(English) We Asked: Has #MeToo Changed Anything for You? Here’s What You Told Us - Agents of Ishq

(English) We Asked: Has #MeToo Changed Anything for You? Here’s What You Told Us

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Agents, in early November, we asked those of you who identify as men about #MeToo: Has the movement changed anything for you? What feelings and thoughts has it led to? Are you looking at the past in a different light? How are you contemplating the future?

So far, we received about 50 responses, published below and arranged according to age.

While we have seen several polarised responses online, or evasions and denials in official statements, the responses we received are more tentative and reflective, another kind of response that hasn’t been recorded much. Perhaps this tentativeness can provide the ground for a fresh approach.

We think of this as a beginning. And we hope a more diverse set of voices will be added to these over time the form will remain open, in English and Hindi.

1) Sid, 19, Male

Yes, it has drastically changed how I think about consent.

2) Satyam, 20, Heterosexual

I am 20 now. I was in my late teens when #MeToo was first started. I have always been aware of the discrimination (be it sexual, mental) and violence that women have to face in this society, as I have six older sisters and we have always talked to each other about these matters, pretty boldly. But my sisters also haven’t been able to speak all the time, they also have had some men of the family or friends of family, who have been violent to them, and the fact that it actually happens, was something I was aware of, and I had a very clear stand on this. Seeing the #MeToo campaign where a lot of women have spoken so openly against molesters, gives me a a sense of freedom within me. I see this as a sense of openness in my own heart. And seeing this male chauvinst society falling apart brick by brick (although it’s just the beginning) is so so heartwarming. I had tears in my eyes when I saw these ladies winning in any form. Be it the resignation of MJ Akbar, or Nana’s case, or anything else like that.

I am not writing all, but this campaign has helped me very much in growing up. This is something that the males have to understand and not females, and I am aware of this.

More more power and support to the campaign. And no support to females, because they do not need a man’s support, they are enough and more than enough. They’ll snatch it from this male chauvinist society, they will do it…

3) Advait, 20, Bisexual

I am still young, so going forward I’ll be more mindful of the way I behave with people. I understand that I can sometimes be a little manipulative, so going forward I’ll make sure that my partners understand that I can gaslight them when I am scared and how they can identify it and help me improve then and there. I have realised through the accounts that I have read, about how abuse can happen in many different ways.

4) David, 21, Heterosexual

#MeToo has made me more self aware of being a man and also put me in a position of solidarity with the movement and with the women around me who tell me about their stories. It has made me more aware of my privilege. Has anything changed? In college yes as that is the space I am at almost everyday. I think the women around me have become more vocal about the sexual harassment and making it stop. We are supportive of each other more as we (men in my group) have become more aware of everyday harassment and threat our female friends face. We also call out what is patriarchal and sexist about each other which I think is good.

5) AS, 22, Straight Male

Yes, it has made me realise that many of the harassers are more widespread than we men think. It has made me introspect on some things I’ve said to women in the past. I can’t imagine how tough it must be for women to navigate through such people in their daily lives, how it affects their perception of men, to even go on a date with a group of people who you are attracted to but can also cause the most harm to them, there needs to be an introspection.

6) Not a feminist, 22, Straight

I will stay away from libtard women from now on. Accusations are not above the law. Accused are innocent until proven guilty.

7) Anonymous, 22, Graysexual

I recognise that the privilege lies with my body, and not just how I identify myself. Time for all of us to check our privilege, yes: but also not to get lost in the confusion of a moment in a movement. Time for us to demand structural changes that make workplaces a fertile and helpful ground for our women co-workers. Time that we sought to build institutions such as ICCs and make them stronger and ask our fellow men to embrace a feminist masculinity.

8) Anirudh, 22, Queer

I like the movement. I think it’s a huge step to arriving at a safer world.

9) An Engineer, 22, Male

Nope, not a thing changed about how I think of myself. Though, I feel I have a need to record verbal/written consent before getting physical with anyone. It will just give me peace of mind. Also, I started to cut down on my workplace interaction with the opposite sex. I’m very bad at picking up on hints or getting when someone is feeling uncomfortable, so I decided to go down this road. With most of them, I have decided to cut the interaction to the office level only.

