Once a popular economist, John Maynard Keynes is said to have quoted,
When the Facts Change, I Change My Mind. What Do You Do, Sir?
The substance of this quote is absolutely unarguable. In pursuit of the truth, intellectual honesty is a must. True reality cannot be perceived unless our actions are dictated by facts, and not through emotions or agenda of any kind. This is something almost if not all of the readers here can agree upon. But a fundamental flaw in us human beings is that, we are story telling species. We unified ourselves through the means of stories. It is in fact the ability to imagine and construct a story, along with the capability of convincing others into it, which made large scale human collaboration possible. And the large scale flexible human collaboration is what shaped us as the most advanced, dominating animal species, and helped create the modern world as we see it is today.
But its ironic of me to quote Keynes as the opening of this article. The reason i started it with a quote of Keynes in this case, is because it’s fake. Many of you took the quote to be granted, because its the first time you are coming across this without having any prior knowledge regarding Keynes or other economic histories, and also because you have some level of trust in me, the author whose article you thought would be worth a read. So did i, i too fell for the similar trap, when i first saw the short documentary on Keynesian economics in The School of Life channel on YouTube. But, little did i know, they got the facts wrong. When i searched for the quote (for some reason i cant specifically remember), only then i came to know that i had been the wrong thing. There has been no trace found anywhere of John Keynes enunciating such a expression. But the traces can be tracked down to another person Paul Samuelson, who was asked why did he continuously change his position in his subjects, with newer edited version of the truth with each new edition of his book. To which he answered, “ When the events change, i change my mind, what do you do?”. Now that i presented you with an alternate reality. A more fact driven one, investigated one, would you still stick to my initial proposition? Speaking from common sense, no one would want to be that much stupid and dogmatic as to hold on a wrong worldview, unless he/she overly adheres to some conflicting agenda. Despite that, the Denial Olympics is rather pretty common. That’s why its so complicated to establish a standard version of reality, trumpeting over a diverse definition of truth , because people find it tough to cut off the emotional tie from their deeply cherished stories, face the facts, and adjust their worldviews accordingly. The power of stories in shaping the world is a core thesis of Harari’s books. If you want to learn more about them, you might as well check the book.
The world is full of stories. State, Religion, Money, Empires, Families, Human Rights, gazillions of ideologies etc. all are stories. A story does not need to be about a fictional world with kings, queens, heroes and villains. It can be more abstract, act kind of as a tool, for example: money. Money does not have any concrete value. It is just a piece of paper. But we assign a meaning to this particular piece of paper. I have to believe that a 10$ note is worth 10$ worth of someone’s labor and that they are exchangeable. Similarly my trader has to be believe in the same story, that he is being offered a piece of paper which represents a significant portion of his labor, that can be traded. Thus the whole global trade system operates, based on a shared imagination, or in other words a shared story. Thus works empires, religions, families and all the other stories. Based on an imaginary narrative, we design our lives, our social structures, institutions, systems, hierarchies and interactions. Stories are vital to problem solving and social engineering.
One such a story that is fundamental to understanding modern social structures is the idea of feminism.
Exploring the roots
Feminism is basically an extension of the idea of human rights, but projected onto the female demography. Feminist theories started to emerge from the 17th centuries but the traces are scanty and no such label was introduced. In fact due to this lack of label and an organized structure, many sociologists prefer to call the earlier movements regarding women’s rights as protofeminism. It was after the renaissance, at the age of enlightenment that organized feminist sentiments started to gain its grassroots. When reformist social structures came to eventuate the exclusion of women from reformist policies, it disturbed a lot of contemporary female intellectuals, who later went on publishing playwrights, novels, articles etc. to challenge the male centric notion on womanhood. One of such a prominent literary work was of Mary Wollstonecraft. Her book “ A vindication of the rights of women” is a protofeminist literature which was pivotal towards influencing the first wave feminist theories and accelerating first wave feminist movements. Wollstonecraft wrote the book as a response to Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord who presented a report to French National Assembly arguing that women should only receive domestic education. Wollstonecraft was then impelled to write a rebuttal which came along as the rights of women. She argued that men and women were ordained with equal natural rights by god and to reject that notion would be a grave sin and unjust.
Following Wollstonecraft’s legacy, discussions regarding women’s rights started to flash up in public arena. In the mid 19th century, at Seneca Falls, the women’s suffrage movement started to gain traction. It took the sentiment of the abolition movement which was happening at the same time, and utilized the emotional sentiment towards its own purpose. This marks the inception of the first wave feminism, when women organized themselves and fought for their rights to vote. Although the struggle was highly turbulent with it slowly getting faded away but then it got revived back again. There were divisions among feminist activists who had difference in approaches and in some sense, had conflicting ideals. For example, although it was ignited by the concept of enlightenment and equal natural rights, after eastern europeans started to flood in the united states, the suffragist leaders started to use racist and nativist rhetorics to justify their cause. Carrie Chapman, for example, argued that the votes of american born, literate, middle class women would counterbalance the votes of foreigners. Such classist remarks drove many working class poor women into trade unionist movements, and away from the feminist suffrage movements. But later on after more radical feminist voices started to appear like that of anarchist Emma Goldman, Charlotte Perkins Gilman who signified the women’s issues as a whole, only then things started to escalate rapidly. Then more radical violent dissident groups came along after the polite method wasn’t working out. Emmeline Pankhurst and her dissident team led boycotts, picketings, bombings to pressurize British into accepting their plea, and they did succeed into prompting British govt to allow the rights to vote in 1918. Following the british’s successes, american suffragists went on hardline too, leading boycotts and violent confrontations with police and state which prompted american govt. to permit women the rights to vote in 1920 in the forms of nineteenth amendment. The french and the egyptians caught up with suffrage grant in the mid 20th centuries, along with syria, pakistan, indonesia etc. Saudi Arabia was the last one to catch up, granting women the right to vote and right to run for parliament in 2011. While the timeline may vary, it indicates how a ripple in one end of the world might create domino effect in all part of the world, sooner or later. Stories, if proven effective, spreads like wildfire.
You can easily notice how stories emerge, get built up on the base of other stories and expand themselves throughout societies. How the stories regarding god, nature, justice gave birth to the stories of abolitionism, and consequently giving rise to feminism. And thus came waves after waves, modified, refurbished, enhanced in a more fancy and nuanced wrapper. While Jane Austen, Mary Wollstonecraft, Aphra Behn etc protofeminist authors influenced the world into first wave feminism, first wave feminist authors like Virginia Woolf , Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Charlotte Perkins Gilman etc influenced the way towards second wave feminism.
Second wave feminism started with “The feminist Mystique”, a literary work by Betty Friedan. Although Simone de Beauvoir and some other notable authors are also credited with igniting second wave despite having published their work earlier, but feminist mystique is considered the tipping point. Personally i can relate to simone de beauvoir since i spent more time with her books and got most influenced by her compared to others in my views.
