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The courage of the individual inspires change

The culture of women choosing not to speak up needs to change

analysis Updated: Dec 03, 2017 20:07 IST
Hindustan Times
HTLS,Hindustan Times Leadership Summit,Rose McGowan
Actor Rose McGowan with Malala Fund CEO Farah Mohamed, CanDo chief executive Rola Hallam and journalist Anuradha Sengupta at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit (Hindustan Times)

Resilience in the face of adversity is perhaps an omnibus description of what women across the world have to face given the different challenges they encounter. For Dr Rola Hallam, working in a devastated Syria, her homeland, actor Rose McGowan and Farah Mohammed who heads the Malala fund on giving girls the right to education, speaking on this theme at the just concluded Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, the situations they faced were different, but the underlying story was how they had to pick themselves up and try and make a change both to their own environments and the world. Readers here will have heard most of Rose McGowan whose incendiary disclosure on sexual violence started a chain of events which took down powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein opening up a very ugly can of worms on abuse at the hands of influential men. Her courage in coming out and sharing her experiences seem to have given other women the nerve to speak up. Media legends such as Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Mark Halperin and Garrison Keillor have lost their jobs, ripping aside the veil of silence on sexual abuse. These are the men who have shaped public opinion for decades, who are role models and icons. Now the shabby secrets are out discrediting them irretrievably.

This behaviour continued for decades solely because they thought they would get away with it given their position and power. McGowan hit the nail on the head when she decried societies which asked girls to be careful while going to school but did not tell their boys not to rape. Today through the #MeToo movement , the whole issue has taken on a life of its own with women from all fields coming out to name and shame their attackers. This has definitely been a scary experience for many men for whom silence worked as the best co-conspirator.

This is not to suggest that the culture of women choosing not to speak up will change quickly, at least in countries like India which are conditioned by patriarchy. But as all the three women emphasised, the courage of the individual inspires change. Vulnerable women were in the past dismissed as publicity seekers and reviled. Now with social media and powerful women lending their voices to the issue of abuse, which is far more pervasive than thought of earlier, many men will think twice before preying on women. The culture of violence against women as a right for men will change if the momentum of this movement is kept up. Its ripple effects are being felt and it has certainly challenged old certitudes.

First Published: Dec 03, 2017 20:07 IST