10) Anonymous, 23, Straight

I have never behaved in the way the men who have been named did. I knew what was wrong. So the movement didn’t affect the way I think about myself. But it definitely made me feel sorry and concerned for the women around me. I was aware of such instances and considered women to be mentally stronger than men but I didn’t know that it was so rampant. The movement is a welcome one. But because I also want to be honest, it has made me very cautious. Not because I’m scared of being “outed”. I’m scared of unintentionally hurting the women around me. I’m scared of not knowing what they have been through and what I could say/do that might strike the wrong nerve. I just want to be supportive and of help. But I’m scared of doing the opposite unintentionally.

11) Joshua Mark George, 24, Gay

I’m more conscious of the ways in which I behaved when I was younger and wonder if what I did technically counts as harassment. As an adult I’ve always been careful, but when I think about how I used to sit on a bench in college and wait for my crush to walk past every day, I wonder if that’s stalking. In the present, nothing’s changed. I’m still paranoid about the safety of people with me.

12) Amit, 24, Heterosexual

Yes it has changed me. There has been introspection on my part and it has made me more aware about sexual abuse and harassment. I consider myself a feminist and would always support the #MeToo movement and I have learned one important thing – always believe the victim.

13) Mr Blank, 25, Straight

No, just glad people are finding the collective strength to take action.

14) Just an average guy, 25, Straight

I have always felt that women go through too much, the world has been unfair with women. #MeToo has shed light on an already prevailing issue. I’ve always treated women nicely, so I’m afraid #MeToo hasn’t changed me as such. Some people already know what women go through.

15) Anonymous, 25, Heterosexual

I’ve come to believe that I’m a part of this toxic culture and all I can do to redeem myself is to be CONSCIOUSLY gender sensitive every time and all the time. That’s the least I can do.

16) Anonymous, 25, Straight

Yes. It is actually very difficult for me to point out exactly how it has affected the way I think about myself but one thing is for sure, it has made thinking twice before I even utter something to even the closest of my female friends a habit of mine. I don’t mean it in a negative way. I still burst out in anger in front of them if I am pissed off, I still cry in front of them for my own petty issues without any restraint and many other things I always used to do I still do. The difference, however, is that now I give them my undivided attention when they are speaking out or expressing themselves even if for a seemingly trivial issue of say choosing the colour of a top. The things I have read because of the movement have humbled me in a way. Now I consciously make an effort not to trivialise any issue pertaining to any of my female friends. Before this movement I never asked the question – who am I to decide what is trivial and what is not? I came to know that I did not understand women and probably never will because there are issues they face daily that I will never face simply because I am not them. I hope this realisation makes me a better human being but that is yet to be seen. But at least it has made me conscious of small acts of sexism I unknowingly used to commit with my female friends and even my mother, and how I can avoid committing such acts.

17) Mayank, 26, Heterosexual

I question my behaviour at all times. I am glad that has happened.

18) Sahab, 26, Straight

Yes. It has made me cautious about what I might say or do even unconsciously.

19) Devesh, 26, Straight

I’ve become more aware of what I say and what women in general accept as banter, but is inherently harmful language. I’ve become more mindful of the privileges I have due to patriarchy and what [burdens in general about maintaining a home], women have to bear even though it’s an equal job. Calling out people and their behavior and their thinking. And a lot of other small things that I would have overlooked but matter a lot.

20) Karthik, 26, Straight

Bought my first Jordan Peterson book.

