Recently Harvey Weinstein got a taste of how power play comes with a payback clause. Accused of sexual abuse, molestation, power mongering and all vices against women, the disgraced Hollywood mogul is on his way down, down from grace!
For people who do not know Harvey Weinstein, this is the link. And, you must be aware of #MeToo. Apparently, this guy is the reason why this hashtag has been busy rolling out the skeletons out of closets in such a magnitude. Many renowned Hollywood actresses like Angelina Jolie, Alyssa Milano and Gwyneth Paltrow have come up with strong allegations of sexual abuse against Harvey. While I was scouring through articles on this subject, I was shocked by the comment section. Rather, I was aghast. Why? Because a large section called these women cowards and that, they could have spoken about this way early, saving other prospective victims in the process.
Now, I would NOT call them cowards. And surely, they are no saints. But, blaming them is NOT a wise thing to do, at least at this point in time when things have happened and, there is no way they can be undone. Talking about silence of these women while the same was happening to many women around, it is not an easy open and shut subject of question. Even renowned Italian director Dario Argento’s daughter Asia Argento was not spared.
Countless men and women approach the field of art to pursue their dreams. Many have had to ‘compromise’ either out of choice or compulsion, to ascend the ladder that led to their goals. Many still do. Apparently, they continue to do a lot of damage to themselves in the process. Unfortunately, many keep their lips sealed as they don’t want to talk about it. Even the doe eyed Rekha had a horrible taste of testosterone filled chauvinism at the tender age of 15, when she was kissed forcibly by her co actor Biswajeet and, the director refused to say a cut. Worse, the entire crew cheered the act! Were these perpetrators even closely reprimanded? No! But, the actress was branded a sex kitten and later, a home wrecker! Is it surprising? Not then. And, not now. Sadly.
In the West, French actress Maria Schneider was 19 when she starred in the 1972 French Italian film – Last Tango in Paris and, was a part of a scene she wasn’t completely aware of, a scene of a sexual assault. Needless to say, the actress felt not only violated but also did not get an ounce of apology from neither her co star not the director. Frankly, I lost every bit of respect for Marlon Brando (although he is no more) and, I find it so difficult to believe that the same man played such an enigmatic role in the movie – The Godfather!
And, the question pops up for the women– “Does their silence make them bad women, accomplices worse?”
We will come to that part later.
You are not alone!
Cut back to present, my FaceBook was flooded with posts from friends who shared #MeToo with the intent of showing solidarity in standing up against abuse. A major section of people joined in, applauded the act and also, joined in saying that such acts will never be tolerated henceforth. And, a small section came up annoyed at the publicity this hashtag was receiving. A few felt, nothing productive comes from such hashtags and that, women who suffer abuse and join the #MeToo brigade years after abuse are doing nothing but lamenting on their past or worse, garnering attention. Fighting back there and then would have been more productive.
I agree with this crowd but only on the last line. Only on the last line that – Fighting back at that instant is a productive thing to do. Rest, I don’t associate with branding women, especially those who underwent such abuse and were silent during the crimes that happened later. Now, I am NOT an advocate for silence, especially when you have a choice to do something about an issue but you choose not to. However, talking about women who endured abuse while ascending the ladder in Cinema, is contentious. For many successful actresses out there, who have made it big because of their sheer acting prowess, to have undergone these phases would have been the most agonizing moments of their lives, something which they endured unwillingly to reach their goals. It is mighty possible that quitting the industry, killing their dreams and going back to lives they do not understand was not what they believed, they deserved at the time.
Like, Jamie Curtis put it bluntly – “Did I ask for it? I asked for a job. What came along with the job was sexual harassment!”
How many people actually get this statement? Read it and it is simple to understand that no man or woman asks for it, unless he or she is damaged goods suffering from Stockholm’s syndrome!
So, should victims be blamed for suffering the ordeal?
Should they be targeted for silence when, they were battling a war against those who could squish them like houseflies?
Should victims be harassed for speaking up? Then or, now hardly matters for someone who has been through hell and back!
Why did these women endure what they did?