Second wave feminism attacked the dominant social structure and justified women being angry since they were getting ripped off in all social aspects. It talked about issues without labels. How societies’ narrative towards women and their roles in society contribute to the wider misfortunes of women. They argued that women’s rights didn’t stop at earning suffrage, but there were lot other unnoticed places where it may seem individualist discrimination but on the contrary accumulates to a wider discriminatory scenario. They identified the patriarchy inside social institutions and critiqued it. They targeted notions of sexuality, domestic roles, reproductive rights, systemic inequalities, domestic violence, custody laws etc. Carol hanisch popularized the term “The person is political” implying that, even though an individual woman’s problem seem individualistic and frivolous, it may be a part of a less apparent widespread systemic discrimination which shadows the rights of women as a whole. In the meantime Kate Millett brought her book “ Sexual Politics” and Germaine Greer wrote “The female eunuch” which solidified the individualistic but yet collectivist struggle of second wave feminists. The triumph of this movement was marked by legislative changes in those times, for example the equal pay act, reproductive freedom and access to birth controls, eradication of educational inequalities, support shelters for rape and domestic abuse victims, and taking sexual harassments in workplaces into consideration. Second wave mainly worked on to change how society viewed a “woman” as, and strived to change the notion that women are merely decorative, stripping them off their personal agency.
The success of second wave feminism gave rise to the third wave. With increasing participation and ascension of woman’s career in workplaces, the voices became more strong and more issues were put forward towards the discussion table. The term third wave is credited to Rebecca Hall, who wrote an article titled “Becoming the third wave” in Ms. magazine. The article was directed as a response to the nomination of Clarence Thomas in the Supreme Court of United States, who was accused to have harassed Anita Hill, an american lawyer who was under Thomas’s supervision at the Department of Education and the EEOC. Anita publicly testified against Clarence Thomas in front of an all male, all white judiciary committee which was an eyesore to many. Hence Rebecca wrote the article to address this whole issue where she quotes,
So I write this as a plea to all women, especially women of my generation: Let Thomas’ confirmation serve to remind you, as it did me, that the fight is far from over. Let this dismissal of a woman’s experience move you to anger. Turn that outrage into political power. Do not vote for them unless they work for us. Do not have sex with them, do not break bread with them, do not nurture them if they don’t prioritize our freedom to control our bodies and our lives. I am not a post-feminism feminist. I am the Third Wave
Third wave feminism brought gender, class and racial issues onto the table. They directed their focus onto understanding racial dynamics which they believe to have been absent in the second wave feminist movements. The biggest criticism to second wave feminist movement was its lack of inclusivity. The movement was accused to be elitist, overly homogenized and saturated with the issues of white middle class cisgender women. It barely included dialogues on the struggles of women from other races, lesbians or transgender woman. The historical narratives on which the movement pivoted itself upon, were also accused to be whitewashed, ignoring the condition and contribution of working class women and also of women from different racial backgrounds. Kimberlé Crenshaw, a lawyer and a civil rights advocate, coined the term “intersectionality” in 1989 as a critical response to the white centric second wave feminism.
Third wavers embraced intersectionality, lgbt issues and post-structuralism but somewhat at the cost of of frownings from second wavers with some legit criticisms and also some bigoted criticisms getting hurled towards them. The generational gap was highlighted by feminist author in her essay “Generations, Academic feminists in dialogue” through the quote,
This problem manifests itself when senior feminists insist that junior feminists be good daughters, defending the same kind of feminism their mothers advocated. Questions and criticisms are allowed, but only if they proceed from the approved brand of feminism. Daughters are not allowed to invent new ways of thinking and doing feminism for themselves; feminists’ politics should take the same shape that it has always assumed
The success of the third wave lied in integrating a wider range of allies from different races, classes. It challenged heteronormativity, gender stereotypes and femininity as viewed by society. Naomi Wolf wrote “The Beauty Myth”, critiquing how society puts unrealistic beauty standards onto women and how women are driven towards an unhealthy lifestyle as a result of trying to cope up with societal beauty standards. The book addresses sexist stereotyping of women advocated and influenced through the means of media objectification and commercial cultural influence, which is often overlooked but has a significant impact in turning women vulnerable and yielding room to exploit. The third wave also tried to reclaim derogatory terminologies that had been often used to undermine women, such as, sluts, spinster, bitch, whore, cunt etc. The single, “All women are bitches” by Fifth Column, and the “Toronto Slutwalk”, a protest movement against a Toronto police officer who claimed that women should stop dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized, were part of such causes. The third wavers actively advocated for child care, single mother welfare, reproductive rights and widened access, sexual liberations and de-stigmatizing and bunch of other causes to fill up the gap of the second wave. But unlike second wave, which was shaped by wars, civil rights, workplace and academic segregations, third wave was shaped by pop media, for example Riot Grrrl, feminist punk subcultures, Ms. Magazine and other online e-magazines and also through the internet.
After a year of slutwalk, in 2012, with Alissa Quart coining the term “Hipster Sexism” to address subtle, ironic acceptable forms of media objectifications, Jimmy Savile sexual abuses coming into light, the international outrage concerning 2012 Delhi gang rape and murder, and related movements galvanized the fourth wave feminism. Although some activists like Jennifer baumgardner dates the wave back to 2008 with the rise of twitter’s popularity among the 19–28 age group of women, who steered the whole fourth wave all the way up to today. Fourth wave is marked with the explosion of social media and utilizing its full potential for feminist causes. The metoo movement for example, originating in Myspace in 2006 by sexual harassment survivor Tarana Burke, is one of the prominent instances of the fourth wave.
Metoo rose to prominence when Ronan Farrow wrote an investigative report on The New Yorker exposing prominent producer Harvey Weinstein and his predatory past. Following this, actress and activist Alyssa Milano wrote up a blog post encouraging women who have been likewise victimized by weinstein and others, to come forward with the hashtag metoo in their social media platform for people to realize the magnitude of the problem. Alyssa’s siren broke out of proportion in twitter, facebook and other social media platforms, with big shot celebrities and even commonfolks coming out with their buried experiences of abuse. Metoo exposed many high-level prominent figures for their predatory nature and highlighted the weight of the problem in media and workplace, pressuring corporations to redesign their workplace culture to create a less toxic environment for women to work in. This would have been unattainable through any other means, and since spoke to a lot of women from its core and gave the vulnerable a platform, a voice, it wasn’t confined within a region, instead spread like wildfire throughout most part of the world. The whole metoo wave is quite intricately documented in wiki, which i am willing to skip, since it is too big and would be quite of an infodump.
This should have the implication that internet has been the best thing women could ever have have; which would in fact be really really wrong. On one hand internet brought feminism to the masses, gave the vulnerable a voice, allowed them to congregate and forward their causes, and on the other hand, it created niches for cyberbullies, stalkers, defamers, doxxers etc. Internet added new dimensions of problems which were virtually nonexistent before. Gamergate for example, was a coordinated harassment campaign again female game developers and feminist media critics who voiced against of sexist stereotyping in the video game productions. The targeted harassment went so out hands that some activists like Anita Sarkeesian started getting rape, death threats and had to shift homes after getting her home addresses leaked online. A gamergate associate anonymously threatened to carry out a massacre against the attendees who would attend Anita Sarkeesian’s public appearance in Utah State University, as a result of which the public event had to be cancelled. The intimidator cite Montreal Massacre of 1989 as an inspiration, which was a mass shooting in École Polytechnique, an engineering school affiliated with Université de Montréal, by an assailant named Marc Lépine, killing 14 female engineering students as an attack against feminism. Lépine considered himself to be a rational person and reckoned that feminism was destroying society, favouring women at the expense of men. He thought to cleanse society of its illness, and hence planned and executed the attack. Now similarly, the gamergate forces also worked on the same rationale, they too considered feminism as a cancer to society, which has been sabotaging the gaming culture and on a mission to eliminate their invigorating gaming experiences. But what makes it worse and even more threatening was that, Lépine was a lone wolf, gamergate affiliates were not, they were a collection of potential infuriated Lépines.