21) Drew, 27, Straight

No, it hasn’t affected the way I think about myself. I have always erred on the side of caution when faced with ambiguous consent, both out respect for the other person and fear of rejection. I have never made the first move, out of fear of being thought of as a creep (which is what all girls think of guys who make the first move, when they are not attracted to them). I have been lucky (and patient) enough to have had women make first moves throughout my life, and I am in a committed relationship, so nothing changes for me. If I was single right now, I would never have the courage to make any advances to a girl, for fear that it could be blown out of proportion. I think the #MeToo movement is great, as it is giving women the courage to stand up to sexual assault and molestation, and even sexual harassment, and no person guilty of these things should ever get away scot free because a woman is afraid to come forward because her reputation is at stake. However, I feel like it has been cheapened by a few attention-seeking individuals who confuse normal advances with sexual harassment. Asking once has to be acceptable, or we face the prospect of regressing further in an already sexually regressive nation.

22) Zain Anwar, 28, Straight

I’d like to believe I’ve always been a sensible, considerate person when it comes to any conversation around gender, sexuality or any other basic aspect of life. No, I don’t deserve an award for it. Having said that, when the #MeToo stories came out, I looked back at my life and had to rewind everything. Just to ensure if I had ever misbehaved, misappropriated any person of any gender. I think this realisation and even perhaps fear is what has changed in me.

23) Godot, 28, Straight

I don’t think much has changed in how I think about myself or conduct myself, apart from the fact that I feel it’s unfortunately a very different reality and world you get when you’re a boy in our society and a much more harsh one if you’re a woman. It’s appalling [how] we have normalised predatory behaviour in our society and in fact celebrate people who have done so in the past. Also, there’s a hope that probably things might change for the better.

24) Ash, 28, Straight (mostly)

The #MeToo movement has persuaded me to re-examine the seriousness of sexual harassment. I knew it was serious, did not realise how serious. How it affects participation in places of education, the workforce…even something simple (for me) like going to the cinemas alone. I had no idea this impacted their lives to the point of paralysing their participation in public life and a shot at success/mobility in their professional lives. The scale of it astounded me. I’m more determined to exclusively hang out in mixed groups and to call out sexist conversation even if I run into all-male groups at work or otherwise. I was scared of doing so earlier because I thought it would risk friendships with men I knew. [I had a] fear of being gaslighted by them and excluded from opportunities that often arise from these informal conversations …contacts, access, job recommendations…that sort of thing. I don’t think I’m scared anymore. I hope I’m not. Other than that I’m yet to figure out a more solid contribution I can make, or how to show solidarity without making it about me.

Five years ago I kissed someone for the first time. I did ensure a verbal yes, but I couldn’t help but notice some discomfort in her body language. I ignored it. She did push away my hand where it wasn’t meant to be, but apart from that, we continued to make out. She kissed back but something felt…off. I checked with her a few days later if she was uncomfortable. She said it was fine and we’re still friends, but I do feel guilty about not having checked then and there, and I do not know how to articulate that guilt.

25) Swapnil, 28, Straight

It has made it a lot easier to call out peers and men on their sexist behaviour. Also, we don’t have to wait anymore for a man to do something predatory so that we can talk about this. #MeToo is now part of our dinner tables. It is just so easy to start a conversation about patriarchy by saying, “Have you heard about #MeToo?” and everyone’s sexist mindset comes out. We can then address each issue and help them understand why their thinking is the exact problem. Apart from this, it has helped me check myself pretty often. I ask myself twice before approaching a girl and I think not just about her, but about the context of the situation. Should I approach a girl in an elevator? NOOOO! Is it okay if I do so in a bar? Maybe, but it’s probably a good thing to leave her alone.

26) Renison Pereria, 28, Straight

No coz I always treated women as equals nothing more nothing less, which is what they deserve.

27) Anonymous, 29, Hetero

I am a supporter of #MeToo, and want the stories of survivors to be taken seriously. However, I do think that charges of sexual harassment are very serious things and should not be thrown about in a cavalier manner. I have, completely falsely, been accused of harassment (I have several witnesses, including my partner, to prove this). I understand the trauma that survivors go through and the support we must extend to them. But unsubstantiated accusations (and that too on public platforms, with no recourse to reply) can also lead to a lot of mental anguish for the accused. I understand that false accusations are very rare and most survivors take the social media/anonymous route as a last resort. Some compassion and consideration is all that I am advocating for.

