Findings in the recent #MeToo movement
A social scientist who released a book outlining seven cultural habits talks about her findings in light of the #MeToo movement
Reading Chup: Breaking the Silence is like staring into a mirror — only to find yourself gasping in relief after you've stared at it for too long. Author and social scientist Deepa Narayan, after interviewing 600 women, collected 8,000 pages of research that highlights seven key cultural habits that act as the underlying machinery for women to delete themselves — denying the body, sexuality, being quiet, pleasing others, isolating oneself, the absence of an individual identity, and dependence. The book got its paperback release a few days ago and Narayan now has plans to adapt it into a play and film.
Excerpts from the interview.
It's been a year since Chup came out. Has the response been surprising in any way?
I'm surprised I haven't been attacked! Even today, I get emails from women I don't know who pick the book up and thank me for helping them understand how they have been suppressed through what they thought were normal child-rearing practices. My book is not about women's rights, it's about how we all grew up.
Did you have a clear guideline when you began your research?
I had some broad ideas... I had no idea that molestation would be so widespread. Once, I went to an auditorium and asked if there's a woman who's not been molested, and not a single hand went up. It took me a year of analysis and I hired two women to look at the data and do some counting to make sure that this wasn't my bias.
How much self-discovery has working on this book led to?
A lot. There are two big reactions. One is to say, 'Oh my God, I understand why it's like this', and the next is to say that 'I am not alone'. I use the word training and habit a lot because habits are learned. That's freeing rather than scary since you know it can change because you were 'trained' to be a certain way — it's not a personal defect. And if you've spoken to other women, then you can support each other.
You speak of culture as sculpting our being. How does popular culture facilitate these habits?
Bollywood films are a huge contributor — chhera chheri [eve teasing] in the movies has a very wrong effect. Films are being made on strong women today, which is positive, but it will take a while to change. Social media can be positive, but it can also be poisonous. On Twitter, independent women get trolled with death and rape threats. At the same time, it gives them a very important platform. I don't think the #MeToo movement would've happened without voices being amplified, and without Twitter, particularly.
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