Mahira Khan speaks about #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment
The past several days, social media has been swept over by hundreds and thousands of people posting #MeToo. After Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s case gained steam and he was publicly called out by many women for years of sexual harassment, actress Alyssa Milano urged people to post #MeToo in order to show the magnitude of the problem, that is not only limited to one region, but the entire world.
With the campaign now beginning to encourage men and women in Pakistan to speak up, MahiraKhan gave out her thoughts too. “What’s interesting is that it had been going on for years. And it was a well-kept secret. But it took one brave woman to speak out and slowly and steadily, it took over,” she said.
As to whether the social media movement is excluding men, Mahira feels that’s not the case. “Not at all, men are coming out and speaking out too now. And that’s very important. Sometimes, what we forget is that women haven’t had it easy but we need to do it together. We need to fight together.”
Calling it a human empowerment movement rather than a women empowerment one, she said it’s best if we don’t make it a lopsided argument. “Because a lot of women started speaking up about being harassed and men have done it to them, it looks like the movement is against men in general. But that’s not it. If we make it a one-sided argument, what we all are fighting for will become weak.”
But it, in fact, can’t be denied that perhaps men who have faced sexual assault or harassment have even a harder time speaking out about it because it questions their idea of masculinity and manhood. To that, Mahira said because ‘human rights’ is the new fad and that’s helping and encouraging women to speak up because “historically, they have been considered the weaker sex.” She was adamant that it’s not a battle of the sexes, but rather against such crimes against humans.
But it so often happens, social media movements fade merely within a few days, until the new trend comes along and everyone jumps on the bandwagon. The issue at hand is such a larger and a serious issue that it needn’t go down the same route. Asked how it’d be possible to translate that social media campaign into a real life one, so that the issue can be fixed rather than just be talked about, Mahira insisted it had more to do with a lack of institutional support.
“Someone asked whether what we see in our society needs to be depicted in our films. I think it’s necessary and that’s how we reach the masses. If they watch something like Bol, Khuda Ke Liye or Verna (which also deals with the issue at hand), or even Udaari, they might reflect on the situation and think ‘I’m going to be stronger than this’.”