Frankly, WE ARE NO ONE TO JUDGE THAT!
And, I have great respect each one of those men and women who have come out and spoken about their ordeal in the past few weeks. They at least did now. And people, you need to be more kind. Appreciate these people for sharing their experiences now. Had it not been for such a collective voice of such magnitude, predators like Harvey would have stayed around abusing more victims till he kicked the bucket!
#MeToo has helped if not in a major way, but in a small way. And, any small step towards progress is a large leap! Beginnings are difficult, after all.
Now, let’s talk about reality. How many times do we really give it back when we encounter such situations? I remember an incident when I was in twelfth grade. I used to stand at the stop at 7 AM in the morning, waiting for the School Tata Sumo to come and pick me up. And, around that time, a guy who used to go to office would walk past me. No, he did not touch me or even say a word. But, he did something that left me deeply disturbed. He would simply stare at me, scanning every bit of me from head to foot. He would throw that lust filled dirty stare till he crossed the street. That was the first time in my life I felt violated without even being touched! Initially, I thought I was overreacting and that, I must learn to ignore it. A week later, I felt miserable and finally confided in my mum. She accompanied me for a couple of days thereafter.
The guy would not even turn his face towards me thereafter. However, I asked my mum – “What if he does it again? You can’t possibly leave me at the stop every day.” And, she candidly replied – “What do you do when you see a stray dog lurking around you, creating a nuisance value? You pick up a stone and aim at it. And, even if you do not throw the stone, it is bound to sense your dilemma – to throw or not to! So, just hurl the stone! And, women have a high pitched voice not just to sing, but to scream at people too. Use it.” In subsequent weeks, I gathered courage and, pretended to be brave by doing an amateurish juggler’s act with stones, while I was trembling within. The pretension worked. The man never looked at me again. Later, my stop changed and, I got rid of the nuisance value. The Universe helped me too, I guess.
The second incident happened when I was in Pune, working with an IT firm. While my friend and I were travelling back to our home by the state bus, I could see a guy filming us on his phone. Given my non confronting nature, I was squirming in my seat until my roommate got up, walked up to the guy and whacked him hard. No one intervened. However, the perpetrator was a bit shocked seeing the dangly girl eyeball him and, hurl profanities! That day my friend enlightened me with these lines – “Narayani! Hume apna dhayan khud hi rakhna hai. Koi ni ayega apni ifazat karne! Samjhi!”
I am no Beatrix Kiddo or Bholi Punjaban to invoke fear in people. Maybe it is my innate nature to NOT indulge in fights or, ‘giving it back’. Human nature is different for each. Besides, my upbringing has been actually full of sunshines and butterflies, another reason why I was quite rudely shocked by the devilry happening in cities. Not everyone gets the impulse to do the right thing at the right time. But with time, I have found what I can do with my instincts given that I do have powerful instincts about people I meet. I have gradually understood the power of being attentive to energies around. After all, broken adults cannot be repaired and, unlike how rabid dogs are culled, broken adults can’t. Therefore, paying attention to surroundings as much as we do to ourselves helps one keep the guard on, all the time.
While I blog about issues I never spoke of before, I am reminded of yet another incident that happened in the year 2007 when I overheard a conversation (not deliberately) while I was in the loo. A girl in the next, was sobbing incessantly about the ‘ordeal’ her manager was putting her through. I never got to see her as she left before me. I never divulged about it to anyone, not even to my best friend. But, that conversation did make me realize two things:
One, that You cannot fight this tentacle system, a lone ranger without getting shredded! The least you can do is maybe, post about it on social media, gather likes from like minded people, sign petitions and maybe that is it. The storm that stirred up diffuses as quickly as it came.
and Two, It is not easy for someone who has climbed the ladder on sheer hard work only to throw it all away because the system is exactly supporting the perpetrators
The point is, fighting evil is simple only on paper. On ground, it is war.
Read – IT. IS. WAR.
