Monday, 23 October 2017

#MeToo



Hashtags are the new war-zones. For the past two weeks I have been interacting with the Press a lot due to promotional activities for an upcoming film. Nowadays actors get asked to comment on subjects they may know too little about, like the projected fourth quarter growth of our economy. But over the past five days my inbox has been flooded with questions about the #MeToo campaign or about the Harvey Weinsteins in B-town. Sadly, that’s something all girls would know about.

For a country where violence against the girl child starts in the womb, I am surprised at the number of people surprised at the enormity of the #MeToo campaign. Unless you have been in hibernation in the Himalayan caves for the past millennium, there’s no way you would not know that sexual assault- verbal or visual, and gender violence are the rites of passage for the average Indian girl. 

As children, we learn the ‘good and bad touch’ with first-hand experience unfortunately and not through a sex-education class. Sex education is a luxury in a country where education itself is a privilege. The disparity between the education, health and mortality ratio between men and women is huge. Again, what can one expect when the gender ratio itself is a 1000 men for every 940 of women in India, as per the 2011 census.

Rape is defined as ‘izzat lootna’ in Hindustani, or robbing one’s dignity. In whatever form one is assaulted, what do you think happens when prejudice like this exists in society - does it get easier or more difficult to report a gender crime? 

This piece is littered with trick questions. 

Each time we are outraged at a woman’s modesty being outraged, a slew of insensitive, irresponsible and downright moronic comments echo from all quarters of our political leadership. Governments change but the attitude doesn’t. Bhaktroll or Libtard, Right or Left, sexism is the one thing that unites our  leaders cutting across barriers of region, religion, caste and class. Why don’t we start a new party called United Sexist Front - a revolutionary re-imagining of governments and the opposition. Women can join it too and then everyone can watch porn in the Parliament with glee. 

“What was she wearing? Why was she out so late? What was she doing with a boy? She asked for it. Why didn’t she report it sooner? What took so long? Why didn’t she just request them not to? What did she expect?”
When our leaders ask these questions, the media plays them on a loop and people listen. 

Do folks that pose questions such as these ever read the paper? Do they know that infants are raped in India, as are grandmothers? Pre-teen girls are molested, as are women covered from head to toe in a burqa.  
We are afflicted with a sickness that’s a larger problem than patriarchy. A sickness borne out of perverse conditioning, struggle for power and viewing the woman as a thing to be abused and disposed. There exist tips on how to deal with ongoing rape. If this doesn’t reflect the horrific state of affairs, what does?

Here’s one for instance - they may let you live if you don't protest violently. Case in point ‘Nirbhaya’ whose intestines were pulled out of her body after a gangrape. To check, one would have to speak to rape survivors like the girl 5 year old girl with a slit throat left on the highway for dead. Or shall we ask the young girls hanging from a tree in U.P ? 

When someone does live to tell the tale, its their image that’s blurred and identity protected.  Not surprising, given the burden of shame society bestows. 

Why not shame the oppressor? Should he be behind bars or ever get a job again? Should he be allowed to function normally in society after paying off settlements? And again how about the very investigation of rape? In this prevalent culture of victim shaming, does it get easy or more painful to report a gender crime?

The navratras are a special time in the culture of our great country. Navratras also bring with them, the glorious garba in Gujarat and the Durga Pujo in Bengal.  It is a sacred time when the Goddess is worshipped all over the country, in myriad forms and traditions. 
Growing up in Delhi, I have fond memories of ‘kanjakein’ or Ashtami. It’s a day when pre-pubescent girls are worshipped symbolically as Goddess Laxmi. I would cherish this day, awaiting the vast number of pencil boxes with 5-Star chocolates inside, hairbands and other knick-knacks that I’d receive along some great food from neighbours and relatives. Coins would jingle in our pockets as we sprinted home. The navratras make me feel proud of belonging to a tradition that acknowledges, reveres, worships and in fact CELEBRATES the feminine. 
I was raised to feel equal, even special on some days. Then I grew up.

This year the onset of navratras was marked by women protesting sexual harassment in the BHU campus. (Just like girls in Haryana who said they couldn't walk to school because they were harassed everyday, which explains the dropout rate). The protests turned violent, there was arson, the VC blamed the women who were beaten and a thousand have FIRs to their name.

The BHU issue was politicised , as I am sure some will this blog, as is practically all else these days including songs, students, movies, academicians, the army, language, awards, monuments, currency, cricket, tax, TV journalists-that-are-closet-actors, food, and even colour. 
Mera orange, tera kya?

