The death of male pedestalism
#MeToo is a call to revolutionise the structures that have enabled patriarchy, so men are no longer be shielded by their entitlement
Worlds have imploded since last week. In the span of a few days, silences that had felt eternal erupted into indicting speech. Agonies that had rooted themselves in our subconscious came gushing to the surface of our tongues where they struggle, still, to perform the successful conversion from thought to narrative. Many of us have been triggered by the scale of the trauma of those close to us, or in similar professions as us.
We have had to contend with memories of violence, assault, harassment, humiliation, mostly all performed at the hands of powerful, entitled men, who are only now glimpsing the consequences of their actions. Karma is a b***h if you've been an abusive misogynist. If you've been a victim, karma feels like retribution. The greatest achievement has been the solidarity of women who are holding each other up; corroborating each other's narratives, reaching out with words of comfort and healing. The fresh wave of #MeToo-inspired outing has left many men with abusive pasts trembling in their sleep.
It's been an emotionally fraught week. I had hoped that my being in Eppan, in Sudtirol, would serve as a distraction from the storm brewing back home. I had hoped I would feel less affected by watching from a distance, by immersing myself in the wildness of the unfolding autumn and its accompanying symphony of falling yellow-red leaves, offering support to friends who were daring to out their oppressors, trying to fight my own stewing rage. Beyond my own history of battling sexism, misogyny and sexual harassment in several situations and workplaces, I've had to contend with my knowledge of other women's demons; my inability to speak out on their behalf because it is not my place to advertise the sources of their private despair and humiliation. I've had to think about the structure of complicity, its invisible scaffolding. I've had to wrestle with the fact that in most cases, I was not at all surprised by victims' accounts.
I've had to navigate my own moral conundrums about the 'obligation' to come out against those that have wronged me, and there are many, and they are all perhaps even more powerful today than they were at the time of their misdeeds. I've had to swallow the bitter pill of validation when it came to light that one of them, whom I'd written about last year without naming, was indeed a serial abuser. In most instances, they all were. They all exhibited patterns of psychopathy.
I kept returning to the phrase I used some months ago in one of my columns - Male Pedestalism. The predominantly male anger and resentment against the #MeToo movement is misplaced at the women who are finally finding the courage to come out and name their abusers. The reason this wave feels like a takedown is because it is, in fact, the equivalent of the ceremonious public gesture performed at the pronounced end of a dictatorship - the dismantling of the statue of the authoritarian figure that had been either self-elevated to begin with or assembled by the forces that be.
And this is where the media, which has finally begun to get in line with the discontent of patriarchy's victims, needs to acknowledge its own complicity in the making of all these male figures; the language of greatness and genius that has always been ascribed to men, and society's evangelising of male superiority through that very vocabulary. There needs to be a redistribution of privilege; the pecking order needs to collapse before it can be reconstructed. Men need to understand that they can no longer be shielded by their entitlement.
This is a war cry. It is a call to a radical revolutionising of the structures that have traditionally enabled patriarchy and male privilege. It is a reminder that as a person, you need to be on the right side of history, and if you are not, you must make amends, else you must face your own reckoning. I have many reservations about the technique of naming and shaming, because I know what it is like feel shame, to feel humiliated and de-humanised. I'm still struggling with the ramifications of perpetuating the cycle of it. I have exercised great decency in never naming, because I feel apprehensive participating in the pageantry of shame. I have no easy answers, though, as to alternative means and methods. I have been at a loss for a long time. Why should I, as a woman, take on the burden even of forgiveness? Why should I take on the pressure of moving on and being strong and continuing to fight and feel the obligation to name and shame, only to be shamed in return? On Tuesday, I finally collapsed under the crumbling onslaught of all the triggers. I sobbed uncontrollably.
I longed for the comforting heat of my mother's embrace, my best friends' hugs. I decided to name the person I had chosen not to name a year before, despite detailing his abuse - Rajat Kapoor. Now I've earned my time out. I return to India reluctantly, mainly enthused that I can be both physically and emotionally present for my female friends who have been going through much the same rollercoaster of emotions as I. Redemption will have to be a collective enterprise. We have all to meet at the same notional square where we demolished the male pedestals. We have to think, devise and strategise, so we can rebuild anew.
The beginning of empowerment involves a simple incantation. I deserve better. The beginning of equality is equally simple, the uncompromising belief that no one deserves to be dehumanised, not even the convict on death row. Justice must be seasoned with mercy.
Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx Send your feedback to email@example.com
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