In October 2018, New York time published how the #MeToo movement brought down 201 powerful men in the United States. The majority of these men had harassed and assaulted women for many years and probably never imagined they would ever have to face any consequences. We have seen in the last couple of years how so many men in power and fame were accused, proven guilty, removed or resigned from their position or even sentenced as a consequence of the #MeToo movement. #MeToo, the world’s first mass movement is shifting the culture to change the narratives of sexual assaults by destigmatizing and empowering survivors.
“I think only when we can shift the shame from the victims to perpetrators, the change will start there.”- Dr. Denis Mukwege
Victim blaming and shaming has not completely stopped, it is a huge cultural issue all over the world and will not be eradicated overnight. But, a movement like MeToo certainly is a milestone in women empowerment. It showed women how to overcome victim shaming!
Women have been subjected to sexual abuse and violence in all societies, in every country and culture in the world for ages. Unfortunately, in the patriarchal system, victims, not the perpetrators, of sexual assaults are stigmatized. Many societies don’t accept rape or sexual assault victims. Families or communities consider women as characterless and unacceptable to society.
This strategy really worked in favor of men for generations, to exploit women. Victim blaming, and the stigma and shame associated with it forced women to keep quiet. Either nobody would trust, or even if they do, the victim would be marginalized by blaming, shaming, or even punishing!
In some cultures, the trauma, humiliation, and stigma women endure as a result of disclosing their sexual abuses are just horrific. Therefore women usually choose not to talk about it, to shut down, block the memory, or to live with the trauma for the rest of their lives. This has remained the biggest weapon for men against women for centuries.
Women remain silent not because they are weaker, but because they are scared about the ramifications. Men use this silence to exploit women. This is one major cause why these celebrity actors, directors, politicians, sportsperson, doctors, and scientists were so confident for years that they would never be caught, as no women would like to talk about their own sexual abuses. It was a simple strategy used by men across countries and cultures – rape or assault women and then shame and blame them when they are trying to protest or fight. Shame them to the extent that, no one ever in the future would dare do disclose again.
View this post on Instagram
Because of the power imbalance between men and women in patriarchal societies, victims are blamed and dehumanized in gender-based violence. #MeToo movements provided immense power to survivors to dismantle these narratives. The age-old tactics of shaming women for being assaulted is not working anymore with the success of #MeToo and similar movements. Women all over the world are ignited to speak out about their abuses which they endured, sometimes maybe years ago, but decided to block the experience as a survival strategy.
#MeToo shook the entire world and was able to alter such a popular notion that a sexual assault victim should be ashamed, but not the predators! Now men (at least some of them ) are scared and would think twice before harassing women. They know their misconduct could be exposed at any time. Men would probably be more cautious in how they treat women, as women are less likely to remain silent. while sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct remain systemic problems, the #MeToo movement has given a voice to survivors, validated and destigmatized their experience.