Are you a #Hindu? Did you pray to your Devi Ma these navratras? How are you not offended by atrocities committed every minute against women?

The denial of the ‘feminine’  could cost us our progeny. The mother gives life. Mother Earth, Mother Nature…et al.  What have we done to it? Food for thought. 



Women in fact have to face a double whammy and become targets of the worst caste and religious atrocities. What’s a few gang rapes when it comes to settling scores?
We live in a nation where women have to fight- to be born, then educated, then marry when and who they want, to have children or not to in most cases, while doing almost all of the house-work. Women work post-marriage if they are ‘allowed’ to by their in-laws and husbands. Women who work outside the home have to carefully decide what they will wear keeping in mind their occupation, (traditional  and covered options safest), mode of transport (public transport means avoid sleeveless, wear higher necklines, longer bottoms unless you want to be asking for it…actually whatever you wear, you are asking for it) and what time they will return home (always preferably before sunset). Private transport? You can be followed or worse. 

These observations are specific to class, but virtually every decision taken by the woman is dependent on the male.
Hell, I’d like to be born a man to simply feel free of all this cumbersome responsibility. I could say, do and be whatever I want. I could take a bike ride late in the night without being a bait, stand and smoke under a tree with my buddies, loiter and laugh loudly, even pee in the open, use cuss words with abandon, walk tall without a book across my chest, man-spread, be whatever version of myself I want to be. 
Boys will be boys. Cute. 
When will they grow up? What happens if they never do?

If half of the population is hugely disadvantaged one way or another, how will India EVER be a superpower? 
Are you an #Indian? How are you not worried?

Dear all, don’t blame ‘Bollywood’. That is too simplistic a deduction. In the Mahabharata, Draupadi was traded as property in gambling and Goddess Sita was abducted by another man in the Ramayana, (assuming you think of mythology and history in the same way), which was before the advent of films. ‘Bollywood’ hasn't invented rape, torture, stalking and assault. This also happens in countries where there is no film industry. ‘Bollywood’ is not blame-less either. Films reflect the reality of society and also shape popular culture. But my colleagues are taking charge of the narrative. Our content is evolving a little every year which is more than what I can say for most.

Don't say I have a film releasing in a week, hence this is for publicity. The people this blog will resonate with are hardly a first-day-first-show kind. 
Also, it would only serve to highlight the point I put across. Misogyny is to society what nitrogen dioxide is to the air we breathe - no matter what we do, we ingest a little.

Don't say I omit my privilege. It’s from that vantage point that I use my voice to reflect. (But also, how can one know conclusively of another’s life and struggle ?)

Don't say ‘ghar pe ma-behen nahi hai kya’. Don't say change is necessary because you have a daughter to raise. Don't exclude your complicity. Don't absolve your responsibility. Don’t ask women to share their horror stories so some experience them vicariously. Don’t do it for female relatives, mothers, sisters and friends. Do it for you. Because the survival of the species depends on both the male and the female. Because in the end we all belong to each other. 

Dear Fourth Estate, if you truly care, encourage and create a safe atmosphere where open discussion is possible, where people can share their experiences with dignity and without being judged. Please don't jump on to a trending topic. For every woman who speaks up, there’s several that don’t or can’t. You’d be doing all of society a huge favour. 

Dear legislative bodies, please check for rapists in your midst?

Dear Judiciary, marital rape is rape. And victims shouldn’t be asked to marry their rapists. Also, please hurry. A woman is raped every twenty minutes in this country, and that’s just those that have the courage and means to report the crime.

In addition to the omnipresent everyday sexism, experiencing first-hand sexual assault is the tax women have had to pay for centuries to live in India. 

Should it be this way? Shouldn’t we all be ashamed?

I agree with #NOTALLMEN. Surely, not all men are the problem here, many are part of the solution. That’s what keeps the world going. There are patriarchal women that participate in their own subjugation and feminist men who point it out.
Not all men, but #ALLWOMEN I know have experienced gender violence or molestation one way or another. This shouldn’t it be the only way of life women know. 
Are you human and hence born from a woman? How are you not embarrassed ?

This is not a problem, it’s an unfolding tragedy and an everlasting nightmare. 


Hope we heal. 





