Contradictory opinion is one thing and belittling women’s pain is another. Everyone who has a social media account knows by now that a hashtag is doing rounds encouraging women globally to tell their stories of sexual harassment in the digital world. Lakhs of women posted #MeToo on their accounts either to say that they went through sexual harassment or to show solidarity towards survivors. But Chandana Agarwal, advertising giant Ogilvy And Mather India Managing Partner, thinks that it is all a part of “growing up” for women in India.

Agarwal rubbished the claims of lakhs of women and trivialized the issue. She wrote in a Facebook post, “There are some experiences that are part of growing up in India, this should not be about that, things like someone grabbing at you or pinching you, that’s not abuse.”

Clearly from the above statement, the O&M India head sends out a loud message to all women working in the company that she is not going to help them out.

Grabbing and pinching someone is invading another person’s privacy, which is a criminal act under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

There is a choice a man makes when he harasses women at the workplace, both physically and emotionally. And we need to do away with that kind of attitude and not constantly keep telling women to “learn”

Agarwal’s Facebook post came to light when poet and author, Harnidh Kaur, posted a screenshot of it from her account. She mentioned in the post that an O&M employee sent her the screenshot “who very rightly pointed out that this made her feel actively unsafe at work”.

Agarwal managed to write off workplace harassment as experiences that “help you prepare for life” and to learn to not be in a “vulnerable position” again. To this, the basic question that arises is why do only women have to “prepare” for such experiences in life? Isn’t there a disparity there?

There is a choice a man makes when he harasses women at the workplace, both physically and emotionally. And we need to do away with that kind of attitude and not constantly keep telling women to “learn”.

Lastly, Agarwal believes that harassment is not common at all. And by “making it so general we are being unfair to people who have been scarred”.

Probably, Agarwal hasn’t seen statistics in a while and we would like to show her some. A UN Population Fund study says, “Worldwide, an estimated one in three women will experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime.” And this is including women at work, obviously.

So, just to put it in perspective, there is a big number of women who grow up in a sheltered environment, probably like yourself, Ms. Agarwal. But by overlooking others’ painful accounts from the standpoint of your privilege, you aren’t using it in the most socially responsible manner. Food for thought!

 

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