28) Faisal H Bhat, 29, Male

Not changed anything in me, but yes, my perception about harassment faced by women. Earlier I believed that harassment is there but happens occasionally, but with #MeToo it’s clear that it something faced by almost every woman somewhere in life. It makes me angry and disgusted to be associated with a particular gender.

29) Monoshij, 29, Straight

Have always been respectful but am now more aware of not crossing boundaries, even if accidentally.

30) Anonymous, 29, Bisexual

Actions in my past, which I considered normal reactions to the situation, seem more and more like cases of abuse/harassment. I know that this is a result of my own ignorance and not some new set of rules. But honestly, I wish that as a teenager I had been taught what consent is, or how my actions impact the women I come into contact with. For the longest time in my life, women I have met and been close to have maintained that I was a respectful, good guy. But now, this isn’t true. I only wish that people who are supporting the movement would also suggest ways for men to come clean and act in ways that could perhaps give the women the closure they need. Not because it will help me deal with my conscience, but because that’s the least I can do.

31) Koushik, 30, Straight

I think I have become more conscious of not just my actions, but also of the other men around me with respect to women we cross paths with.

32) Anonymous, 30, Straight

Yes, things have changed. It has made me realise the democratic ideal of “due process” is not valued, be it in the US or India.

Whether it’s many men who have been publicly shamed (via unproven allegations in court) or Shazia Iqbal’s heartbreaking letter to MAMI for having her film dropped because of… wait for it… a co-producer’s awareness of a colleague’s behavior at his company, the #MeToo movement has become derailed by ideological rigidity and the unwillingness to see the differences between the Harvey Weinsteins and others. Good intentions, yet a lack of self-reflection, are quickly making this movement reactionary yet hollow in it’s principles. I understand why you would not print this.

33) Fuzz lightyear, 30, Sadly straight, but still curious

Yes it definitely has. It should too. Not being accused by anyone does not mean I am all perfect. I am sure I have made someone feel uncomfortable because of what I said or what I did. I need to rethink where I have gone wrong and what I cannot/should not do or say. Making sure better behaviour is part of who I am means to be honest with myself, reflect on my past, and listen to survivors and the oppressed. Most importantly, this is not just about women of my social group in terms of caste and class.

34) Dattaprasad, 30, Hetersexual

Didn’t change the way I think of myself. Had a lot of conversations with women about this topic, which would’ve been difficult to start if it weren’t for this movement.

35) Ishan, 30, Straight

Growing up in a patriarchal family, I was always curious about why the girls and women of my family and extended family had to do all the household chores, while the men sat in the hall watching TV.

I used to spend time in female gangs wherever I would go and help them and talk with them, but never understood why they have so readily accepted this job of “Home Making”.

When I was mature enough to understand how world works, one thing became very clear: the root of all evil is women. Yes, women, because they have stopped fighting for their survival, for their rights, for the decision making. From young girls to old women all I have seen are faces who have given up on living on their terms.

So to solve all the evils in this world, women have to be equal, if not more. And I have been trying really hard to ignite that fire in women around me. From my mother to my cousins, from my friends to the girls I dated. But I failed miserably.

Women and their life, at least who are around me, have been something very close to my heart.

When #MeToo hit India, it was the moment I was waiting for, I was so glad, finally women have found the power to push against the patriarchy.

As for myself, I’m no saint, as I grew in the toxic setup of family and friends. It took time for me to grow out of it. It was really hard to distinguish between what’s right and what’s wrong. Having never been close to girls through my entire childhood, I made my first female friend when I was 18. I have made blunders. Hurt women in one way or another without knowing the consequences. Gaslighting my girlfriend who was actually very kind and supporting, touching women in crowded places. There are many instances.

But with #MeToo accounts of ladies and awareness now, I know I’m a part of problem, which I’m trying to solve. 

36) Sniper, 31, Straight

Yes, I am an introvert by nature, so I was already uncomfortable to go and interact with strangers. Now, I have kind of ensured that I don’t meet women alone – now it’s in public places only during the day time. I am not hiring women as my organisation is too small to set up something on lines of a Vishakha committee. Cause I really don’t want trouble.

