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Why is it so easy to discredit women, especially in legal proceedings? It seems that a woman's life and choice (even unrelated ones) generates more attention and scrutiny than the alleged illegal acts of accused men!
Trigger Warning: This deals with gender based violence, domestic abuse, sexual harassment of women, and may be triggering to survivors.
A casual news surfing led me to reading the transcript of an alleged conversation between Anoop, the brother of Malayalam actor Dileep (accused of masterminding the sexual assault of a fellow actor in 2017) and their lawyer. The woman in discussion is Manju Warrier, an actress and ex-wife of Dileep who is also an important witness in the assault case. In the transcript, the lawyer is urging his client to say that Manju would come home drunk, despite the client insisting that he has never seen Manju drinking. The lawyer also coaches on creating a back story on how and when she started drinking.
This is a developing story, and the case itself is sub-judice, so I will not go more into it here. However, this story was triggering, and made me think of the ways men try to abuse, or discredit women who they feel are speaking up, standing up against them, celebrity or non-celebrity.
What is the correlation between your drinking (if at all true) and being a witness in a case? What is the correlation between your clothes and getting raped? What is the correlation between you having a consensual relationship with one person, and being sexually harassed by another?
If you are a woman, you should know that all of these above are your actions which will sabotage your credibility in just about anything, and when that anything is court proceedings then beware that any choice you have ever made in your life will go against you! You as a witness, as a complainant are more prone to being guilty until proven innocent than the actual accused!
This urge to discredit a woman in a court proceeding sounded much too familiar!
The elder sister of a friend of mine had filed for divorce after being in an abusive marriage. She did not have a lot of evidence for domestic violence since she had never planned to go to police or end her marriage. After things worsened, she finally took the decision. Unfortunately she had a toddler and the ugly custody battle was a fear which had kept her from leaving the marriage in the first place.
Like any regular person, this woman had pictures of herself on social media of parties with a drink in her hand. Never had she imagined that these ‘harmless’ pictures of hers would be used by her husband’s lawyers to prove that she was a party animal and a borderline alcoholic, and therefore irresponsible to raise a child!
Contrary to popular belief, the woman faced a hard time proving domestic violence. She was told that her bruised picture does not prove who has committed the assault. She was accused of fabricating her own bruises. Lets us pause and give this a thought:
A woman’s picture with a drink sends a more powerful message than a woman’s picture with a bruise!
Another woman I know was living with her husband and widowed mother-in-law in her mother-in-law’s house. At the provocation of the insecure mother who wanted the wife out of the picture, the husband hit his wife and threw her out of the house in the middle of the night. The mother-in-law enjoyed watching her daughter-in-law getting assaulted, and even restrained the daughter-in-law so she could not escape.
Afraid that the wife would file a case of domestic violence, the husband consulted a lawyer and filed for divorce before the wife could take any action against him!
The husband’s petition was full of filth. He falsely accused the woman of denial of sex, and using sex toys because of course sex is a weapon that can be used either way! Words such as ‘naked’ were used amply to demean the woman. Why? Because he believed that no woman would want to be humiliated in court, and would come begging to make him withdraw his petition!
What was the woman’s fault? Just that she was a woman! And this identity of hers itself opens up a Pandora’s box of unlimited ways to shame her!
I watched a TV series few months ago – Impeachment which was based on the true events of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.
A woman had accused the President of sexual harassment. Whether or not the harassment had actually happened became a matter of speculation. However, the easier strategy and the one that historically works was to discredit the woman making the allegation. The complainant’s romantic life prior to marrying her husband was dissected as if it were a testimony to her character.
But this is how the world still works, apparently even though it has been more that two decades. We have witnessed it during the recent Metoo movement. The women who have alleged harassment have faced more scrutiny and backlash than the men they have accused.
I have seen memes of actress Tanushree Dutta with clips of her song ‘Aashiq Banaya Aapne’ ever since she made an allegation against actor Nana Patekar.
I remember watching the Aashiq Banaya Aapne song for the first time when I was in college. Tanushree Dutta had become so popular with that song. Everybody loved it. I remember my female friends and I loved it more than the boys probably, and we all wanted to look like her! But sadly, it was not just men who used that song to make fun of her allegations, but women too!
Again, the point here is not what actually happened and whether her allegation is indeed true. The sad part is that a song in which she acted as part of her job, and that too a job well done, was used to discredit her. I attended an event where the actress spoke boldly about it, saying it was not relevant to her allegations of sexual harassment. “That was done with consent!” She said.
It is sad that a movement that was meant to hold men accountable for their actions was instead used to shame women.
I would like to end with a quote by Germaine Greer.
“Until women themselves reject stigma refuse to feel shame for the way others treat them, they have no hope for achieving full human stature.”
So my fellow shamed women, while we wait for society to evolve, and courts and laws made by men to be more sensitive towards us, and while we continue to be judged by patriarchal women, let us decide for ourselves:
It is the people who use cheap tactics to demean us who deserve to be named and shamed, for they have revealed their true character, and it is not pleasant!
Let them try harder next time. The shaming strategy will not work anymore.
For the day we decide that we will not let any Tom, Dick (no pun intended!) or Harry judge us and demean us, the entire modus operandi of the tribe that thrives on our so-called ‘shame’ will need a massive, royal, game-changing makeover.
I like to write about the problems that have plagued the Indian society. I feel that the concept of gender equality is still alien , and that has been the focus of my articles and posts. read more...
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A ‘thank you’ makes a lot of difference in the way any woman in your life sees herself in your eyes. It might even mean the world to her.
I have not received any appreciation in the past. Probably never will. This is the experience of ample women across the globe. The expectation to be thanked for all the sacrifices she makes to keep others happy has faded. Yet the urge to hear few words of acknowledgement always lingers.
There is never a day when she pushes off her own burdens. She knows not to give up on people she loves. Women in general, are givers by nature and hence, give without asking anything in return. They have been the care givers and lovers since centuries however receive no appreciation.
It will mean the world to your mother if you answer her calls. If your sister seems lost give her a hug and assure her about her strengths. Tomorrow, there might come a day when you would have to make your daughter feel empowered with few words of wisdom every now and then. For the children to feel wanted and loved, you must be able to spare some quality time with your wife and be present in the moment.
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