Cyber harassments has been a wider part of discussion since the explosion of internet, and monitoring, regulating cyber harassments have proven to be a constant challenge for tech companies. Extreme regulations go against free speech policies which is a fundamental human right. But then again targeted harassments pose more threat to a stable society and can cause disastrous effects. So drawing the thin line between free speech and hate speech have been a topic of intense debate which continues till this day. While some improvements have been made, but still loopholes exist for the predators to prey on. And also it came at the cost of free speech, which many argue has linearized the internet experience. It is kind of like a double edged sword. One one hand companies need to restrict free speech, and on the other hand they need to ensure free speech. Inclining on one side automatically effects the other. And most importantly, the speech regulation are seen by the perpetrators as a violation to their fundamental human rights, which in turn infuriates them even more. An important thing to note is that, the perpetrators don’t see them as doing something ignoble. In their version of story, they are the good eyes, while women, or the feminists are the villain. So when the good guys are censored by society, their anger grows more, and the retaliations become more galvanized.
Now i don’t know if you realize but the stories i have been narrating to you above is also in a sense whitewashed. I have barely touched the struggles of women outside of the west. Not even fully western, but mostly american and then somewhat british. There are some reasons to it of course, firstly because of english being our second language after bangla, we are still mostly under british and american influence than of any other country. Also, west being the hegemony, the media of the west also dominates the internet, or the air in general, making it more easily accessible towards people across the west. English becoming the global language, gave the west an edge as well. Combined with excellent academic culture, most impactful literary analysis, socio critical theories can be traced back to the west too. Judging most recent popular movements, be it communism, capitalism, feminism, secularism, democratization, freedom and liberty are fairly western phenomena than anything else. Therefore when external societies get a taste of the ripple, it is seen as an attempt in westernization. And westernization is a far reaching phenomena, than for example sinicization, or russification, or arabization, or indianization. But this is in no way to discredit the struggle of the iranian women protesting forced hijabs, the arab women fighting for driving rights, african women fighting against genital mutilations, or the egyptian feminists fighting against sexual harassments and unjust islamic impositions, or the russian pussy riot groups fighting against orthodoxy and dictatorship, or even the feminist pioneers from our subcontinent who constantly fought for the rights of women. But it’s not possible for an individual like me to cover the whole feminist movement around the globe in one little article unless i pursued some considerable academic years trying to realize and summarize the whole thing in a global scenario. I tried to learn from the most credible, impactful and accessible resources i could find, and reflected on those that i could gather in such short time.
One native documentary that really struck me was of bratto amin’s 36 24 36. The documentary talks about the post colonial notion of beauty and how it aids to the passive exploitation of women into fitting a certain beauty narrative. It also highlights the intensity of media objectification, effects of neoliberalism in shaping children’s mind in their infancies with beauty products, barbie dolls etc, which on its way lineralizes their notion of beauty. It also shows how society adapted to such narratives and women are pushed into conforming into such narratives. it was available to watch on youtube but for some reason it got removed. But dailymotion still hosts the full documentary which i am embedding below.
In my past life i had been an utter misogynist brat. I chuckle and cringe at how retarded my views were at the past. And it’s no wonder that it had been that way. I was little and influenced heavily by my surroundings. And we live in a patriarchal surrounding. Sometimes i felt contradicting intuitions, but brushed it off thinking how silly those were. In school, prank calls gained quite notoriety since trolling others was always fun and it was the pre internet age. The only way to troll were to ring calling bells and run away or do prank calls and befuddle the person on the receiving end. Pranking girls were funnier because of course, of the sole reason that they were girls. Then came the age of internet. No need to waste money on phone calls, or risk getting beaten up, if you can have the option to troll people for free, which we did and laughed victoriously after one after one successful trollings. It seemed all fun and games, until we all grew up and realized how idiotic and harmful those were. We had no one idea at that point, no one was there to point to us that it was all wrong. It was like aesop’s fable about the boys and the frogs. The boys throw stones at vulnerable frogs without fear of repercussions or the conscience that it is wrong. What seems fun and cool, maybe exonerating and even traumatic for others.
After moving to college, and eventually getting busy with the fight for getting into a good enough university, things started to wane out. We started to get matured. I started reading non fiction books, started to learn about liberalism, progressivism, liberal western ideas. Started exploring online forums, blogs and my eyes started to open on how wrong i was at my past, and under how intense ill influence i was under. My college time inadvertently made me change my social circles which i realized was the best thing to happen to me. I have to admit, i was a conservative religious fundie at that point of life as well. After i explored the liberal ideologies, and understood that the extreme i was in at that point was wrong, i started to transition my set of ideals, and moved to the other end of the extremes. Most of the people go through such a phase. After their status quo world gets shattered away, they become obsessed. Or as per the popular internet language, they become redpilled. Redpill phases are blood boiling, since the rebel inside awakens and breaks the shackles with such a strong force that it drives the person to the extreme. The negative exposure takes a hideous toll on the person’s psyche, just like it took on mine. Soon i got to realize it was no big deal and i am no che guevara or jesus christ. I cant change things alone, but that it is all a gradual and incidental process, which will find it’s route automatically. I realized that what i have been immersing myself into is a sea of negativity which is doing no one no good, instead hurting my psyche, hampering my regular life. I slowly started to move to more benign positions and trained myself to become less angry. I didn’t ditch my progressive ideals though, i just started to become less angry, and engaged more what i could practically achieve.
Among all of the liberal socio political stories, i will be sticking to the story of feminism only for this article. Getting to wear the glasses of truth like from the movie “They live”, i started to see the systemic discriminations and sexism running rampant. It all used to bother me a lot when my idealistic transition happened. Because like the Gamergate soldiers or Marc Lepine , i too was convinced that a force was dismantling the fabric of society, but unlike them i sided with the feminists and rallied against the conservatives. After transitioning into a more benign position after realizing the outrage was disproportionate and more emotion driven than logistics, i just observed and took notes on what’s happening. I tried to influence the people surrounding, but that’s the maximum i did, because it was the most pragmatic approach i could afford, without boiling up my brain for insignificant results. I saw how unfairly the society around me treated it’s womankind. How stereotypical attitudes shaped their lives not for the good but for a life of confinement and conformity. How harassment incidents went unnoticed or suppressed to protect chastity and innocence. I noticed favouritism, segregation, and power exertion on a structural basis. My peers held archaic perspectives regarding the roles of women and the rights they ought to possess. They frown on their dresses, their lifestyles, their choices, their voices. I remember once in my special machine presentation class, a friend of mine opened up to me. He couldn’t bear that girls are pursuing engineering education. We had a female teacher who was assessing our presentation and he didn’t like that. Although she was modestly dressed with hijabs on, but still couldn’t earn his approval. Why? Because she was grabbing the position of a guy who could pursue engineering and earn a living for his family. But instead our “Mam” is wrongfully holding that position depriving a potential guy from a living. I asked him, why shouldn’t our “mam” be able to earn a living? He tells me, because it’s not the duty of the girl to earn a living but to take care of the child and her husband. He says, just look at your female peers, dressing in sarees and salwar kameez, or worse - western dresses, giving the options for the males to gaze, while they themselves stray away from their moral responsibilities.
