Listen & Rethink: A Personal Checklist To Navigate A #MeToo Moment
It’s easy to get lost in the middle of a churn. The last week has been devastating, confusing and liberating in turns. I have had countless conversations with friends, family and colleagues on the allegations and apologies which have come out as a part of India’s #MeToo moment. (Not the first reckoning; it all started with Raya Sarkar’s List). And a common thread among all these conversations is – what do we do?
How do I respond to a woman telling her story of harassment? And what do I say to a man who has been outed? So, I’ve tried to make a checklist of what I believe is the most suitable way to conduct myself – if or when I find myself in such a situation.
This is by no means a suit-all formula, nor is it meant to be prescriptive or offer a legal solution – it’s just a road map for myself to navigate the chaos that faces us; and if it’s useful for anyone else, then it’ll be a deed well done.
As a Survivor
Whether I choose to tell my story – anonymously or not – the choice remains with me. As a survivor of sexual harassment, my mental health must be paramount. If that means switching off from the trolls and the “why didn't you complain earlier” arguments for a bit, then that’s fine. I’d assess whether I want to file a legal complaint or go the route of “due process”, but either way, it should be my decision. In fact, I should ideally protect myself from further harassment by my abuser by surrounding myself with friends and family. I’d always remind myself that harassment is not my shame to carry. Also, long walks and donuts (or any other form of self-care) would greatly help.
As an Outed Abuser
An apology is the first step, but it means nothing if it’s not accompanied by a genuine realisation of the effect of one’s behaviour. Empathy is important. I’d be open to whatever repercussions (legal or otherwise) come my way. However, I won’t ask my accusers to explain what was wrong with my behaviour. And I definitely won’t appropriate the victimhood of the survivors.
As a Friend of an Outed Abuser
This is the trickiest part; how do you reconcile your friendship with publicly available allegations? Personally, if it’s someone I care about, I’d confront them; ask them what’s happening. Whether I do this privately or publicly depends on my relationship with the person. I’d try and believe the survivors. And again, remind myself that the action is not a shame I have to carry, but is my friend’s.
As a Bystander
I’d listen to the women speaking out. Men especially need to speak out; to break the ‘bro code’ which exists; however uncomfortable it may make you feel. I’d be cognisant of nuance and context while listening to women; but never at the cost of undermining women who have been brave enough to publicly speak out.
This is my personal guide; yours may be different. I’d look forward to the comments to tell me whether I am on point or if I have erred. Irrespective of our differences, one thing is clear. What we need right now is to speak out.
You see, we just can’t be silent anymore.