In October 2017, a law school student in California posted a list on the social media platform Facebook of Indian men accused of sexual harassment. In response, within a day, a group of feminists had posted a statement asking the group that had posted the list to consider due process rather than anonymous accusations with ‘no context or explanation’. These two texts became the subject of an intense and fraught debate among feminists in India. This chapter focuses on feminist arguments, disagreements and solidarities in the wake of #MeToo rather than on the debates surrounding sexual harassment itself. Rather than sexual harassment, it was feminism which became the subject of contestation. This chapter traces narratives from this debate and engages in conversations with feminists to think back to that moment. The chapter is located around the idea of what it calls internet time and its capacities to reshape the trajectory of feminist debates. It reflects on what it means to have an argument in internet time. What does it mean to engage as feminists with each other in the online space? What are the specific pressures and anxieties produced by articulations and disagreements in online spaces? How might one reflect on the question of disagreement, especially disagreement with allies, in a time of social media? And how might one think of and construct the possibilities and circumscriptions of feminist solidarities in internet time, in messy circumstances?
Intimacy and Injury maps the travels of the global #MeToo movement in India and South Africa. Both countries have shared the infamy of being labelled the world’s ‘rape capitals’, with high levels of everyday gender-based and sexual violence. At the same time, they boast long histories of resisting such violence and its location in wider cultures of patriarchy, settler colonialism and class and caste privilege. Northern voices and experiences have dominated debates on #MeToo, which, while originating in the US, had considerable traction elsewhere, including in the global south. In India, #MeToo revitalised longstanding feminist struggles around sexual violence, offering new tactics and repertoires. In South Africa, it drew on new cultures of opposing sexual violence that developed online and in student protest. There were also marked differences in the ways in which #MeToo travelled in both countries, pointing to older histories of power, powerlessness and resistance. The book uses the #MeToo moment to track histories of feminist organising in both countries, while also revealing how newer strategies extended or limited these struggles. Intimacy and Injury is a timely mapping of a shifting political field around gender-based violence in the global south. In proposing comparative, interdisciplinary, ethnographically rich and analytically astute reflections on #MeToo, it provides new and potentially transformative directions to scholarly debates, which are rarely brought into conversation with one another. With contributors located in South Africa and India alone, this book builds transnational feminist knowledge and solidarity in and across the global south.
Intimacy, injury and #MeToo in India and South Africa
Nicky Falkof, Shilpa Phadke, and Srila Roy
In a short period of time, we have witnessed both the seismic effects of the #MeToo movement and its ageing. We have felt the optimism that gathered as the hashtag travelled, while being sceptical about this particular wave of ‘clicktivism’. Even as we saw how an individualised ‘me’ gathered and mobilised an ever-widening ‘too’ – exemplifying how a hashtag amalgamates individual experiences into a story of systemic harm and mobilises collective solidarity – worries accumulated. For every Harvey Weinstein who was stripped of power and influence, there was a Brett Kavanaugh who accumulated power and capital in spite of the force of women’s testimony. Alongside the downfall of powerful men, women were implicated as aggressors.