Recently, there have been countless accusations of sexual harassment by women in Pakistan against certain men. Women took to Twitter to reveal the predatory men who made a habit out of sending women inappropriate messages and perpetrating harassment. Most notably, certain men working in top positions at various companies were revealed to be predators as well. A #MeToo movement on Twitter has undoubtedly begun.
Now a lot of those reading these incriminating messages were put in a tough position. The friends of men who had been ousted as serial harassers felt safe around those men, many of them had not been harassed or made uncomfortable.
This brought forth a bevy of questions.
Who should we believe?
Who’s telling the truth?
Which side do we want to be on?
It is not easy seeing incriminating messages which go against a friend in the situation and realizing you need to side with the victim; a woman you might not even know. But that’s what we have learned in the recent past with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements; women have been voicing concerns for a long time but this is the first time in history those concerns are being heard and taken seriously.
Now, it might sound very easy but imagine if the alleged harasser was a friend of yours or worse; a family member? What would you do in a situation like that?
I can tell you to cut ties and publically announce that you have nothing to do with that person anymore, but it is not that easy. Not always. Some people might find the strength to do exactly what I have mentioned above but some might not. However, in these times where the current narrative is being redefined, it’s important to be on the right side of history.
Let’s take a recent example. Ali Zafar has been accused of sexual harassment on multiple occasions by Meesha Shafi.
While people rallied around Meesha and told her they believed her, there were others that demanded proof or even came to the rescue of Ali Zafar by claiming he had been nothing but a gentleman with them. This was a disservice to Meesha who risked everything; her social standing, her reputation, her career to come out and stand against Ali Zafar who is internationally loved.
While there were those who sided with Ali, there were others who showed true compassion and understanding. For instance, Momina Mustehsan.
#MeToo needs a response #ImSorry from the offenders. Nothing will change until they acknowledge, take responsibility and make amends. pic.twitter.com/sphI1c1agT
— Momina Mustehsan (@MominaMustehsan) April 20, 2018
Momina is known to have ties with Ali’s family. Yet, she demanded that Ali accept his fault and apologize.
Still waiting for u to respond @AliZafarsays. Do u think u have ever, knowingly or unknowingly, violated a woman in any way or form? https://t.co/CS2fYHpWN8
— Momina Mustehsan (@MominaMustehsan) April 21, 2018
Publicly standing against a friend and demanding an apology is not easy in such situations. But we can definitely take a leaf out of Momina’s book and follow her example. Another gem who stepped forward to speak against this was the beloved actor, Osman Khalid Butt.
Osman Khalid Butt has always maintained a staunchly feminist stance. Therefore, his take on the matter was highly appreciable.
A woman breaks her silence about abuse, withstands character assassination & further abuse on social media, her story turns into memes & tone-deaf jokes that trivialize the issue, she fears ostracization – but suuuuure, she did it for the cheap publicity. https://t.co/eDeOpXYUox
— Osman Khalid Butt (@aClockworkObi) April 19, 2018
Mahira Khan spoke up about the issue as well, although in a very cryptic, politically correct, manner
The sick mentality of those commenting on an issue as serious as sexual harassment as casually as they are just shows where the root of this problem exists – in our minds. We will continue to breed harassers for as long as we continue to desensitise this issue.
— Mahira Khan (@TheMahiraKhan) April 20, 2018
The fact that many of Ali Zafar’s contemporaries spoke up is huge.
In this day and age, where matters are swept under rugs, vocality is vital. It is natural to want to believe in a friend because no one wants to think they are associated with a harasser. We all have our loyalties. But when you go out of your way to discredit the victim by talking about how the harasser has never been anything but good to you, you are doing your fellow women a disservice.
We claim to be working for feminism and women empowerment, but when we are tested, we often might fail.
You not being harassed by the accused does not mean that others have been as lucky.
Then there’s the constant demand for proof. How many times have you been harassed by men and had the presence of mind to record the incident or take screenshots when all your brain and body wanted to do was escape the situation?
It is not easy to stand against friends; especially publicly and that is okay but being hypocritical is not
However, in times like these, feminism must trump friendship. For your own sake, if not anyone else’s. For you may never know when the tide may turn. Do not become their enabler; their shield and savior in public. Do not narrate how they have been nothing but kind to you and try to discredit the experience of the person who was brave enough to come out and narrate their horrible experience.
Do not stand with the accused harasser; start with the side of the victim who has risked it all to come out and tell their story.
Pakistani Twitter Is Witnessing A New Wave Of “Me Too” Moment Right Now As Women Are Exposing Many Harassers