoo victims and perpetrators, you will realize that the issue deeply roots to the violation of consent. Consent is what unfortunately runs from pillar to post in our lives. In every aspect, financial, emotional or physical, consent forms the thin line that makes a story a #metoo story.
When we allow simple acts of choice to another person, we set things in motion, and in turn, contribute to their understanding of consent.
Consent is the word that can lead us out of this horrible mess we have put ourselves and others into. And those who understand consent, never have to worry about turning their Sweetu into #MeToo.
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