51 comments:

  1. This is so beautifully written. You said it all. Love to you, lady.💕💕💕

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  2. Well thoughtful and point blank statements. Change in thoughts need to embedded in every couple who raise their child, treating boy n girl in same manner is critical & setting an example to them helps in long run.

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  3. Very well written!!!
    Very well put forth!!
    I do agree with the ending that #NotAllMen, but #AllWomen..
    Just wish for more power to us and to the idea of an equal society, where females do not have to constantly look over their shoulders..

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  4. Good write up Richa. This is unfortunatly the malaise that plagues India. Initiatives like MARD did make some progress but ultimatly it has to be part of the upbringing to make the difference the country needs . To respect one another is but a very basic human attribute.

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  5. Reality will change only if we treat boys and girls alike and raise them to respect each other. The "mardaanagi" factor pumped into boys' mind should stop. We will have safer days for girls.

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  6. Very aptly said, but does anyone care in India?

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  7. very well written ... but you blocked me on twitter....

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  8. I hope something concrete comes out of all these campaigns! You have raised some very valid points!!

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  9. Really amazing Richa...Big fan of yours.

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  10. Richa Chadha, you write well. I enjoyed reading this as well as your appearance on TLC's Queens of Comedy.

    Stay strong, keep inspiring. ~

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  11. Very well written!👌👌 More power to you!

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  12. Don't say i have my own daughter to raise.. That's why.. Do it for yourself..

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  13. Well said Richa.... Unfortunate n sorry state if affairs..Harsh reality

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  14. I so hope that we heal!

    Once convicted, the only place the rapists should see is a closed glass cell where they could be made a guinea pig for experimental drugs for the cure of HIV/AIDS and cancer.

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  15. Richa, What I comment ?
    You now more about our bollywood Directors
    They all are very gentle for film fans but you know better! Yet trying for a good one.nice write up. thanks. Are at LinkedIn site? I wrote there same issues.

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  16. Nicely explained.ni doubt.but my point is ques ans explanation all are perfect. Ok.but when we will be able to change mentality, society etc etc because this d high time for next generation who will take charge in future so we have to change their mindset from now .we have to find out the way .

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  17. when, what, how and where can/ will we see the change? will we ever get better? will India ever get better? I don't think so.

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  20. عورت کو پیدائش کے بعد سے ہی جنسی اور جنس کی بنیاد پر استحصال کا سامنا کرنا پڑتا ہے اور یہ اوپن سیکریٹ ہے۔ آج می ٹو لکھتے ہوئے میں یہی سوچ رہی ہوں کہ آج کیوں؟ یہ سب تو بہت پہلے ہوجانا چاہیے۔

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  21. Hi Richa
    Besides agreeing with the compliments above I would also like to thank you for pointing out Bollywood’s role in this. The extent, depth and seriousness of this role might be debatable but yes the time is now for your colleagues and you too to take charge. Better still, for stalwarts of industry who have been around to come out and apologise for mistakes of past. As a male growing up in 80s -90s India it would hugely help my subconscious to be freed of male chauvinism to see an SRK apologise for his character’s aggressive ‘flirting’ aka harassment in the beginning and later part of the still revered DDLJ. My movie idol Amitabh Bachchan ji too should come forth and denounce the many such acts he did for his generation to realise that wasn’t right and therefore the attitude they pass on to their children isn’t too.

    These are just examples of a thought process. Hope that makes sense.

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    1. Rajan,
      You have taken it upon yourself to idolize human beings who pretend to be different characters for a living. Which is valid to a certain degree because As children and young adults we all find people to idolize.
      After reading what you have written, it seems like you are a person of sound judgment, but still, you believe that Shahrukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan apologizing to you will make an impact on your sub conscious. So it seems like you are blaming these actors for your sub conscious being damaged, even tho you are completely aware of how those films are fiction, and whatever portrayal of harrasment/flirting etc. would be uncouth and rude in real life.
      One would presume that after growing up and understanding adulthood, any actors portrayal of a character would not leave the kind of impact it had on you as a child because unfortunately, YOU are an Adult. And one may also presume that by your notion of expecting an apology from actors for this very situation is unfortunately, childish.
      Fiction is Fiction.
      Our stories have a tendency of going over board and over the top, because our audiences tend to enjoy such stories. If you check the internet (it's insane how much information is out there FYI) , there are at least a 100 satirical videos on DDLJ talking about how ridiculous the whole premise is. There is nothing realistic and kosher about a stranger conning his way into his to- be wife's home and plotting to elope with her. It's bizarre.
      So maybe, now when you see a classic film with one of your 'idolized' actors, or think about the premise of each of the films you would realize that most plots of the films are bordering on ridiculousness. And then hopefully you will not feel the need of an apology from the actor, who was just playing a role in a film, to mend your sub conscious.
      Regards

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    2. The apology, I assume, he is asking as a member of society and their acknowledgement that the character could have done better, say, in case of SRK not pulling our Kajol's bra from her bag as a funny thing. Not picking on SRK alone but how can an entire team let it slip as a "fun" thing? Examples are numerous.

