In a clip circulating on the internet, actor Preity Zinta can be heard saying through giggles that she wishes she had a #MeToo story to tell. The statement has earned her a lot of criticism. While the #MeToo wave has boosted the drive against sexual harassment, Zinta’s comments make it sound like having a #MeToo story is some kind of a privilege these days, which wins you screen time and free propaganda. She also quoted a line she had heard, “Aaj ki sweetu kal ki metoo ho sakti hai,” (Today’s sweetu could be a #MeToo tomorrow.) One cannot fathom what could have prompted Zinta to say such a cringe-worthy line in front of a camera.

While Zinta did say that it is important that the #MeToo movement had started”, she went on to add that she felt bad “when women are using it when it’s not that serious or for personal vendetta or publicity and diluting the movement”.

However, on being asked if she had ever faced sexual misconduct in Bollywood herself, she said, “No, I haven’t, I wish I had… So at least I would have an answer to tell you.”

She added, “It’s a very relevant question, because people treat you the way you want to be treated.”

Did Zinta just blame victims of sexual harassment, and question their intent? Did she just trivialise the stand of those brave women who have dared to tackle the bigwigs of Bollywood?

Trivialisation of sexual harassment by film fraternity is disappointing

She said all the right things like “some women do face harassment” and “we need to first acknowledge existence of the problem” etc. Yet, these lines seem like a coat of paint to cover what she actually wanted to say. That if someone is preying on you, then clearly you are sending him the wrong signals. This is the last thing women who want to come out with allegations of sexual harassment should have to listen to. Just when will people stop putting the onus of predators’ actions on the survivors?

SOME TAKEAWAYS-

  • In a recent interview, Preity Zinta said that she wished she had a #MeToo story to tell.
  • She also said that she has never faced sexual harassment, and that people treat you the way you want to be treated.
  • Malayalam film actor Mohanlal has also trivialised #MeToo in Indian film industry as “a short-lived fad”.
  • Instead of victim-blaming and trivialising accounts of survivors, the industry needs to acknowledge existence of a grave problem among its ranks. 

Perhaps Zinta was caught off-guard and couldn’t phrase her thoughts well. Or she feels genuinely sorry for all the Bollywood men who now wake up covered in sweat, in middle of the night, to check their phone just to ensure that they are still out in the clear. Perhaps, she has actually been lucky so far to not encounter harassment from her industry peers. For that, Zinta should count her blessings, but this doesn’t give her the right to resort to victim shaming. Not every woman can be as lucky as her.

However, she isn’t the only one to think that #MeToo is an over-reaction. According to Gulf News, actor Mohanlal, who is a stalwart in Malayalam cinema, recently called the movement a fad. He said, “There’s no big problem in the Malayalam industry … You shouldn’t think of the #MeToo as a movement actually. It’s a fad and it’s turning into something of a fashion. Anything like that will have a lifespan for a bit.”

Industry people like Zinta and Mohanlal shouldn’t forget that at the end of the day, these women are their co-workers. The least they deserve is verbal support of their fraternity.

If multiple women are coming up with allegations against selective men, then clearly it is a problem. The reputation of the Indian film industry depends today on how it tackles this issue. Does it lay down guidelines to create a safer environment for women? Does it encourage women to speak up socially and professionally, shut out predatory men, no matter how powerful they are? Or should it pretend to be sincere on the surface, but quietly discredit it as a fad?

No one wishes to have a #MeToo story to tell. Sexual harassment drains you on all levels — personal, professional and psychological. It wrecks careers and lives and leaves a survivor with a lifetime of repercussions. We can only hope that the industry men and women stop seeing it as a moment speared by vendetta and opportunism. It would be a much better industry if it takes the #MeToo allegations in all sincerity and begins taking measures to curb it.

Also Read: Cinema Goers Too Are Responsible For Bollywood’s Gender Pay 

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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