The Con­CepT of Con­senT

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - Brunch - - INDULGE -

LIKE EV­ERY­ONE else on the planet, I have an opin­ion on the US elec­tion. And yes, you’re right, if I had a vote, it would go to Hillary Clin­ton. Be­cause, you know, the other guy is a sexist, misog­y­nist, self-con­fessed se­rial groper.

We all knew this stuff about Don­ald Trump any­way. So why did ev­ery woman across the globe have such a vis­ceral re­sponse to his words on that in­fa­mous Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood tape? Why did they send a shiver up our col­lec­tive spine? Why did First Lady Michelle Obama con­fess that it shook her ‘to my core’?

Why did all women take the Don­ald Trump tape so per­son­ally?

Well, be­cause all of us have had a Don­ald Trump rub up against us – quite lit­er­ally – at one time or an­other.

The truth is that if you are a woman – no mat­ter what shape, size or colour you may be, or where in the world you grew up – you will have come up against a Don­ald Trump at some point in your life. Or even sev­eral Don­ald Trumps at dif­fer­ent points in your life.

The un­cle whose ‘cud­dles’ al­ways made you feel un­com­fort­able as a child but you couldn’t fig­ure out why un­til you were and en­cour­aged other women to speak up. In less than a week, Ox­ford tweeted later, 30 mil­lion peo­ple had read or con­trib­uted to the #No­tOkay sto­ries while a mil­lion women had shared their sto­ries over the course of one night alone.

But for ev­ery woman shar­ing her story, there were prob­a­bly ten oth­ers who re­mained silent about past as­saults on their bod­ies. And there was an­other Twit­ter hash­tag that ex­plained why: #WhyWomenDon­tRe­port.

Not that any woman needed that ex­plained to her. We know all the myr­iad rea­sons women don’t re­port sex­ual as­sault all too well: be­cause we are em­bar­rassed, ashamed, afraid of cre­at­ing waves, ter­ri­fied of be­ing dis­be­lieved, and mor­ti­fied at the thought of be­ing known ever af­ter as ‘that girl’.

It seems so much eas­ier to just brush it off as just an­other draw­back of be­ing a woman in a man’s world, to shrug it away as one of those things that women have to ‘deal’ with and carry on with our lives. Be­cause if you started com­plain­ing about ev­ery such event, you prob­a­bly wouldn’t have the time or en­ergy to do much else.

The more im­por­tant ques­tion is why men com­mit sex­ual as­sault. Why do they feel en­ti­tled to feast on our body parts? And why do be­lieve that they can get away with it?

Well the short an­swer is be­cause they can. And they do. Time and time again. And one of the rea­sons they get away with it again and again is that women are too ashamed, too hu­mil­i­ated, too trau­ma­tised to call them out on it.

And be­cause they know that even if we do, we will not be be­lieved but blamed. What were you do­ing there? What were you wear­ing? Did you lead him on? How much had you drunk? Why were you alone with him? How come you were out so late at night? Why are you speak­ing up now? Why didn’t you com­plain at the time? Why didn’t you try to fight him off ?

Why? Why? Why?

The ques­tions pile up un­til the ac­cuser ends up feel­ing like the ac­cused. And she starts to be­lieve that she would have been bet­ter off if she’d just shut up and put up.

Well, you know what. It is time to tell her that that’s #It­sOkay to speak up. And to lis­ten hard when she does.

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