Tanushree Dutta recently made some startling revelations in an Instagram post, sharing how she continues to face “severe mental, physical and psychological harassment from Bollywood mafia” presumably for kickstarting the #MeToo movement. Dutta further adds, “I am trying to resurrect my career, and people are interested in working with me, despite the image that these Bollywood mafias have portrayed as being difficult… I am getting offers for films as well as web projects, in fact signed some also, but have noticed none materialise. All of a sudden, the producers or director go in incognito mode, or sponsors drop.”
Dutta’s post may seem odd but it is not unusual, for four years since the movement took place, women are still paying the price for speaking out, being labelled as ‘trouble-makers’. The men accused of sexual harassment and misconduct in the Indian #MeToo movement, especially in the entertainment space, are back in prestigious big-ticket projects, even as the women continue to face backlash and boycotts.
Tanushree Dutta appeals for work: Why are survivors punished for speaking up?
In 2018, the #MeToo movement flooded social media timelines, with names and faces of both survivors and perpetrators of sexual violence and misconduct piling high. The movement tore through several dens of workplace harassment ranging from journalism, entertainment and arts to academia, across Indian metro cities. Yet, beneath all the naming and shaming, in how many was justice actually served? And at what price?
Long, lonely legal battles. Endless court cases. Harassment. Intimidation. Loss of employment. Women had to go through all. And they still continue to face the consequences of speaking up against powerful men.
As a result of this constant mental harassment, many survivors don’t speak out because they know there is a very good chance they’ll be accused of lying. They also see the very real risk their lives turned upside down due to loss of employment and shaming in public spaces like News and social media.
Enabling or turning a blind eye to sexual harassment is one of the many ways workplaces create and sustain a hostile environment for women, pushing them out of organisations and sometimes even the workforce. It exacts a high cost on all individuals and communities, but the price is disproportionately shouldered by women who can least afford it.
If we are truly interested in building a world where all women feel safe, supported and able to fully participate in their communities and workplaces, we need to be proactive in our advocacy for women’s rights. We must ensure vulnerable women are provided adequate training, in the language they are most comfortable in, so they understand their rights. The more educated a workplace is, the less likely potential perpetrators will be to think they can get away with harassment. We need to find ways to support these women ― legally, financially, and emotionally ― when action is taken.
All things aside, we can’t let this crucial movement turn into a moment because society chooses to make the lives of survivors miserable, instead helping them to heal and move on.
As Priya Ramani, another key person in India’s #Metoo movement once pointed out, it important is for women to speak out. “Let’s not make it something special. Something that’s praiseworthy,” she said. “I’ve found that speaking up can be addictive, also liberating. I highly recommend it. I believe we don’t speak up enough.”
Hence, let’s not overlook it. Failing to do so will not only affect women as individuals but will ultimately damage our workplaces, our communities and our societies. We will all be poorer for it.
Suggested Reading: Exploring #MeToo Against The Backdrop Of Feminism And Gender