And Once The Storm Is Over – Yes Me Too

Saira Shah Halim insists that #MeToo movement doesn’t become a WomenVsMen slug fest and frivolous conversation. Personal vendetta should not take over the real battle women are fighting against misogyny and patriarchy

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They say time is a great healer, how long does it take one to heal? 5 years? 10 years? Or 20? Lets just say perhaps the scars remain forever, time passes us by, memories and trauma remains, some pleasant, some angst ridden tearing one’s heart asunder. As the ongoing campaign on #MeTooIndia gains momentum, rages on and various skeletons tumble out of the closet, we need to applaud a lot of women for coming out with their stories, a few of the stories have devastated me, shaken me to the core.

While sporadic calling out to men has begun with veracity and a lot of ‘celebrity predators’ are being named in the hall of shame.

Perhaps its time to call out everything that broke us as women, and not just the men who have broken us.

While I do acknowledge the pain and the angst of the women who survived horrific accounts of sexual assault, rape and misdemeanour at the hands of their colleagues, bosses, lovers etc and I too have faced many #MeToo moments at my workplace and otherwise, perhaps I will pen about it, perhaps I won’t, we all weigh our choices in life and at the end of the day be at peace with our lives.

I also need to reiterate that my life has been shaped by the good men in my life much more than women. My heroes.

My Father- the officer and the gentleman the one who lowers his gaze in the presence of Women even till this day, perhaps it is his tarbiyat or an old world thing, it still gives me hope.

My father in law – the man of few words, the dignified stance on anything and everything.

My husband – whom I have never found looking at other women, not even when one’s guard was down, one who’s always encouraged me to soar.

It doesn’t matter whether these men are public persons or not, what truly matters is how men behave with a woman in private space, social media and public life can be a different reality altogether.

My two brothers who have been a source of strength and light to me and last but not the least of all my male friends who have always supported my decisions in life, celebrated my small  and big victories by sending  meaningful gifts home like books or even flowers and for always having my back.

I have in fact been scarred by a whole lot of vicious and manipulative women, some of whom I regarded as friends, bent over backwards for them, who in turn treated me as a social ladder, mission accomplished discarded me the opportune moment they gelled with someone more important, more powerful and the list goes on, the fact that I happened to make these ‘happening’ ladies meet most of these ‘‘important’’ folks around town in purely incidental.

The fact that Women cannot be bullies or harassers is a pure myth.

Way back at boarding school I was bullied by  some girls when I had just taken admission, no one wanted to sit with me in class as I wasn’t considered cool to hang around with, singled out, disenfranchised I decided to become ‘better’ if not ‘bitter’.

I started reflecting on myself and what I needed to do to get accepted in the ‘cool cat’ gang.

Do I need to get better grades, do I need to polish myself up so that I am not the butt of jokes each and every time, I buried my pain, cried myself to sleep to wake up to a new resolute and determined me.

In turn I fared better, looked better, a transformation had begun, not in anyway saying that the bullying helped, just emphasising on how I made my past circumstances work in my favour.

As a result I became sharper, smarter, focused all the while working on my mental and physical resilience of serial bullying and shaming.

In college during my periods I remember suffering from dysmenorrhea, the pain was so bad, I would writhe in pain for hours, and at college hostels where sports are compulsory, I was subjected to harsher penalty if I didn’t turn up for the sports hour, there was no way the female PT instructor would excuse my attendance.

In comparison excusing myself from a male PT instructor was far easier.

At the workplace I had a far more challenging time with a female boss a firm who wallowed in ‘group politics’, nepotism than perhaps a male boss.

Promotions were solely reserved for those who could ‘butter’ her better, not based on who could do one’s work better.

The male friends that I have don’t indulge in petty politics, are not there to steal anyone’s thunder or to plot someones downfall.

Some women that I know are famous for hunting in packs, they attend parties together, leave parties together, check each others guest list, strike people off guest lists based on whom they don’t like and vice versa.

Moral of the story is– the more popular and famous you are, the more one has to deal with jealousies, insecurities, women plotting against women and the list goes on.

Today as I address the #MeToo battle, I insist it doesn’t become a WomenVsMen slugfest and frivolous conversation and personal vendetta should not take over the real battle women are fighting against misogyny and patriarchy.

I decided to walk away from the muck once and for all as life does not depend on how many fleet of stairs one climbed in a social circus, what matters is what you are today and what you made of your life with whatever opportunities that came your way. As Haruki Murakami famously said:

And once the storm is over, you wont remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive, You wont even be sure whether the storm is really over, but one thing is certain, When you come out of the storm, you wont be the same person who walked in, that’s what this storm is all about.

 

Saira Shah Halim is an educator, and a social and political activist

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