On the personal front, nothing has changed.

One last thing, I have stopped confrontation with women, wrong or right.

37) Ashutosh, 32, Straight

In spite of having grown around extremely strong, talented, independent women since my childhood, this movement has made me realise such deeper interpretations, meanings and consequences of harassment (mental and sexual). It’s not okay for a man to even think it’s “chalta hai”. It’s not. He must define and confine his approach within her boundaries and not his own.

38) Anonymous, 34, Straight

I’m not sure if it’s specific to the moment, but the larger process of women holding men accountable for trangressive behaviour, made me question a lot about my own actions – all the minor and major trangressions that I’ve been guilty of, and how any relationship is worthwhile only if there is a certain equality not only at the level of necessities like the equal right to choose a career path, but also at the level of fulfillment of emotional needs […]. It forces me further to reflect on whether I violate that equality in my present relationship, and to what end.

39) Blank, 35, Gay

Of course it has. I think even before #MeToo, consent was always at the top of the mind. I think when two men are involved, consent becomes most important, because the so-called “power” is equally divided, which is sad in the way that men do not think of that when it comes to a man-woman equation. I wonder why though. It has changed because today I will not even take a hug for granted. It is a woman’s agency, irrespective of me being gay or not. She has to feel comfortable and reach out and hug me and only then I shall reciprocate. The small things also matter and put in more perspective.

40) Anonymous, 35, Straight

Two perspectives:

Firstly, it vindicated how I have chosen to live. No dating people I report to or who report to me or people who connect with me for work externally, even if they flirt. The result has been a pathetic dating life because I spent most of my time at work and met most women at work. Still I sleep well.

Secondly, I thought the division between good and bad was clear. Found out it’s not. At this age, with this maturity, with this strong sense of morals, I felt confused. Everyone has a different definition of what’s acceptable and what’s not. It made me reflect on my life and my associations with women.

I am also certain that this movement will leave many bewildered on what’s right and what’s wrong before we get to a point where we realise it’s all individual preferences underlined with mutual respect. And because of which, there will have to be an allowance of a grey area.

Don’t get me wrong. I long for the day where no one feels vulnerable. Where women can go and live their lives without the threat of being physically assaulted. It’s a basic need. And we all should have it – men, women, trans et al.

But I have felt that I have reduced my communication with friends (men and women) who led social media lynch mobs during this movement. Just like I don’t agree with  rapes or molestation of any kind, I don’t agree with social media lynch mobs.

I hope the movement will make people think twice before taking advantage of others sexually. I hope the movement results in women being as safe as men are. Hopefully mutual respect will follow.

At the same time, this movement will need to balance women, men, anthropology, biology and the goals of this movement, otherwise it will implode because of its own contradictions.

41) Vivek, 35, Male

I presume the impact is gonna be around for a very long time, at least for some men like me, in the way we think about women. Though we vouch for gender equality, we hardly realised women are being suppressed to the core despite being equally educated. I wish for a cultural change in a way we raise the kids. It’s a pity sometimes women themselves stand against it.

42) Sudhesh, 47, How does that matter?

Personally no. Hopefully the movement makes men more sensitive towards their behaviour in wor places and relationships with women. The conversation should also make the legal system, corporates and institutions more sensitive when such cases come up.

43) Vicky Donor, 50, Straight

Yes. Don’t trust women. Get consent signed like pre-nuptial agreements, should she change her mind and heart some years later.

44) Ravi, 55, Heterosexual

I don’t know where to begin. I do know I am guilty too, sometimes in “small” ways – I can’t help using terms of endearment with both younger men and women, and acts sometimes “larger” – making women friends uncomfortable when I was younger. And here I was, the idiot who considered himself someone who was sensitive to the voice of women. I realise now that not only have I not been sensitive, but have been an active enabler too (and some of the men are dead). I regret who I was and who I am and hope to live the rest of my life with regrets that I can live with or the right kind of regrets…don’t even know if all this makes sense. Thanks for the opportunity to share something.

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