With allegations of sexual harassment against actor Jeetendra, many people are hopeful that our #MeToo movement is finally here. But is the Indian society even ready for a #MeToo? With a patriarchal society in which we struggle to maintain a healthy sex ratio and curb crime against women, how much heed will people pay to the Silence Breakers, if they dare to come forward in India?
#MeToo movement isn’t just about standing up. It’s about retribution
The landslide of allegations against powerful men like Weinstein, Nassar, Spacey and Louis CK would have been inconsequential, had it not been for the reaction they received.
Their acts were severely condemned, shunned socially and professionally, and had criminal charges levied against them.
Unlike in our country where we take the high ground and put the victims to shame. For us, our superstars can do no wrong. We are too afraid of the power that people of any authority can unleash. Hence, we choose to look the other way when women come forward with allegations of sexual assault and harassment.
Even in the latest case, the victim is a cousin of the yesteryear superstar, who found the courage to come forward now. Yet the lukewarm response from both inside and outside the film industry is a proof that we still don’t know which way to look into matters like these.
There is no point in asking women to stand up and report abuse, if we are not ready to punish the perpetrators.
Jeetendra’s case isn’t the first one
The actor isn’t the first man of social standing who has had allegations of sexual harassment levied against him. Cases against men like RK Pachauri, Tarun Tejpal, Arunabh Kumar and so on, were all chances to stand up against harassment. But we have always failed to keep the momentum up and about.
Now here we have another chance, and what does actually happen? No one in the industry comes out asking questions. One can understand when the current lot of female actors refuses to speak up against the sexual harassment and abuse in the industry. They would be out of work the next minute. But no veteran female actor, who isn’t active in the industry anymore, or any actor who does not depend on the industry for a livelihood has spoken out ever. Bollywood is a much tight-knit community than Hollywood. Everyone is connected to everyone like one big dysfunctional family. The issue of female abuse is its one big dirty secret.
A #MeToo movement, even if it happens in India will never sustain. It is simply because it is easier for us to shut down women or ignore and shame them. Rather than take on men drunk on power.
We are way too scared of power to stand with the abused women. It hasn’t dawned on us yet, that it is us who give abusers the power they misuse. Eventually, we are capable of taking it away from them as well. The day we realise this simple thing, we will be ready as a society for our #MeToo movement.
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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