Now this is not a new sentiment that he just came up with. This is the sentiment that has been for ages since women started to get integrated into the workplace. Meanwhile at that period, i was in the middle of reading Simone De Beauvoir. In her book she echoes to have experienced similar sentiments from her contemporary men. She says of a guy who was pissed when women were integrating in workforces. The reason behind his wrath was that the women were robbing the men of their jobs, and its therefore doing society a disservice. The men has to be the breadwinner and it does not help when women come up and rob them off of the opportunity that had been already saturated. Simone wrote the book long ago, but the instance she highlighted till today. I was astonished to see how extremely accurate this was till this day. But one difference i saw was that, most of the conservative mindsets had religious wrappings around it. Most of the misogynist remarks thrown by my peers had religious coatings around it to make it further invincible. And not any religion in particular, but all in fact. Every misogynist had religion as a shield to defend themselves against criticisms. Because of course, if someone does, he would then inadvertently be criticizing religion, which would be a risky business. You wouldn’t want to unintentionally earn the wrath of God, and risk your faith, hence people even back themselves out from critical thinking, just to play it safe. Simone also mentioned another instance. She was a close friend of Sartre, a highly regarded existential philosopher till this day. Once sartre told her, simone was different, she was intelligent, too close of that of a man’s. This particular remark hurt her, thinking that society always held men as the standard of intelligence while the women as always below them by default. A woman’s intellect is judged with respect to that of a man, and not independently. The underestimation of woman’s intellect holds true to this day. Hence female participation in STEM fields are far low than of fancy subjects like home economics.
In our campus, girls were not allowed to be Class representatives (CR). Since it is inconvenient for a girl to be one. Why because of course she is a girl. A CR has to keep connection to all of the students and teachers as well, to plan and execute perfect schedules for classes and tests and other related academic stuffs. Now the justification is that, the girls will be open towards vulnerability, and they could be easily exploited. Okay sure, for security concerns, makes perfect sense. But what does this imply? That our campus authority have failed to ensure a secure environment for our girls. It’s not the girl’s fault that she has been stripped off the opportunity to ride up to a leadership position. Its the failure of the system which couldn’t ensure such an opportunity for it’s female students. Girls can exercise very limited freedom compared to the boys, mainly because of security issues. While it is true, that in a suburban area security insurance is an utopian ambition, and i am not blaming KUET here, but i am trying to highlight just this, that as a society we haven’t progressed much to ensure a safe space for our girls, and that much work needs to be done to achieve the western standard for equal rights and opportunities. It’s not just CR, but girls weren’t allowed to General Secretary (GS) or Assistant General Secretary (AGS) of departmental associations and were stripped off from many leadership positions in curricular and extra curricular affairs. I had a female friend from another department who shared her grief with me on her departmental experience. She says it sucked to see them not having the similar privileges and opportunities as her male peers and their voices ignored. Her male peers may have acted on good faith, but you gotta realize, it comes at the cost of their independent agency. One junior once told me, she wished she was a boy, she would thus have the opportunity to fully explore herself, and not get stuck into confinement. A very close senior of mine once briefed me how systematically exploited all the girls in her department have been, which went barely noticed. Most decisions came from the boys who used to assert dominance in all meetings and gatherings. Their voice were frivolous compared to the strength of their male peers. Hence many didn’t even continue to bother. Thus the voices from the girls’ end keeps getting suppressed and everyone gets used to it, the boys and the girls too. The girls get busy with just studies and other trivia while the boys engage fully in the major departmental issues. Now this is nothing unique to that particular department, but rather it portrays a glimpse of the wider scenario. It’s the tendency of the boys to act like valiant princes who are on a mission to either safeguard or rescue their princess who don’t have much agency of their own. That men are defenders and decision makers, while women are homemakers and beneficiaries, have been perpetuated by society for so long that it started getting ingrained into our DNA. Hence whenever major issues were to be resolved, for example in tours, or in departmental fests or mass protests, or cultural programs, or other departmental non departmental functions, the boys usually used to override the steering wheel, always with an elusive notion that by birthright, they have been assigned superior analytic and decision making capability and hence society had put them on upper hierarchies to decide things for themselves as well as others. Nature turned them into guardians, and while some flexibility can be granted to women, to satisfy the social progress bar, its always wise to obey nature and override them whenever felt convenient. The basic arguments are all the same, “ ‘They are girls, they wont understand the intricate things which vitalize and mobilize “these” issues’ or ‘A girl isn’t suited mentally or physically for such “manly” organizational works’ or that ‘It requires mature supervision, they wont be able to contribute much’.” While in some cases, it is true that many of the organization works might be tough for women to execute since the social structure doesn’t provide them with adequate security and options, but in most other cases these are excuses to segregate a part of the class to ease the dominance of others under the pretense of conveniences. Also the lack of security for which girls cannot properly exercise leadership and decision making roles, explicitly highlights, how as a society and as a leading educational institution we failed our women. There are thousands of similar griefs you will find once you start to get to talk to the girls and come to know their experiences. Some may make sense, while some may feel to be mindlessly, emotionally driven, but the core sentiment is real. That society failed to ensure an equal flourishing ground for women. Also how this inadvertently bolsters the dominant “male guardianship” sentiment of the boys, which only solidifies through time.
Again i am not blaming KUET at all. I understand their shortcomings. KUET cannot drastically change society’s mindsets in a night. The best it can do is to restrict some options of the girls and impose certain limitations in their movements and participations to ensure nothing unexpected happens. But the trouble arises when it becomes the norm. Many students, including the teachers take this to be the default moral scenario and forget that the policies are there in the first place out of desperation. Hence when a girl just chooses to overstep, she is frowned upon, castigated and morally questioned. The moral policing sometimes end up in unnecessary harassments. For example vigilante parties trying to keep decency in check by harassing couples in their privacy, sometime doxxing them sometimes not. Interestingly, it’s not the guys only who are in the raiding team. There was one particular instance where one senior year couple doxxed another junior year couple since they caught them getting intimate in the departmental building close to where they themselves were dating. Now, while it is really inappropriate to get intimate in a public place, it certainly isn’t such a heinous crime that requires doxxing. Why you may ask? Let me explain you the aftermath and you will realize. When the doxxing happened and everyone got to know, it was all over for the girl. She was publicly shamed, her ex boyfriend viraled her nudes to everyone, her whole faculty got to know, she got expelled from her hall, publicly shamed like a witch and eventually she had to cancel her studentship and leave the place to escape the trauma. And what happened to the guy? Nothing. He was saved by his seniors, no one made such a big deal out of it and the next day his departmental seniors took him out for a treat for working in their departmental program. You can easily notice the disproportionate reactions to different sexes, and the disproportionate impacts too. Is this fair? Is it so big a crime that one has to get tarnished for life and discontinue her hard earned engineering program? This was sth that bothered me and a friend of mine a lot, and we discussed on the possible rationale behind this. It’s understandable when guys go after girls, its their intuition to act as such but why would a girl aid in making another girl’s life miserable. I came across a term by then, which was “internalized misogyny”. It perfectly explains what happened. Internalized misogyny basically refers to misogynist ideas held by women which they learn and internalize from patriarchal societal system. They too cannot be blamed since they themselves do not realize the internalized misogyny in them. Once a friend told me about some more internalized misogyny which was that his female buddies slut shamed others many of the times. Now while it may look benign and not too big of a deal but it certainly aids to the misogynistic culture that pertains around that place.
