Jami and the position of men in the #MeToo era
Filmmaker Jami recently posted a tweet on social media alleging CEO of Dawn Newspaper Hameed Haroon for sexual harassing him.
Earlier in October, the filmmaker spoke out as a #MeToo survivor narrating that he was raped by a powerful media tycoon. He chose to not name the rapist, however. Social media users rose to a frenzy after the filmmaker took to Twitter to describe his experience. While there were many who stood in full support of the filmmaker, some claimed that the allegation was meant to sabotage the accused’s reputation.
In a world dent with numerous #MeToo stories surfacing every now and then, one’s gender cannot be deemed the only cause for someone to get harassed. Men and women alike are subjects of mistreatment and trauma. Society is replete with a stigma surrounding both genders – one that forces them to bow down to shame. Women carry the emblems of honor while men are expected to conform to hyper masculinity. If either of the two suffers a disintegrating blow, they are in-congruent with the norms of society.
Individuals cannot prosper unless society prospers with them.
With the advent of the #MeToo movement, people who have experienced sexual abuse are speaking out in the face of cruelty. A report about the multiple allegations on film star Harvey Weinstein in The New York Times in 2017 sparked stories about sexual abuse in Hollywood. Similar to Jami’s allegation, Hollywood star Terry Crews opened up about being groped by a powerful Hollywood exec in October 2017. Crews could not help getting enraged by how men were perceiving the womens’ allegations as mere means of getting famous.
The Hollywood actor said in an interview, “I literally was like, ‘That’s not what this is about at all! This is not how it works!’” he recalled in an interview. And so, he tweeted: “This whole thing with Harvey Weinstein is giving me PTSD. Why? Because this kind of thing happened to ME.”
Crews recalled an event at a party where an anonymous powerful agency executive – revealed later to be Adam Venit (William Morris Endeavour) – groped him. The actor’s story granted him support and love from his fans, but other men approached him with skepticism saying he could not possibly be harassed because of his big muscles and size.
In an apt expression of the impact #Metoo tends to have on people, Crews said, “The way I like to describe this whole issue is: you are now behind enemy lines once you come forward,” the Brooklyn Nine-Nine star said. “Instead of a person who needs help, you are a problem that needs to be eradicated. That’s immediate . . . Because there’s a whole system in place, and you’re about to upset the whole thing.”
Reporters in different media outlets say that men are less likely to identify themselves as sexual assault survivors mainly because of the ‘heightened stigma’ enveloped around masculinity. Because of this, men find it hard to express emotions birthed by trauma.
In Jami’s case, Pakistani actor Osman Khalid Butt shared his thoughts on the filmmaker finally speaking up after 13 years. He echoes Crews when he talks about the ‘system of society.’
“We do not speak openly about the trauma inflicted upon us; we try suppressing the violence, the shame, the stigma – even though, as Jami says, the details remain etched in our DNA. I say ‘shame’, because in a society like ours, where sexual harassment is already under-reported, admitting that something like this happened to you makes you a lesser man.”
“When the first signs of vulnerability make you fodder for mockery, how does one dare speak of such an ordeal, when you’re most likely to be met with incredulity, when you’re likely to be urged to stay quiet because of how it might reflect on your ‘manliness, where you might be met with a homophobic reaction. Men are supposed to be tough. They should be able to resist. They should be able to protect themselves.”
In Pakistan, sexual abuse rarely makes it to the fore of the conversation. In recent times, however, society is progressing especially through people who wish to see change in how experiences like these are tackled. For men, the conversation is seldom brought up. Men like Jami and Crews bring up a very important aspect of the perception of sexual abuse – that it shouldn’t be silenced.
Similar to women healing with other women who have gone through the same experiences, men find it therapeutic as well. Both men and women are subject to abuse. We need to be aware of just how pervasive sexual abuse is and include it in public conversation.