Privilege is a term seldom understood. It can most often be only understood by the oppressed and the victimised. The #metoo debate has captured the imagination of the nation. Opinions fly past us without much thought put into it. The most striking opinion has been a ….
A thought process like this smacks of privilege and an utter lack of understanding of how power dynamic works. It reflects arrogance and lack of empathy. Abuse doesn’t occur with strangers. Abuse is most often perpetrated by a man/woman in a position of power. The victim is in a position of vulnerability. The abuser is a relative or an uncle. Sometimes he is a teacher, sometimes a superior. It breaks my heart to see the young woman who are coming out now being slut-shamed and having their motives questioned.
I am 50 years now , mother of two brilliant doctors and a doting grandmother to a beautiful young baby boy. I run my own business and for the past 15 years have been able to choose my time of work. 40 years ago when I grew up in Trivandrum , things were different. Father was a chartered accountant and we were socially respected. Ours was a large family. A favourite child of all my uncles , it was a shock when my privacy was first violated. 1970s we weren’t taught about good touch or bad touch. My uncle whom I loved the most decided it was ok to take liberties with me.
Unlike some of the women who found the courage to describe what happened to them, I am unable to type it out on the computer screen. The memories of the incident and its repeats will haunt me for a lifetime. I could confide only to a few and all of them asked me to hush it up. In my family whatsapp groups when I see men discussing the #metoo movement with disdain, I feel like shouting back. Often it ends with meek replies on how I disagree with them. Every word of mine subconsciously aims to not offend them. Yet that is one privilege they don’t afford to us women. Before they decry the entire saga of abuse , they don’t think that it could offend the women in their families.
In school, we had a master who would insist on pinching my underarms for every misdemeanour- real or imagined. I couldn’t talk against him then. I was all but a girl of 12 then. These men misused their position of power and proximity. They knew that their actions would go unquestioned. They would pinch me and next day smile at me as if nothing happened. We are the ones expected not to create a scene lest it offends them. I still don’t have the courage to name the relative who abused me. When I see these women coming out and naming their monsters years later, I know that they are taking a big step towards fighting for a safe environment.
I was born in upper middle class family and had access to good education. Yet it took me decades to come out. I shudder to imagine what the millions of underprivileged young women in this world face.
Krithika Rengan , founder of Charvi Skin Solutions is a mother of two and a loving grandmother. She writes about women empowerment and gender issues.