A few days back, our Facebook timelines were filled with a particular hashtag — #MeToo. The collective raising of hands narrated numerous uncomfortable horror stories.
For many, it was the first time they had the courage to open up about incidents of sexual harassment. For many men, it was an eye-opener.
#MeToo became so frequent on social media that it started bothering us. These incidents are routine. It happens everywhere. On buses, aeroplanes, roads, workplaces, schools, and even at home.
There were many who didn’t participate in the campaign. Not because they haven’t faced assault — verbal or physical — on their bodies and dignity. They chose not to speak up because it’s not easy.
On Sunday, Zaira Wasim, a teenage Bollywood actor took to Instagram to complain about a man who assaulted her on board a flight from Delhi to Mumbai. She said that the passenger, who was sitting behind her, was rubbing his foot against her back and neck while she was half asleep.
“This is not the way, this is not how a girl should be made to feel. This is terrible. Is this how they are going to take care of girls? No one will help us if we don't decide to help ourselves. This is the worst thing,” the actor said, breaking down, repeatedly.
Just as media organisations started reporting it, some individuals decided to raise tough questions. No, not about safety guidelines for IndiGo airlines or about the accused. The questions were raised about the actor. “Why didn’t she raise an alarm? Why didn’t she seek help? Does she have evidence?”
As is the age-old case, the onus fell on the victim herself. She had to prove that she was harassed. She, according to these people, had to explain why she took to social media and didn’t run to the police.
Soon, the name-calling began. While some accused her of doing this for publicity, others said, “This is fake. She is an actress.”
“Speaking up on Instagram doesn't count as standing up, for me at least. Sorry,” a former journalist wrote on Twitter.
It seems, no one told the ex-scribe that Wasim wasn’t standing up to impress her; she was talking about her ordeal. And she was doing it her own way. She didn’t need anyone’s advice on how to go about it.
Another bunch blamed the actor’s clothes. “Leave this sin life. See your dressing?” a Twitter user wrote.
The comment brought back memories when the Dangal star was harassed after she posted a picture with J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. The hate comments claimed she was ruining Islam for acting in Bollywood.
The actor was forced to delete the picture and tender an apology.
"I'm not proud of what I'm doing and I want everyone, especially the youth, to know that there are real role models out there, whether they be in now or in history," she wrote.
In another incident, the actor was harassed online because her mother had put up Facebook posts in 2014 supporting Pakistan in a cricket match against India. The posts went viral and there were more than enough calls for Zaira and her mother to leave India.
Twitteratis brought up the incident and linked it to Zaira’s latest experience. “I heard, Zaira Wasim’s brave mother who hoists Pakistani flags was also with her on the flight. Meri maa toh chaar-paanch thappad jad deti agar mujhe koi aise pareshan karta (My mother would have slapped the person who tried to do any such thing with me),” wrote a verified Twitter user.
Many questioned why the actor’s mother didn’t beat up the man. According to these people, it is the mother’s job to also double up as a bouncer when it comes to sexual assault.
For those who can't fathom why the actor didn't confront the man and instead went on the internet, here’s your answer –
Besides the fact that she’s a teenager, let’s not forget it is difficult to confront someone in these situations. We are confused and afraid, even if this happens to us on a daily basis. How often do you see women creating a ruckus for being touched inappropriately at a crowded place? How often do you see a woman complain about her boss for passing lewd remarks? Almost, never. It doesn’t mean that the incident isn’t repeated. It happens all the time. To children, to teenagers, to almost every women irrespective of their age.
Every time something like that happens, the women are questioned — “What were you wearing? Where did you go? With whom?”
Despite several editorials, interviews and even TIME magazine recognizing “The Silence Breakers” as the Person of The Year, victim blaming will not end. And that is the worst part.