While countries in the west have woken up to sexual harassment and men guilty of harassment haven’t felt more unsafe ever, the story is a tad different here in India. Women from countries like the US, Canada and the UK are speaking up and outing sexual harassers in their countries, taking stands at award shows, establishing charities, taking part in women’s marches and openly calling the bullshit of men (including their own president!) who have been known to be disrespectful to women. Be it the #metoo or the #timesup campaign seems like American women are living up to feminism more than we Indian women can ever think to.
It isn’t that factors such as rape and other forms of sexual harassment, followed by threats and victim blaming no longer exists in the west. The fact is that women in the west have grown above all these and are standing up for themselves and other women, despite all that. Every society in the world is a patriarchal one. We’re not the only ones. But the west is closer to a true feminism society than we are because it’s women have dared to challenge the patriarchy and not care about what some random sexist on the internet says about them.
Recently, Swara Bhaskara, an actress in Bollywood spoke about how the glorification of Jauhar (self-immolation) towards the end of Padmavati was, she felt, belittling to women and that she felt ‘reduced to a vagina’, despite the disclaimer in the beginning of the movie. She wasn’t sexually harassed or wearing ‘improper clothes’ or dancing to item numbers or any of the thousand other things that the society blames women for. All she did was express her opinion by writing an open letter to Bhansali, the director of the movie. While she did get a few thumbs ups, one of the reasons people disagreed with her was that she used the word ‘vagina’ multiple times in her open letter (because god forbid we say the name of a body part) and that an actress who played a dancer who is molested, she had no right to question modesty and teach right from wrong. All she did was write a letter. She was threatened rapes and murders, accused of trying to get publicity for her dying career (her career is growing exponentially, by the way, not dying), and told to shut up because she couldn’t possibly know what she was talking about. All she did was voice her opinion.
Take Deepika Padukone, for example. She was threatened rapes, a bounty was declared on her head and her posters were burnt. All because she was the lead actress in a movie people had objections about. She was supposed to be a speaker at an event which she canceled because her team thought it was extremely unsafe for her to go out. All for a movie that none of the people protesting against had watched.
I can go on. The stories are endless and the victims majorly women, irrespective of profession, age, financial background, caste or religion. All of them, targeted because a group of men got offended for no logical reason. All Bhaskara did was voice her opinion and of course, that’s against the rules that the men have set for her. Padukone was just doing her job, which too offended people for obvious reasons. Varnika Kundu, a DJ from Chandigarh was stalked when she was returning from work. Lakshmi was attacked with acid because she didn’t want to marry a 30-year-old man when she was 15. Women get raped, stalked, trolled, humiliated for doing literally the most normal tasks – going to work, doing their jobs, coming back from work, saying no to a guy (prude!), saying yes to a guy (slut!), wearing jeans, having short hair (not womanly, didn’t you know?), seriously, I can go on.
My point isn’t to scare you. My point is that they’re going to object to literally everything you do. They’ll blame you for getting eve-teased, for demanding equal respect, for ‘asking for it’ (honestly, I don’t even know what that means!), basically you’re wrong. That’s their point. What you cannot do is let them get to you. What you need to do is speak up. Don’t forget that the law is on your side. Say what you want to say, unapologetically. You don’t like something, say it. Don’t worry about what they’ll think about you or whether you speaking up will bring shame to the family or not. If you feel uncomfortable about something, say it. Quoting our dear men themselves here, ‘how will we know how you’re feeling if you don’t say it. We’re not mind-readers!’
The fact is that today if we don’t force men to get used to women standing up for themselves and speaking out against sexual harassment and sexism, what kind of society are we leaving for our future generations to come?
So ladies, speak up – loud and clear so that everyone can hear you. Not just for yourselves but for other women too. The society is already unfair and unsupportive to us. The least we can do is support each other and stand up for each other. Be one another’s voice. Who needs men anyway, right? (No, I’m kidding, we need them for reproduction.)
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