There was one incident where a female buddy of mine came out in her social media account against an harassment issue that she faced from her departmental senior. The senior she accused was apparently a very popular figure in the department. He was a wholesome guy to everyone, had excellent results, cared for his friends and juniors, and was a free source for study related notes. When he got accused of using derogatory remarks in his social against the girl, everyone got shocked. The girl had very few people beside her while most other guys went out on a public smearing campaign. Many girls too sided with the senior guy for they had an ideal image of him. She was being repeatedly slutshamed, her characters getting brought into questions along with other character assassinating claims. Now, after very few people believed her, and that it was going nowhere, one friend side with her and came forward with a bunch of screenshots, where she got publicly sexualized and objectified without her consent by her peers, showing the magnitude of the problem and the culture that persists. The accused senior was just a continuation of that culture, no matter how benign and accidental it seemed. Now the later developments of the case made people realize what they had been overlooking all the time, many of those who opposed the girl stopped shouting since now the attention shifted to another classmate and some allies of his who were central to the latter screenshots. The guy was asked to apologize which he did but pretty reluctantly, which infuriated the girls even further. Then a raid was carried against the girl and her boyfriend, by vigilante moral police teams as i have mentioned earlier, which was utilized by the perpetrator as a weapon for another smear campaign and reclaim his glory. This received mixed response. Some said he never realized that he was wrong, while some say that he was right all along, she had it coming. This propelled the matter further. Apparently the guy in question was running for General Secretary post of our departmental association, and the girls all rioted against that decision. They asked our teachers to reconsider. But amazingly, their voices were ignored. Their voices weren’t paid any attention to by a single teacher and the majority of the classmates. He won the GS election and retained his power with the help of faculties and classmates, although allegations against were solidly proven. At that time i still wasn’t done reading Simone De Beauvoir. My blood was boiled, i along with my friends stood up and tried to side with her, since we knew no one else would have, but of course to no avail.
Now what’s the big deal of this? Many of the students asked. They implied that such a public drama was unnecessary. What they didn’t realize is that, the toxic culture has been always present and ignored. I had a departmental who once told me, that one of his friend grabbed a female classmate’s buttocks to her surprise and came back to his friends with a victorious grin. He knew she wouldn’t tell anyone or make a big deal out of it since no one wants to invite troubles in their shoulders. Also it would have been more awkward to bring up the allegation that her friend grabbed her buttocks without her consent. It was better to brush it away. A friend of mine once commented on a friend’s body to her boyfriend, urging him to cover her girlfriend up since it agitates him. This is a clear intimidation which should have been unacceptable in any recognized institution. But it is only fairly recently that a sexual harassment monitoring unit was formed comprising of faculties and administratives. It did not have any existence. And despite existing it could not bypass the status quo culture and take effective regulatory steps. One such incident happened fairly recently. A female alumni was sexually harassed by some students on facebook which got leaked. This is what happens when actions do not have repercussions. Things get normalized, and normalized it has. When the alumni threatened to take actions some, out of fear, apologized. While the main perpetrator deactivated and launched his army to smear campaign against her allies and turn it into a political issue, so that he can get political protections. Religion and Politics, two of the biggest hideouts for misogynists like him. If one fails to serve, opt for the other.
A culture of impunity encourages people into wrong behaviour. Once when at rag day, Jubba issue appeared to surface and ekattor television aired a program concerning this issue, all hell broke loose. We had all the support from everywhere, since here we were right track and ekattor television were just fear mongering. The problem which people seemed to miss is that, the anchor who aired the program was being repeatedly harassed by our classmates. Although she isn’t the writer, neither the reporter, but just a mere host, which many of the kuetians failed to realize. Days after days her public profile and her online shopping facebook page was smeared by an army of Kuetians poking at her dress, slutshaming, and with other derogatory remarks. It continued for days and days and days. A pop-youtuber Natalie Wynn coined the term “Morbid Cringe” to describe this effect. Morbid Cringe is when a person or a group of people get overly obsessed and contemptuously fascinated with a particular person or a certain group, or an idea. Just that happened with my fellow classmates. They got morbidly cringed out at the ekattor tv host and carried out an extensive harassment campaign without being conscious about the fact that it was a wrong thing to do. They can’t be blamed because they were immersed in a culture of impunity and negligent towards progressive social issues.
One parallel i noticed here is that, the defamation tactics are eternal. Remember the protofeminist that i talked of earlier? Mary Wollstonecraft. She was smeared against due to her erratic lifestyle and less for the substance of her work. A woman’s worth is reduced to the modesty standards she abides by. I found it in John Berger’s book “Ways of Seeing”. John says,
A man’s presence suggests what he is capable of doing to you or for you. By contrast, a woman’s presence . . . defines what can and cannot be done to her
One might simplify this by saying : men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object — and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.
To extrapolate Berger’s wisdom in my timeline, i would like highlight another issue. Recently there had been a debacle on what constitutes the identity of a Kuetian. A girl doxxed an ex-kuetian masters student who did not continue his masters for some reason, for faking his kuetian identity. Personally i did not like the doxxing, because without being confirmed of anything it’s wrong to move on to a smear campaign. Many shared similar sentiments with me. Some asked her to apologize, which she says she did. But the problem arose, when some guy came forward to defame her following a past scandal which was absolutely unrelated to the issue that were being discussed upon. The girl was accused to have been intimate with a senior of her’s in a departmental building, which was later proved to be fake. But this issue was pulled up from the grave just to use as a weapon against her. What the girl did was highlight an issue on what constitutes a kuetian identity. instead she was attacked with ad hominems regarding her sexual scandals. A girl’s chastity is hence extremely important for her voices to be heard. Although the allegations against her, and the rumours were fake, but no one seemed to care, because her opponents have mastered the art of war and know how to obliterate their opponents.
The girl of my department that i talked about who opened up about her sexual harassment issue was also targeted with similar ad hominem tactics. Its easy to character assassinate a girl rather of a boy. A girl’s purity is like the social security card which ensures her voice will be heard. But the concept of purity, chastity itself is flawed. This is a classic distraction that people fall prey to due to the hidden layers of misogyny in his society which shapes the idea of a woman and their worth inside his mind. When i went to a meeting where the students were trying to come up with a solution i was charged by another friend on why i had been reacting. I told him it was a case of sexual harassment and there should be some repercussions or else the culture of impunity would only persist, and we would be to blame. He asks me why was i uttering this word “sexual harassment” and what does it even mean. I was dumbfounded and realized it was pointless to argue from then on. Another friend of mine says, she has a questionable character, and is notorious for using and exploiting guys and also living an erratic life. Now , considering the fact that such astronomical claims could in fact be true, which i or neither my pals could care the slightest bit about, we failed to realize how does that impact the assessment of the current issue. Their justification was that, based on past history we can overlook what happened and give the perpetrators a pass and close the case. I was feeling nauseated and got out of the room. The alumni i talked earlier about? She too was attacked for her dress up choice as an attempt to divert the attention from the perpetrator to her character and morale.
