“A wonderful day to spend among women in leadership” said Rashmi Karthik an attendee of Women #BreakingBarriers Bangalore. Breaking Barriers is now coming to Pune, Panjim, Kolkata, Coimbatore, Chennai. Register now to attend!
A step by step argument against those who ask why women haven’t spoken up earlier, and why they are only speaking up on social media and not making actual complaints officially. Do read.
I was truly shocked to read a post today saying that if #MeToo is just a social media hashtag and that women haven’t come forward to file official complaints, then they are merely joining a bandwagon and paying lip service. There are others I met who say that women provoke it because they want to get ahead, and then complain when it doesn’t work out. There are various people hinting that women do this for other reasons – for revenge because they didn’t get the promotion, for attention or whatnot.
Let’s just see the way the deck is stacked against women, shall we?
~ Women are brought up, from childhood, for centuries, to be ‘good girls’ – conformist, obedient, submitting to authority. They are not taught to raise their voices to authority figures, or to raise their voices for themselves.
~ Women are also taught by a patriarchal society that their sexual ‘purity’ is in their own hands – that if anything happens, they were at fault, they invited it, they did something to provoke it. They wore the dress, walked into an office for an interview, wore lipstick, gave a hint…whatever.
~ When they complain, there’s an avalanche of victim blaming and stigma – remember the slut walk? – the President of the US gave the world a prize demo of that with his rant on Christine Ford. It goes back to Point #2. Even rape victims are blamed for bringing it on themselves – by their peers, by their families, by society at large.
~ There’s also the suspension of belief, the unstated script that this is yet another hysterical woman who has misunderstood the harmless intentions of a man. Or that it was consensual and this is just buyer’s remorse.
~ Statistics show that in 89% of rape cases, there is no conviction. In France apparently, in 40% of sexual harassment cases, the complainant is let go, while the complaint is not even investigated!
~ The entire eco-system is largely made up of men, who are far less likely to have faced any such harassment. The few who do don’t complain, because they understand how most men think
~ Men on the other hand, are largely brought up to believe that they are the superior, more powerful gender. The number of notches on their headboard is a tribute to their machismo.
~ Their demeaning or patriarchal attitude with respect to women is not just bolstered by most families, pop culture and organised religions, it is portrayed as an inevitable part of masculinity
~ They grow up thinking that women don’t know their mind, are secretly lusting after them, and worst of all, ‘owe them something’, merely for being a man. They grow up thinking taking advantage of a situation is merely the smart thing to do, and it’s ok to be smart rather than good. The principle of ‘Droit de seigneur’ seems to be imprinted in the male collective unconscious, the world over.
~ Add to that the fact that in an overwhelmingly patriarchal world, wherein workplaces and workplace rules are set up for the convenience of men, men are more likely to be in positions of power and authority, more likely to be senior, more able to impact someone else’s career
~ And add to that the fact that their colleagues are more likely to be male, the investigative system is more likely to be male, the judicial system is more likely to be male – with a similar mindset. In the Nirbhaya trial, the lawyer for the rapists said he would have killed his daughter if she had been out in the evening watching a movie!
~ So at the end of it, for women, there is the fear – that they will not get any resolution. That they will be treated like pariahs. That they will lose their jobs. That they will have to continue to work in the same workplace with their harasser, and that things could get a whole lot worse. That they will have to give up on their careers. That they will lose their reputations. That they could lose their family. That they will lose their friends.
How, in such a system, can we insist that only when a woman takes action will the #MeToo movement qualify? How can we believe someone is doing it out of twisted motives? What will she get for it, in most cases, except notoriety and an even bigger slap to her sense of self, insult added to injury? The world is geared towards impunity for men in this respect.
In the movie Mirch Masala, the entire village pleads with or tries to force the protagonist, Smita Patil to give in to the lecherous demands of the subedar. But then comes the turning point. The village headman’s wife marches through the village with a gong, beating it like a clarion call against patriarchy. And one by one, all the women of the spice factory come together with Smita Patil and throw blinding red chili powder into the eyes of the harasser. This is that moment! For women the world over, this is like a giant bloodletting, a purge.
Men who are complaining about feeling scared – damn right! If you’re a patriarchal, entitled fuck who thinks his gender, status in society and/or position of power entitles him to be able to harass a woman – any woman – be afraid. Be very afraid. If you would rather cover up harassment or brush it under the carpet because it’s inconvenient – be afraid. If you’d rather complain about feminazis than exercise your empathy – be afraid. Be very afraid.
I do hope though that we can come to a point wherein men and women are sensitised from childhood so that toxic male patriarchy and gender disparity is dismantled. That the ecosystem changes and has functional, just, objective workplace and legal processes and a sensitised, woke set of people in place so women are no longer scared to complain. That the complaints are properly investigated, perps are the ones in the dock, and the pervs punished as severely as possible – losing their jobs being the very, very least.
A version of this was first published on the author’s Facebook page.
Image source: pexels
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