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The stories coming into light in the #MeToo movement are heart-wrenching. The act of covering up violations and protecting the offenders by co-workers is unacceptable.
The #Metoo stories coming out are disturbing with all the harassment that women have been facing for years. The most striking aspect of these stories is workplace harassment and how unsafe our workspaces are for women. Women from varied work environments are harassed by men in power. But the pattern is very similar in most of the stories – powerful men misuse their position to harass their subordinates while the others look away and act as if nothing wrong has happened.
Worst is when someone musters the courage to speak, their voices will be hushed and the complaint will be ignored. Many girls have narrated how they were told by their colleagues that such a behaviour by the offender was not shocking. Stories of his ‘conquests’ were well known in the circle. There have been women harassed by the offender previously bit no action was taken against him.
Forget action, not even a complaint against the offender was registered. These men continue to flourish in their professional lives, getting more emboldened, searching new prey and turning into sexual predators with the confidence that they will never be questioned for their vile behaviours. No one has the courage to call them out openly. Few who do usually face more harassment, both personally and professionally with zero support from other colleagues.
They either quit the job or continue to suffer in silence. The number of talented women who whithered away because men in power thought it is okay to be lecherous and the others choose to look away is worth pondering. The coworkers both male and female, who stayed mute are also a part of the problematic system that enables the offenders to continue harassing the ‘vulnerable’ without the fear of any repercussions. They are aware that their activities were no longer a secret but well known in their circle. A circle that decided to avert its eyes, for personal and professional reasons. The offenders see this as an acknowledgment of their power and an assurance that this silence would act as a protective shield.
Some of the stories are heart-wrenching. A gross violation was happening and no one stepped forward to stop it, rather many collaborated to cover up these violations and protect the offender instead of the victim.
Vinita Nanda’s story is chilling and disturbing at various level. The gross inhumanity displayed by Alok Nath is sickening, but even more baffling is how the others who knew about this incident kept quiet for years. If not for the #metoo exposes, the world would not have heard or know about what he had done to her. The AIB guys who were known for their cool attitude and ‘wokeness’ turned out to be creeps. The accused had complained to the team members who again did not take any action against the offender.
Salman Khan being abusive to Aishwarya Rai was well known in Bollywood but no one did anything. Instead, they came up with stories about his good nature, kindheartedness and his social service, parroted by most of the celebrities. Aishwarya had openly spoken about it but almost everybody decided to close their ears to her story. She at that time was not a newcomer but was one of the topmost actress adored by millions of her fans. Still, when she spoke about her abusive relationship everyone conveniently looked away.
Years ago when Parveen Babi accuses Amitabh Bachan, it was labelled as a delusion and her accusation was muffled. These are the stories that came out in the media, not to mention scores of other stories that were not reported. Especially in the field of journalism, they were buried deep and the victims suffered in silence for years.
The rot was deep-rooted, the stink unbearable and at last someone gathered the courage to scream out loud and clear – sharing their stories and anger, and also started a new movement that could no longer be controlled by these powerful, lecherous men or manipulated by their coworkers. The accused offenders are no doubt to be blamed for their acts but people who remained mute spectators and acted as if nothing wrong was happening are also responsible for creating an unsafe work environment. If not the prime accused then they are co-conspirators of creating a system that failed to protect other individuals.
Many of them were in a position to stop or at least speak out. But alas they decided to let the offenders flourish at the expense of the safety of other individuals. Their silence can be seen as a tactical approval of the predatory behaviour. Ultimately leading to the complete collapse of ethics and a highly unsafe work environment.
It’s time people start evaluating the long-term effects of their silence. The havoc that it can create in somebody’s life and start calling out sexual offenders in the workplace. Not an easy task for individuals but when done collectively not an impossible one either. Especially after this massive #metoo movement, the onus on maintaining the safety of new interns and employees should be taken up by both the management and coworkers with an aim of providing a safe and healthy work environment.
Image Source – Unsplash
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