It is a war that consumes all of your energy leaving little for you to look forward to. Given the way, our judiciaries provide justice, no one wants to fall in the maze of this battlefield where, the evil seems to triumph all the time. No one wants to get old spending a major part of life and energy fighting legal battles. Whether or not, you agree on it, it is the truth this world lives. A very sad truth indeed.
It is easy for people to advise affected ones – “Fight back!” But, it is extremely difficult for the same people to understand the context of these situations. Each of the survivors are silently enduring scars within. Some of them endure because their lives are interwoven with intangibles that the world is barely aware of. At least, the educated class has the benefit of knowing the lesser suitable options to work out. But, what about those domestic helps that are harassed by the saabs and their memsaabs? The sad part is, they cannot even throw away their jobs, especially when they are the only earning members in the family. And, to engage in legal battles is absolutely out of question for them, especially when their goal for each day is getting the food on table, paying bills and fees and, getting a good night’s rest to work for the next day in good health.
The world is complicated, my friend. Solutions to problems are not written in black and white. And, arm chairing solutions for people whose lives are not being lived by us, from laptop and smart phones is hardly a progressive thing to do. Rather, we can begin with some empathy first!
While we talk about the successful women tribe, the rhetorical – “Why do people tolerate devilry for unaffordable luxuries?”, we shall come back to this question at a later point.
The monster called BLAME!
Making relations is a very strong urge. Man is a social animal after all. Join a new workplace and you would know that more than the work, it is the people who make you want to work or not in that place. And, most of us give in to that urge only to realize that some of the relations turned out exactly how you did not anticipate. Sometimes, things go awry for a few when they undergo worse – sexual abuse/harassment/emotional blackmail et al. Who is to blame? – is the first question.
Why do we seek something/someone to blame? Why?
This is exactly where we humans make the biggest error in life. This question is bull shit! Instead of finding the point/reason of blame, why not do something constructive at that point as in how to tackle the situation in hand and, how to prevent such from happening in future? Dwelling in self pity and ‘damsel in distress’ mode makes things worse because we are chained by an archaic society that feels women lure men into doing wrong things to them. No, not just us, it is the whole world. Even America has its Wild Wild West, where you do find that women are not treated any different and, in some cases, far worse. So, that is not at all something that should surprise the world. What must indeed, is the contempt for voices that speak of a wrong done to them in the past or in the present. So, this is exactly where restraint in action does the damage. Perpetrators of crime get a free hand in vandalizing humanity because the bystanders do not want to get involved in clearing the cesspool which has an absolute chance of mucking up their worlds too!
Now, let’s reiterate through those questions on women who have suffered abuse and remained silent.
“Does their silence make them bad women, accomplices worse?”
“Is success so important in life that you end up burning yourself to get there?”
No. Silence doesn’t make them bad women. Sometimes, a bad time or a bad circumstance forces a person to take bad decisions. And, bad decisions don’t make people bad!
Answer to the second, the definition of success is different for each one of us. So again, a goal post for each has a different path. After all, we are all nothing but the choices we make in life! Just that, no one asks for the dark side. It just tags along because, the world has more wolves in sheep’s clothing than sheep dogs.
We are nothing but the choices we make in life.
This is exactly what we are. At the fag end of our lives, what is it that we yearn for, the most? Comforts of life or, Companionship? Ideally, we crave for both. But there is one of the two that we want more in initial years because comforts in life are often reigned by greed. While companionship doesn’t see comfort as a threat, comfort unfortunately views companionship as one!
We all have our choices. Not all choices we make are going to make us happy. Not all choices we make are going to make us successful. But, if a choice stems from fear or lack of courage, then the choice shall surely come with burns and scars. There is no other way but to deal with it in a way that it helps the self and the others to steer away clear through rough patches in life. Because, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many scars and burns one carries or how many mistakes one made in life. What matters is the intent to do the right thing sooner or later. What matters is the verve to walk the extra mile despite shortcuts trying to seduce you at every U turn. What matters is the courage of conviction to speak up if not for yourself but for someone who is going through a trauma you underwent. And, that is exactly what matters.
After all, people who have been to hell and back will never preach about high heavens. Never.