Do i blame them? No. Once i was like them too. I saw just my childhood reflection in those guys, where i was a dumb prankster. But soon i got to learn a thing a thing or two from the media and literature that i consumed. I would like to give the benefit of the doubt to my friends that they haven’t. After that incident i talked with a lot of those buddies of mine. we revisited what happened. And even though i wont claim i could change their minds i could at least say i could make them listen and ponder upon the facts. Had they been immersed into socio-political issues like i have been, they could easily realize those too. But is it their duty to do so? I do not think so. One reason being that, i voluntarily came across such facts, at the expense of my academic studies. My friends kept their academics intact, hence had less time to explore these topics. I strayed away from my mission and had to struggle later on. It should have been the duty of the institution to formally create an environment which promotes progressivism and aligns itself with liberal values. It was the duty of the institution to teach formally and in an structured way to students about progressive socio-cultural issues. We had social studies course but barely were such issues touched. Reading books were never inspired, case studies weren’t done neither studied, but a culture of slides and grade pursuits were followed which exacerbated the situation, because the students became more reluctant to these issues after such a boring course. Hence i don’t blame the ignorant. I blame the system that harboured their ignorance without trying to eradicate them.
Re-examining my transitioned ideals
Its all fun and games until contradictory reality hits. I was never into rap music but an epiphany hit me, when i stumbled upon a song by Doja Cat, “Juicy”.
The song has some explicit imagery of the models, including Doja, portrayed as water-melons, cherries and some other luscious fruits. The reason it striked me is because, the allegations which sparked the metoo wave at kuet was that, some guys were inappropriately objectifying their female peer in their social media platform by comparing her to water melon, sandwich and other food items. It seemed absolutely justified to get triggered at such inappropriate behaviour from your peers. No one deserves to be denigrated so low, especially from the people they know and trust. But how can you expect much, when media objectification have normalized such concepts? Doja Cat’s song is one out of the many. And interestingly, i found no backlash for this particular song and its sexist portrayal too. When blurred lines by Robin Thicke came out, it created a huge amount of controversy. Although, blurred line does not have such explicit blatantly sexist portrayal, it received disproportionate backlash compared to Juicy.
Critics say blurred lines trivializes sexual consent and promotes rape culture, which caused the massive outrage. Some pointed out to the objectification element to it too. But if trivializing sexual consent is something to be so enraged about, then why shouldn’t objectification be the subject to similar outrage? Hip Hop music and many pop songs constantly promotes objectification in the name of art and women empowerment. After sex positivism started getting mainstream, in parallel so did media objectification. While sex positivism is a fine thing to achieve, on the other hand media objectification should be objectionable. If a culture endorses and glorifies objectification and then slams its men for objectifying it’s women, then this just shows a blatant hypocrisy. A popular narrative surrounding this is that, when women objectify themselves, then it is empowerment, but when others do it for them, like men, only then it is predatory. It denotes the power transfer from one group of people to another group of people from whom it had been stripped away. Hence many do not view it as objectionable, but something to celebrate. While the power transfer may make sense, but in my opinion, it’s just a cheap justification for capitalism. The capitalist media corporations use this cheap justification tactic to keep the supply chain alive. It might sound like a conspiracy at this point but i don’t think it is totally off base. When the discussions surrounding media objectifications were running rampant, the activists saw a future where objectifications would be close to being eradicated. But as a great anonymous person once said, “Sex Sells”. Hence the objectifications never goes away but instead comes under a different fancy wrapper, which is the term “empowerment”. Music, Advertisements, films etc are rampant with such sexist elements. I got to admit i was a little confused on this, since it seemed to me like advocating for a conservative viewpoint. It was usually conservatives who despised women coming on screens and always acted as a moral police to keep women away from media presentation, citing God and their holy scriptures. Now, just to oppose the God Brigade to break the shackles of women, we have inadvertently pushed them towards corporations who passively exploit their body and sexuality for financial profits. These are two extreme opposites of a spectrum, and the girls just oscillate from one end to another akin to tennis balls in a tennis court.
Now, you may argue that what if the perpetrators did not immerse themselves in sexist hip hop musics like Doja Cat’s Juicy or Tekashi69’s trollz or similar other media contents. I won’t claim that they do. Because in my 4 years of living in a boys hall, i have never seen them play any of these category of western musics aloud. But i did see them consuming media, local , hindi , and some pop stuffs from the west which were no less sexist or objectionable. In our departmental nights, many such music were danced to, played on the stage without anyone realizing what it was normalizing. It was all fun and games, rainbow and sunshine. But while these could be acted on good faith, the subtle normalization leads to the vile acts by the perpetrators which they consciously or subconsciously get engaged in. And the fun fact is that, in the race to consuming sexist media, girls and boys both go hand in hand. A feature of popular music is that it caters to both male and female audience . I can’t remember the names of the hyped media contents back then, since i never had the delicacy for them and didn’t much engage in them either, but trust me on this, there were, and there were a lot of such elements. People usually prefer party songs to celebrate an occasion with bass boosted linear, simple but high tempo beats and occasional bass drops. We were no different. In cultural nights, campfires, rag days, departmental fests or celebration of any kinds, the most popular songs were such high tempo bass boosted party songs. While the songs themselves are no problem, but what i want to highlight is that the trend in media consumption. Most of the popular party songs come from pop and hip hop artists, or DJ mixes. And the culture associated with such music scenes are mostly hypersexualized and objectified. I won’t say all are, but i can safely remark that most are. These media contents could be safely consumed had there been awareness among the students. But the problem is most of them are not aware of what they consume, they don’t realize the border between appropriateness and inappropriateness, and hence the influence from these media gets the better hold of their psyche. There is a reason why explicit media contents come up with an age restriction. Its assumed that, adults can be composed enough to just extract the entertainment value out of the piece of work instead getting mindlessly influenced which juveniles may be driven to. Its assumed that adults already have had the socialization, education and mental growth to learn to differentiate between right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate. But the problem is, being a conservative country we have made the discussions regarding sexuality and social dynamics such a taboo, that people barely get the option to learn. The highest form of training that we get are from social circles, and peer influences. Hence the better the peers, the better the maturity, and on the contrary, the worse the peers, the more dominant are juvenile tendencies. But this was not supposed to happen. It should have been the duty of the state to ensure a formal training through which the juveniles can learn appropriate social dynamics and become mature functioning adults of societies. Party songs or Item songs couldn’t have had much effect that way. Although personally i am a little skeptic on how much a pre-awareness program actually is effective to completely shield from negatively getting influenced, but i can safely assume that it would have certainly ameliorated things, and help people realize the thin line between right and wrong.
Adding to normalization of objectionable and objectifying media contents, the ignorance of socio-cultural dynamics and the culture of impunity & negligence exacerbates the status quo. So how much can the guys who engage inappropriately can be actually blamed? While this is definitely wrong, but aren’t they just a product of their environment and atmosphere?
Also the narratives surrounding objectifications vary as well depending on context and the economics behind it. There was a popular joke, while it itself is sexist, but is not quite off base.
Churchill: “Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?”
Socialite: “Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course… “ Churchill: “Would you sleep with me for five pounds?”
Socialite: “Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!”
