He Who Must Not Be Named or Shamed

In the fantasy series of Harry Potter, Lord Voldemort was the main antagonist who chose evil means to become the supreme ruler. The Dark Lord's terror was so widespread that people were too scared to take his name.

Harvey Weinstein was the Dark Lord of Hollywood. His power and influence trumped that of many A-list actresses. There were hushed whispers of ‘You-Know-Who’ all along in Hollywood but fearing the worst, they all protected ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’.  

Now young Harry Potter bravely took Voldemort's name because Dumbledore had wisely advised him, "Call him Voldemort, Harry...Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself."  

Just like Harry, a few brave women decided to end Harvey Weinstein's reign of terror. They decided enough was enough and raised their voice against the sexual harassment they were subjected to by the movie mogul. 

In a span of a few months over 50 women came forward made allegations against Weinstein. And he was taken to taskHis membership at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was revoked. His company TWC is facing bankruptcy and his wife left him.

Some more powerful names are facing sexual harassment allegations in Hollywood today. But did the world pay attention only because celebrities were complaining of abuse? I think so.  

Was the #MeToo campaign pointless? 

Following the Harvey Weinstein scandal, Actress Alyssa Milano wrote a call-out on Twitter asking followers to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault using the phrase “Me too.” But she was not the who created the campaign. The campaign was started 10 years ago by a Black woman! Tarana Burke is the original creator of the #MeToo campaign. It was to be a catchphrase of solidarity.

It took 10 years and social media for the #MeToo movement to reach the women across the world. So many women publicly claimed that they were abused.  Many abused women were too scared to join it. And yet the campaign did validate the severity of the issue. 

But what happened after they said #MeToo? Nothing really. For most women the campaign was a toothless revolution.

There is no robust system to name the abuser

All the sexual offenders who have threatened their victims of severe consequences in case they confess to anything, are abusing someone else today. That's the scary truth. They are just as scared of the society's reactions as much as they are of the abuser's power. And where's the support?!

Do our HR/ Sexual Harassment teams have the power to overthrow their CEO for Sexual Harassment? Unlikely given the loss of reputation that the company would have to deal with. It's not that women don't have faith in the legal system or the police. But can they be assured of a closure?

No. The system as it stand today needs to get tighter.

We need to shift the focus from the victim to the abuser

I think that the only way a sexual offender can be taken to task is for him to be publicly shamed. If only we had had a #HeToo campaign! Some efforts have made an effort to do so. 

In early January, Moira Donegan, a former New Republic editor,  came forward as the creator of a crowd sourced “Shitty Media Men” list. The Google spreadsheet was a collection of names of men in magazines and publishing who were  known to be sexual predators. The list was meant to be a private document with the aim of women warning other women. It was a safe means for women to finally name those who had violated them. In a matter of hours, the document reached far and wide and became public. Even though Donegan didn't intend it, some names that appeared in the sheet were investigated by their employers resulting in their resignations or their removal!

Of course Donegan faced a lot of criticism for her approach and many questioned the validity of the names. But what other option was available! Donegan was not the only person to start these anonymous spreadsheets. There were others. The gender pay gap at Google was revealed via a spreadsheet! In the absence of faith in formal channels, women shall continue to choose anonymous means to express their distress against sexual harassment and other forms of gender discrimination.

It is not a Women Vs Men war

Sexual abuse must be looked down upon by everyone. Not just women.

In an earlier blog postI wrote about how in a video. female comedian, Aditi Mittal spoke of a horrible incident of sexism at a discussion with fellow comedians Daniel Fernandes and Karunesh. She however refrained from taking his name. Karunesh did. Other men showed their support by posting positive comments to the video. 

In Aditi's case, the perpetrator was an influential person in the comic community. And yet Karunesh did the right thing by calling him out. It not only frees Aditi from any pressure, it also sends a warning signal to other men. If you know of someone who abuses his power to violate a woman around you, it is your duty to raise your voice. 

It's simple really. When you get hurt, you need someone to support you and take you to the doctor right? Well so many women are hurt! Who is up for supporting them? Men out there…speak out, please! You cannot keep quiet until something unspeakable happens to your mother, sister, daughter or friend! In the words of comedian and activist Nick Jack Pappas: “Men, Don’t say you have a mother, a sister, a daughter… Say you have a father, a brother, a son who can do better. We all can.”

Taking you back to Harry Potter to where Dumbledore displayed his sagacity:

"I say to you all, once again -- in the light of Lord Voldemort's return, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort's gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. It is my belief -- and never have I so hoped that I am mistaken -- that we are all facing dark and difficult times."

Dumbledore I am sure was a feminist.  Because, his advice is also relevant in the fight against sexual harassment. The only way to stand up to sexual harassment is for men and women across the world to form a  united front. Time's Up. We must all get together and create our own 'Order of the Phoenix' and defeat the Dark Lords in the real world. We need to take the first steps to a better future.

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