There has been a rallying ‘war’ cry against sexual harassment building across the world with the ‘#MeToo’ campaign. I think the time is here, for the men of this world, to come together and rally in unison, building up a campaign of their own. With the hashtag #Irespect.
As old as time?
The issue of men using their physical strength to victimise women is not new. It is impossible to know how far it dates back, but what we do know is that with the advent of the internet, and the proliferation of pornography, the issue is now even more grave, widespread, global, and shameful. Thankfully, with the growing power of social media and the ample power of the simple hashtag #MeToo, more and more women are stepping forward with their stories, and publicly sharing detailed accounts of how they too were at some point in their lives, victims of horrible sexual predators, be it at their place of work, in their homes, on crowded train platforms, at parties, or elsewhere.
As someone who believes in the #Irespect pledge (See box), I will do my best to lend these women a patient hearing, and will help them share their stories with the world, and let these stories stand out as warnings to other men, and as a message to other victims, that it is not okay to remain silent. If you have been inappropriately touched or if you feel violated by a man who has crossed that sacred line, go ahead and by all means, shame him. Let the world know what this dismal human has done to overstep the boundaries you have laid down. How dare he! I respect you and all women, and I too will join you in shaming him. For by doing so you may stop him from crossing the line again, and that will result in one less #MeToo movement.
These men (if we can still call them that) who are guilty, in their defence could label the allegations made against them as ‘feeble’ and ‘maligning’, and may even insist that their actions were a result of a consensual understanding between them and their victims. But we all know that more often than not, these beasts, are as guilty as sin. Guilty for having crossed that sacred line of respect. We need to unite and ask the perpetrator if he would ever allow anyone to cross that sacred line of respect with his daughter. What then gives him the right to think that he can do it with someone else’s daughter? Is it power? Money? Or is it simply because he is a man, which offers him the free will to decide whether a woman’s choice of dress or behaviour offers him a license to touch, feel, or molest. Or an innocent look in his direction is a flirtatious sign of invitation to prey on her with innuendoes, a bad touch, a flirtatious sexual advance, or even something more provocative and distasteful. Label it how you may, the message is loud and clear, none of it is okay.
I think society has a lot of explaining to do. We have sat by silently as spectators, and allowed it to get to this deplorable stage with men talking down at women in films, harassing women at the workplace, and even taking advantage of them in their homes. Women need to vocalise their objection in this sordid drama, and they need to demand an all-out change in both this genre, and unacceptable thought process. And while they can hashtag their individual experiences with #MeToo, the men who pledge to help and work toward a change in our world can do so with the #Irespect hashtag. We have to make the world safer for women. Your mothers, wives, sisters and daughters will be thankful. And if you have taught your sons well, they too will be, without doubt, grateful.
The #Irespect pledge
Right here, right now, I, as a man, pledge that:
I will always be a gentleman
I will always respect women and treat them as my equal
I will never objectify a woman
I will recognise women’s role in this world as strong, independent, purposeful individuals, who have possibly more to contribute toward making this world a better place than the rest of us men do
I will never force myself onto them nor touch them inappropriately
I will understand that when they say no, they mean no, that it is their prerogative to defend their bodies as sacred
I have signed and imbibed the #Irespect pledge with dignity and pride, and hence can now stand out as a true man