Churchill: “Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price”
Now why i am quoting this, and saying this is not totally off base, check this video by Time, where they cite a study claiming how women become okay with objectification when the associated product is expensive, and not cheap.
Does sending such mixed signals help or does it further deteriorate an already existing objectified culture? I don’t know. Maybe a more intensive analysis needs to be done.
Let me present to you another case study. It’s about Neo-Burlesque. neo Burlesque is the revival of american burlesque culture which comprises of various acts such as stripteases, modern dance, theatrical mini dramas etc. Now the burlesque act is justified to be empowering to women, because women have the power to themselves and they are celebrating their bodies for fun and recreational purposes. Now if you feel this to be some corporate voodoo talk, you will be on the same side as me. But let me present you two sides of the story through this report attached below.
While the video presents mostly justification by burlesque dancers and less criticisms from the feminist critics, it also unconsciously draws the parallel between the Time’s report and the burlesque culture. How glamour and money can drastically change and adjust narratives regarding female objectification. This also indicates how popular pop music and hip hop songs get away with objectifying women and denigrating them to sexual playtools. It’s the money behind which always decides for the women what is okay, and what is not okay.
When Anita Sarkeesian and others pointed out the unnecessary sexist portrayals lying subtly hidden in video games, for example hypersexualization of female characters to please the overly dominant male audience of video games, they were not received well either. Gamergate happened as a response to that. Most who defended the gaming industry defended on the grounds that, if it is normal for media to exploit the image of a female body to please their audience why shouldn’t it be normal for gaming industry to follow the same route. It’s not like that it doesn’t make sense at all. Guys would want to protect male gazes, corporations would want to protect their revenues, and feminists would adjust themselves under the guise of individual empowerment to reap some of the benefits off the capitalist system. And thus, the perpetuation of such sexist objectified culture by all sides, inadvertently assists in deteriorating the image of women which some feminists have been fighting to improve for decades. The recent feminist movements have been more individualistic, hijacked by neoliberalism, which deteriorated the already existing hostile environment for women, but now bolstered with corporate aid. Below is a article from Megan Murphy who highlights this particular problem in more detail.
Burlesque: They tell me it's just for fun...Except I'm not having any.
Two weeks ago we ran our 2-part series on burlesque. Considering the many varied perspectives among women and…
it’s quite crazy, how money and capitalism can sabotage a whole movement in the matter of seconds!
So how much are the guys to actually blame? When such a normalized, and glorified culture persists? When the dominant social narratives pushes all to objectify women to keep the cycle of the consumerism running.
But this too comes with a contradiction. Such levels of moral policing comes along with a rabbit hole towards hardline conservatism. What constitutes objectification? How much artistic freedom could be practiced? Such questions might inadvertently turn a culture more regressive than expected. For example just two days ago, egypt sentenced several women were condemned to 2 years of prison over some silly tiktok videos, citing the videos as indecent and immoral. Now, egypt’s such decision stem from religious conservatism rather than feminism which are conflicting in some sense, but the conservative moral forces sometimes utilize feminist causes to oppress women even more and send them back to their confined niches.
Egyptian Women Get 2 Years in Prison for 'Indecent' TikTok Dance Videos
An Egyptian court sentenced several young women to 2 years in prison for "inciting debauchery" by posting "indecent"…
In iran an 18 year old teenage girl named Maedeh Hojabri was arrested for posting a dancing video of hers in her instagram, upon the claims that the videos were emanating indecency.
Woman arrested in Iran over Instagram video of her dancing
Iran has arrested a number of people over videos that were posted on Instagram, including a young woman who filmed…
Now it was not the first time iran launched a war on its women. 4 years earlier several others were also detained on similar charges, since they appeared to have danced on pharrell williams’s song “Happy” on their social media platform, which was a very popular trend at that time globally.
Iran Happy dancers given 91 lashes
Six Iranians arrested for appearing in a video dancing to Pharrell Williams' song Happy have been sentenced to up to…
Moral policing in fact plagues most conservative islamic societies around the middle east which bars women from exercising their socio-economic freedom in those societies and creates a culture of segregation. Moral police is in fact a structured, well established, state sponsored dedicated group who actively monitor moral violations in countries like saudi arabia, sudan, malaysia etc.
Who are Islamic 'morality police'?
News that Iran has deployed thousands of undercover agents to enforce rules on dress has cast the spotlight on an…
Now, what do these instances imply to us? Should we move out from neoliberal objectifying culture to a more regressive, segregative and oppressing culture? i can’t tell for sure as to where to draw the line. Although context does matter, but i am just trying to show you how feminist causes can be hijacked and help fundamentalist conservative sentiments to mobilize. And those who are on the liberal aisle, sometimes as a response or retaliation inadvertently end up advocating for neoliberalism, which perpetuates the objectification and hypersexualization of women.
I remember the time when a friend of mine said to me, “Do you consider everything that a girl says to be true?” I was then on believe all women team. It was the pinnacle of metoo movement at that time and this was the most dominant and popular narrative. The narrative was endorsed by Nytimes after Kavanaugh assault cases started to surface. Though after Joe Biden sexual assault cases started to appear, nytimes crew and all the supporters of this campaign took a backflip. Then the discussion went into more trivial semantic debates, like it was never “believe all women” but “believe women” which drastically changes the narrative. The conservative media outlets criticized it claiming such narratives were always political instead of actual virtue, and hence showing liberal hypocrisy.
Were they totally off base? i do not think so.
Metoo campaigns can easily be exploited for political purpose and to take someone down. Since it relies on mob justice, and gaslights anyone who disagrees, it can be used as a perfect tool to bring someone down or achieve political goals, and in some cases reap some personal benefits or in fact revenge. It happened with democrats hijacking metoo for smearing kavanaugh, it happened with republicans hijacking metoo for smearing biden. When trump was elected, it was deemed to be a defeat for the women, since trump was accused to one of the most vilest misogynist. Women’s march took place as a protest to his rise to presidency.
While the accusation against trump are not astronomical rather idiotic locker room talks and some bits of conservative denigrating viewpoints on women, it was not deserving of such disproportionate reaction. But the fueling was astronomical due to liberal leaning media endorsements, which helps less to woman’s actual causes but aids a political party over another, in my opinion.
In January 2018, comedian Aziz Ansari was accused to have sexually abused a women with whom he hooked up for a night. The claim took a toll on Aziz’s career since when such a stigma comes towards a person it propels others to dissociate with the person in order to save their image or their business. Later although the mob shifted towards supporting Aziz, but the toll he had to take were disproportionate without any repercussions on the accusers side. What happened to be a bad sex, was turned into a sexual abuse.
What started as a voice for vulnerable women to voice their sexual harassing experiences has become so wide and ambiguous that it started to divide women themselves, on the effectiveness of the whole thing. Tarana burke who is credited to have coined the term metoo in 2006 has told the atlantic that the movement started to encompass all ideas under one umbrella while this was not the initial purpose, and hence its losing its grounds. In fact check the video below where atlantic writer caitlin flanagan discusses the problems associated with the movement. Here she too can be seen to echo the similar sentiment as how measuring trivial problems within the same scale as the horrifying ones ultimately started to nullify the cause of metoo.
