Tarana Burke the co-founder of the organization Just Be Inc. (a nonprofit focused on improving the health and well-being of young women of color) gave life to the phrase ‘Me Too’ (Connley, 2018). Actress Alyssa Milano’s tweet in October 2017 made it go viral. Since then the phrase has become a movement, and the movement has expanded globally.
#MeToo and Social Media Gives Victims a Voice
The #MeToo movement has empowered many brave women to raise their voices and share their stories. But will it succeed in Pakistan, a conservative country struggling for women’s rights? Today, we celebrate, commend and join forces with the brave women who found their voices and shared their stories. One of those women is Meesha Shafi, a Pakistani celebrity and musician who “shook the country’s entertainment industry when she used the hashtag #MeToo” to expose sexual harassment that she endured from her colleagues (Tanzeem, 2018).
Before the #MeToo movement and without naming names, other Pakistani women had already begun sharing their stories via social media. Meesha was not the first Pakistani women to come forward, but she was one of the most famous ones.
Double Standards in a Conservative Society
Pakistan has a conservative and modest Muslim society. Women are expected to dress modestly, and keep their distance from men, as well as places were men go to regularly. Even in public restaurants, families are seated in a separate area.
Despite the conservative nature, there appears to be a double standard about appropriate conduct. Many women complain that they are being harassed. However, it is considered normal for a man to brush up against a woman, pinch her bottom or touch her inappropriately.
Backlash for Speaking Out
This brave woman used her public platform to speak out and take a stand in conservative country. On her twitter feed Meesha wrote that she was sharing this because she believed that by speaking about her own experience she would help to “break the culture of silence that permeates through. . .society” (Tanzeem, 2018).
The hope is that the #MeToo movement will cause a wider debate about sexual harassment and appropriate behavior between sexes. However, those who come forward may encounter some degree of backlash. Like Meesha, who had to deactivate her Facebook and Instagram accounts. She shut down her accounts, because her entire family were experiencing slander, bullying, threats and abuse. Even her young children were subject to attacks online.
Around the world, women who complain about sexual harassment are met with backlash and are accused of having an agenda. Tufali Akhtar, a veteran Pakistani journalist was quoted saying that harassment does not exist, just lying women with secret agendas who falsely claim harassment. According to Tufali, women use sex to advance their careers, because of business dispute or due to professional jealousy.
In protest to Meesha, other Pakistani men took to social media making similar arguments. Meesha was accused of trying to gain publicity by linking herself to the #MeToo movement. One Twitter user tweeted that instead of crying over spilled milk Meesha should have slapped her colleague and assailant and then moved on.
Fear Causes Silence
This backlash, and fears of financial repercussions keeps women from sharing their stories. Fear silences their voices. Women are afraid to come forward because it is very likely the will lose their jobs.
Tanzeela Mazhar, a female journalist and news anchor endured this kind of backlash when she came forward over a year ago.. She was stigmatized and labeled as a troublemaker. Tanzeela has been out of a job since she spoke out. She said that it is hard for her to find work because she is known for raising hell anytime she witnesses sexual harassment. Besides facing joblessness, Tanzeela is presently she is facing criminal charges for her accusations.
Taking Advantage of New Laws
The law in Pakistan does not adequately protect “victims who raise their voices” (Tanzeem, 2018). There is hope, and Pakistan has made progress. New laws that protect all sexes from discrimination are beginning to be created and implemented. However, those who accuse women of lying are not entirely without merit, because there are women who take advantage of the new laws, for their own personal gain.
Is the Movement Helping or Hurting Women’s Rights?
The conversation has shifted from combating sexual harassment to questioning whether the #MeToo movement will actually bring about change in perspectives or if it would just fade away. Tanzeela feels that the #MeToo movement will not bring about real change. Although, she is grateful that Meesha was brave enough to speak out, she believes the #MeToo movement will die out. Eventually Meesha will pay a price for speaking out. However, ” if more women spoke out, she said, things might actually start to change” (Tanzeem, 2018).
What do you think? Will #MeToo help end sexual harassment? If you relate to these brave Pakistani women, or if you have experienced sexual harassment or assault of any kind, keep the movement going, and let your voice be heard. Respond #MeToo and share your story in the comments. Like Tanzeela said, things will not change until more women speak out.
Within the United States and whether you are male or female, if you have experienced any form of sexual harassment in the workplace there are laws to protect you. WowFed is an organization whose mission is to build and empower women by advocating benefits, opportunity, and self-sufficiency for women in the workplace and home.
To learn more send us a message on our Contact Page
Email: Info@WowFed.org, or call 833-4-WowFed
Connley, C. (2018, Jan 19). #MeToo founder Tarana Burke has big plans for the movement in 2018. Retrieved from CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/19/metoo-founder-tarana-burke-has-big-plans-for-the-movement-in-2018.html
Tanzeem, A. (2018, May 05). Could #MeToo Succeed in a Conservative Country Struggling for Women’s Rights? Retrieved from VOA News: https://www.voanews.com/a/could-me-too-succeed-in-a-conservative-country-struggling-for-women-rights/4380911.html