      One last thing is when I watched those movies(say Sunil Shetty's some movie where his sister is raped for a revenge) as a child I found it uncomfortable. I remember them even when I am grown up. It did have impact and a very strong one that will stay. What we used to see in childhood shaped a lot of our personalities today. The whole point is they should acknowledge that they help shape society.
      I rest my case here.

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  22. Modern day Mahishasuramardini plunging the Trishul in men bit by bit with each sarcasm loaded sentence leaving them gasping for breath with the final plunge. Multifacet talent

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  23. A very powerful article. Unfortunately the way forward is dark and shrouded in mists of ignorance and hard attitudes. Stricter legislation would help of course. And greater involvement of women in positions of power. And education

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  24. I have read many articles related to "me too" campaign. This one was the best till now .

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  25. Superbly written. Earlier I was a fan of ur acting, now I'm more of ur writing...beautifully penned.

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  26. You have held a mirror to our society and what it reflects is ugly and scary. There will be no redemption unless all of us, men or women, especially men, assume their responsibility and help fight age old injustices, prejudices, discrimination and exploitation against women.

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  27. As you rightly said, even though it is #NOTALLMEN, but #ALLWOMEN, including those who are not on social media or who are not tech savvy, is 100% true! But how will they express? Is the #MeToo hashtag campaign on social media going to express their voice or help them in anyway? Who is going to speak for them? . Just #MeToo does not convey the enormity of the menace. It is much more enormous and it does not change the mindset of all the larger mass that is responsible for it! It would be more appropriate if there was a hashtag campaign for #IHaveNot and #IWillNever and all men willingly participated we could get the real picture!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  28. It is just a mind blowing thought much respect to you sister
    #JAIMAATAOKI

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  29. Very well articulated!

    Just want to add the time taken by the judiciary to take the sexual assaulter to task isn't exactly helping any cause. Let alone the kind of punishment they get. It took 5years for Nirbhaya's offenders to be sentenced. Time seems to be a luxury and convenience that's giving a very wrong message to the wannabe offenders.

    Hope some sense prevails

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  30. I agree with most of it but not the cinema part. Bollywood has been showing movies like "behen ki izzat loot li aur bhai kuch nahi kar saka" and later actress gets kidnapped and the "bhai" saves her since my childhood. True that movies are a reflection of society but what what Bollywood provides as "masala movie" is utterly ridiculous. Please account for it.

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  31. Having said that, what this article says is something which all of us needed to hear and you put it in the best way.
    cheers!

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  32. Richa! A thought-provoking post on the way our brains are wired and this whole ugly perception is perpetuated in our social mores. This hypocrisy of our society is appalling in the way we discriminate against women and it becomes legitimate for men to stay late at night. It's horrible. Agree, why blame the film industry for ills that existed since times immemorial. We can all do our bit to bring small changes. Sharing on social media. You have brought a fresh perspective on the Me too campaign.

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  33. People are sensitive as long as there are conscious..but our attitude developed over many years Transcend to core yearn

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  34. Nice article as well as whole site.Thanks for sharing.
    Photo Retouching/
    clipping path

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  36. Richa, thanks for writing this but don't you think these stories of navratra and durga puja and all of this writing and awareness discussion doesn't carry to far unless we are holding perpetrators accountable.

    Hollywood actors came forward and named 50+ famous and powerful personalities from the industry and almost all of them had to apologize, resign, give up their positions or facing litigation.

    By proportion of size and strength, I was hoping 200+ names will come out from all parts of Indian film industry.

    Ek bhi naam nahi nikla? Kya fayda?

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  37. You didn't only written it in a beautiful way but also you raised all the societal issues...

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  38. The solution could be an all women's party ruling the country for atleast three terms and their policies may bring in change in psyche ... Actually we don't want to understand and solve this issue even when it concerns each of our household

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