Since Metoo relied on mob justice and ignored due process, it opened up room for false allegations. Since the potential impact of false or exaggerated allegations have been overlooked by many activists, many potential allies who happened to be men, have sided away to not risk themselves. For example, Aziz Ansari himself was a metoo ally but then the boomerang hit him, and it hit him bad. In fact women themselves have expressed concerns over the possible dismantle of the whole movement due to misappropriating the whole thing. Check the survey by Vox below where women were asked how much concerned on these issues.
Also, this was a good read too, from Harvard Business Review, which shows how the gross sweeping generalizations and mob justice culture started to backfire the whole movement. How company officials are backing away from recruiting women to play safe, how interactions, co-operations were being affected out of paranoia of the mob culture and etc.
The #MeToo Backlash
In the fall of 2017, when the New York Times and other media began reporting on widespread sexual harassment and…
Germaine Greer, author of the female eunuch, and a second wave feminism pioneer echoes a similar sentiment. Though citing a controversial person like Greer is not a wise choice, but given her experience on feminism, and her herself being a feminist pioneer of the second wave, it would be even more unwise to leave her out of the discussion. And seeing her views i do feel like she is not totally off base while many of the new age feminist would disagree. I first came across greer’s views in Al jazeera’s Head to Head segment with Mehdi Hasan. If you are interested you might give it a shot and check the whole 1 and a half hour segment out. But Mehdi’s belligerence might annoy you hence i am attaching another video of her views where she is allowed to express herself more clearly without getting interrupted.
Many second wave feminist are on greer’s side, citing the negligence of due process and privileged women utilizing it for monetary, political or vengeful gains, which might inadvertently hurt women’s cause. Margaret Atwood for example has also received major backlash for questioning the integrity of metoo movement when a colleague of her’s was accused of sexual misconduct. While it might feel like she was acting on favouritism, but the substance of Atwood’s arguments make no less sense. She argues that a to hold every woman as angelic would be unconsciously stripping them off their moral agency. A woman is capable of making good or bad moral choices, and hence everyone deserves a due process before facing any social or institutional repercussion. Below is the link to the Op-ed for which Margaret Atwood had a storm of backlash against her.
Opinion: Am I a bad feminist?
Margaret Atwood is the author of more than 40 books of poetry, fiction and essays, including The Handmaid's Tale. It…
With the rise of trans acceptance and sex positivism, more divisions of feminism had been created. Swerf for example, are referred to those who support radical feminism but does not support sex work since they consider it to be dehumanizing to women. They accuse liberal feminists of being so individual centric, that they ignore feminist histories where women were only subjected to the servitude of men, and how sex work, pornography are just a perpetuation of the past. They feel that neoliberal feminist is wrong in the sense that it considers the individual to be above all, and that having the option to “choose” is the most feminist issue there could be, ignoring the fact it may contribute to the wider discrimination to marginalized women or women of poor underprivileged class, since it normalizes objectification.
Shit liberal feminists say: SWERF
Look at Ms. going full SWERF on us. The hell is this? https://t.co/P7J9NByhI6 - Amadi (@amaditalks) November 4, 2015…
Then comes Twerfs, another group of radical feminists who are opposed to transgender activist and who else to cite on this other than the great J.K Rowling. J.K Rowling and her allies fear that transgender activism have overshadowed actual feminist causes, smearing women’s safe spaces. They fear that the years of accumulated progress to ameliorate woman’s condition in society is being systematically destroyed by trying to obfuscate gender identities. Also rowling argues that such ambiguity surrounding gender identity does huge disservice to the children’s psyche. Rowling’s full view can be found in her blogpost from June 10 in her personal website.
J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues - J.K. Rowling
Warning: This piece contains inappropriate language for children. This isn't an easy piece to write, for reasons that…
Now seeing all these feminist divisiveness, and tons and tons of contradictions i have started to move towards a more benign and skeptical position. I understood that there is not a linear narrative and that all ends can have fair logics on their side. To wholly side with one group would do a disservice to the other. And this was one of the tipping point. What if i myself got a fake allegation hanging on my head? In Bangladesh, when the privileged english medium children brought metoo in social media sphere, it was massively celebrated, as a step forward towards bettering women’s lives in bangladesh. While it itself was more of a privileged class echo chamber rather than a marginal voice, but soon it too started to break apart. I saw germaine greer’s sentiments coming into action, that metoo will evidently fail, for a lack of structure.
There was a Bangladeshi group in facebook, “Healthy minds” who championed girls coming forward with their abuse stories. While the success of the group was to destigmatize women coming out with their abuse experiences, it parallely endorsed mob justice and as a consequence, ate itself up. Numerous fake allegations and exaggerated claims started popping up, which eventually turned people against the whole thing. Once a popular blogger imtiaz mahmood was metooed as well. Imtiaz Mahmood was accused to have sent indecent messages to a woman and eventually for having exploited her. But later it was revealed to be a baseless smear attempt too. Thus, the absence of due process started to undermine the whole movement, and it again started to unfold in front of my eyes.
What metoo fails to realize is that it opens up the option for people to be falsely tried. In the court of public opinion, the justice narrative that, “innocent until proven guilty” have shifted towards the narrative “Guilty until proven innocent”. Many activists argued that, the small amount of falsely accused can be expendable because large proportion of women are getting justice. But they fail to realize that being wrongfully tried is a worse situation to fall in, and to ignore these particular victims is to attack one of the foundation of the justice system, which is the Blackstone’s Ratio. Blackstone’s ration states that,
It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer
Now this have been the foundation to establish the notion of innocent until proven guilty. But in the court of the mob, you are guilty until proven innocent. Hence, the structurelessness of the whole is the root of it getting slowly exploited and decimated, and even turning potential allies against the thing out of paranoia.
Check Bari Weiss, an Nytimes contributor discuss this issue on Bill Maher show.
So have i too looked over the fact if the backlash which our departmental senior received when he was metooed was disproportionate or not? Now after two years of it happening, I tend to think so. What he did, was relatively mild compared to the smear he received. But was it necessary for the girl to speak out? Yes, otherwise the issue would never have come up. Someone had to speak out to break the ignorance of others about such issues, to take the blindfold off their eyes. What she did was bold and necessary to highlight the abusive culture that predominates at Kuet. But it did come at a cost, at a cost of disproportionate backlash, along with the cost of psychological stress of some of her allies who were acting as mediators. They were trying to diplomatically handle the situation, since in a political atmosphere and a impunity dominant culture won’t let you get away with the highest forms of justice, and so diplomacy was to be resorted to. But it was a double edged sword for the mediators, since they tried to bring out the optimum result but at the cost of being not able to satisfy the victim and also earning the wrath of the guy brigade. At those times i was virtually not taking any of the side hustles into considerations. Now that i realize, i feel bad for ignoring the struggle some of the guys had to go through.
Also guillotining someone and fully ostracizing is not an option either. Since the perpetrators are too a product of society which endorses objectification and harbours the culture of sexual harassment, so ostracizing them like murder assailants feels far stretched at this point. It could have been done, if they understood the weight of the whole thing, and still violated it, but as one friend of mine asked of me, “ what do you mean by ‘sexual harassment’, what does it even mean”. So is it justifiable to expect them to act like saints to whom the revelation had not reached yet?
I maybe wrong on a lot of stances that i discussed here , but i am happy to be proven wrong. If convincing counter arguments, evidences come forth i would happily align myself accordingly. Because ofc, we are learners, we constantly learn.