The Indian version of the international movement against sexual harassment has generated a lot of chatter on various aspects of the issue. One of them is accountability. Many survivors are facing criticism for merely trusting men to be on their good behaviour during dinner dates, etc. These meetings, which started amicably, spiralled out of control and ended as assault or harassment for the survivor.
Journalist Tavleen Singh took upon herself, to criticise one such #MeToo voice. Where, I believe the only fault of the young woman was that she trusted Suhel Seth enough. But to Singh, the survivor’s account was not credible. She criticised her for going to a stranger’s house alone, hence putting the onus of alleged assault on her.
No. But, why did you go to Suhel’s house? Surely even an ‘innocent’ young girl like you should have known not to go alone to a strange man’s house alone? https://t.co/T1Su9Daa7E
— Tavleen Singh (@tavleen_singh) October 13, 2018
Singh is not alone, though. Such comments are quite common on social media, whenever a survivor chooses to speak about dates or dinner and drinks encounters with bosses or new acquaintances have gone wrong.
Why did you accompany a stranger on your own? Why did you accept a drink from him? Why did you dare to trust him, knowing that men always want sex from women?
Just stop shifting the blame on women!
Singh has confessed that she is Seth’s friend, hence this defensive argument stems from her friendship with the man whose conduct is in question here. This has done nothing but normalised Seth’s conduct. Her statement again waves the banner of “Men will be men” and demands that girls be responsible instead.
- Journalist Tavleen Singh criticised a #MeToo survivor for visiting a stranger’s house by herself.
- Her statement again waves the banner of “Men will be men” at #MeToo and demands that girls be responsible instead.
- It is not the time to victim shame women. The focus must unwaveringly stay with the conduct of men and how predators abuse goodwill, position and power.
How are these comments any different from the disapproving dictates which conservative sections of society impose on women?
Now is not the time to victim shame women. The focus must unwaveringly stay with the conduct of men and how predators abuse goodwill, position and power. Asking women to be permanently on guard of their dignity isn’t the solution to the problem at hand. It is a mere measure to contain a problem which can no longer be restrained. Thus, the focus should be on the reformation of the “chauvinist mindset.”
The point that both Seth and Singh have missed is that when a woman accepts an offer to go out for drinks or dinner, it is just that. It can’t be taken as her consent for sex or groping. Feeling safe in the company of men, strangers or otherwise is every woman’s right. To be on their good behaviour and proper conduct throughout, is every man’s duty. It is about time to shift the accountability from encashing one’s rights, to failing to mind one’s conduct.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own