In the post Section 377, post-triple-talaq world, #MeToo seems like a logical development and progression. It will empower potential or actual “victims of predators”, at least in the workplace
The good thing about the Indian #MeToo movement, kindled at long last despite a seeming rape and murder every other minute somewhere in the country, is that it will empower women/men and some others too.
At the top of this whole conundrum is the issue of attempted force, as in pressure exerted by powerful people, or actual manhandling, and the lack of consent from the object of their desires. This is indeed valid. Anyone who wants to play Romeo or Juliet should have a willing subject. And have the grace to accept no as no.
In the post Section 377, post-triple-talaq world, #MeToo seems like a logical development and progression. It will empower potential or actual “victims of predators”, at least in the workplace. This, as people - owners, promoters, officials, politicians, take care to have their HR departments properly address sexual harassment and put out suitably stern missives on expected behaviour. And it is already kicking quite a few expendable movie directors and sundry others out of their jobs.
The bad thing about it, media fest included/notwithstanding, is that it floats like inedible Hyacinth and its cousins, atop our highly polluted rivers.
The dirty rivers being a living metaphor for the Indian people, and their ways, including, in its embrace, the masses, and not just the classes. And the inedible Hyacinth is, of course, the desi Me Too movement.
In mass-market Bharat, niceties like sexual harassment are just foreplay for rape and murder - for the dead tell no tales, except, that is, to the forensic experts.
In urban workplaces, there are actually men and women who evidently enjoy using their power to demand sexual favours, without too much emphasis on the actual sex. Though, all accounts point to the fact that they get very peeved if they are not granted said favours.
It probably is not really about sexual gratification at all. Certainly, not in a two-way street sort of manner. It is more like a white-collar version of “honour stalking”.
If it was about sex down and dirty, it might be altogether better for these well-heeled people to take a quick trip to Bangkok, Dubai or London, and pay for it, short-time, long-time, with or without adoration included - with no resultant fallout, and no strings attached.
But what prompts the high and mighty to want to play “house” and “doctor-doctor” right in the office, is one for the shrinks.
Hollywood stars, caught receiving gratification in parked cars in Beverly Hills, have said they prefer prostitutes to dates. It is, they have said, a lot less complicated and far less expensive. It certainly cannot lead to long-term relationships, at least in the usual sense, and therefore no aggravated damages/alimony when it goes south. It also does not, unless caught out by police torches, alert wives and girlfriends parked elsewhere.
Nevertheless, the global #MeToo movement and its desi chapter have added a raspberry to the statute of limitations clause that saves even tax dodgers.
Instead, it is au fait to remember being molested, harassed or raped, if not all of the above, ten, twenty or more years later, and demand retributive compensation with a straight, if tearful face. And so, almost anybody can be trashed at will, and every person in the public eye is vulnerable. If you think about it, a blameless existence is no insurance against a perceived transgression. An accused person is expected to deny wrongdoing is he or she not? But, who can assuage the alleged victim’s hurt if not the polluted State?
The entire issue smacks of a probity that neither the Indian people nor the Americans or their developed world compatriots across the Atlantic possess. Ask a priest or godman for a view these days, here or there, and he looks away in guilty embarrassment. Compared to the washing of dirty linen in public Me Too entails, the invasiveness of Aadhar is like a love tap.
And how will allegations stand up in a court of law that generally revels in incontrovertible proof, and lets murderers off if there is less?
Or will sexual harassment and rape, in our post-modern jurisprudence, be decided on the victim’s accusation and recollection of doings and sayings decades ago? Will it be thought sufficient and good enough to punish the accused?
On the other hand, perhaps it won’t come to that. Involving the police with FIRs is not the same as involving the judiciary over several years if not decades afresh.
Isn’t dragging people through the mud of calumny enjoyable enough after all? Ruining a reputation with salacious allegations, true or otherwise, is certainly hilarious till someone commits suicide over it. People have done so over less. Or more. Ask any real rape victim. And the probable moral clincher if one is at all bothered about morality. Why was it tolerable then and not so now?
What kind of defence is it that is being trotted out over the media? Sample a few of the statements - I didn’t have the courage to out the predator days or months after it happened, but am doing so now because people in America have made it alright? At the time, I was focused on getting ahead in my career, which my “monster-predator” was in a position to advance. I took the benefits, trading my integrity if not my virtue at the time, but now I cannot let a day go by without naming the wolf in the paddock of my desirable years.
Is it gender insensitive and patriarchal to trash this fraudulent nonsense? Victims- men, women, and people of other genders are not going to be trusted if they employ such tactics. Even Harvey Weinstein is about to get off stock free for lack of proof. So when will our urban warriors for gender equality try to earn their place in the sun by dint of their merit, instead of trying to bring down people they happily took favours from in their misspent youth?
Many women and men who do not use their sexuality to get ahead in the workplace are left behind by those who have no compunction in doing so. This includes, of course, the not so good-looking, and older people who may be very competent at their jobs, if nowhere near as sexually attractive.
In the age of television and the internet, it is evident that the Me Too complainers, almost without exception, would theoretically have no problem trading on their competence today if not their looks. That most are unemployed and alone is telling and not without irony.
It is nobody’s case that progress on gender equality, gender pay etc. usually takes a tortuous route through such back alleys. And perhaps in years to come, the Me Too movement, here and elsewhere, will seem as quaint and droll as Suffragettes chaining themselves to the railings at Westminster to demand voting rights for women.
Of course, the other implication, unintended perhaps, is that anything goes, as long as it is not in the workplace, does not involve a powerful predator playing wolf and a victim wearing Red Riding’s hood, or in all the fun places and events related to work offsite. And this goes double for pluralities.
All this legitimate if tiresome fuss might make the art of making a pass a thing of the past in the workplace. Who knows before-hand, except for clairvoyance, whether Jack or Jill actually wants to take a walk up the hill?
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Last Updated Oct 12, 2018, 3:16 PM IST