Social Issues

An Open Letter To Radha Ravi, Marimuthu & All Those Who Justify Sexual Harassment

Growing up as a young girl in the early 2000s, I was exposed to films that had love as its primary theme. Where the hero chased the heroine, even misbehaved with her at times until she finally “reciprocated” his love. As a child, it was ingrained in me and several other girls of impressionable age that the woman on screen was always an object of affection to the hero, where no matter how much she endured, it was always about the hero’s virality and his feelings that mattered. While such movies were revered with high acclaim then, growing up taught me otherwise.

Women, or even young girls who are yet to be hit by puberty, are always told to be careful. A set of rules and regulations are instructed to us women from childhood. “Don’t walk alone at night”, “Don’t wear clothes that show your skin”, “Don’t talk to men”, “Don’t raise your voice”, “Don’t question anybody, just keep silent”…and it’s endless. The reality of being a woman is hard enough, where women from each stratum get accustomed to harassment from the beginning, starting from tuition classes, public places, school, home, and work.

So when the #MeToo movement finally caught up in India, it meant that women were done with the pains of keeping quiet and enduring everyday sexism and harassment that not just hampered work but also their mental well-being. Right when singer Chinmayi named her harasser, the abuse she’s been facing on and offline (yes, it continues even now) is beyond repair. It’s hard enough to relive your trauma and name a powerful person who has been known to be quite notorious in terms of making women uncomfortable; but the backlash towards those speaking up goes unprecedented. Worse, it’s even encouraged.

Amidst all this, there are prominent figures like Radha Ravi and actor Marimuthu who make statements that are not just insulting to survivors of sexual harassment and abuse but also offensive to women, where they reduce them to inanimate things who are meant to be subservient. In their eyes, women are looked at as “creatures” who ought to be preserved, whose purity and honour lies above everything else.

Case in point: Radha Ravi taking a jab at the whole movement and literally saying that men are the victims here. Here’s the thing, you don’t need statistics to show that women are harassed on a regular day WAY MORE than what a man experiences in his life. The catcalls, the unsolicited dick pics on the internet, the vile abuse when a woman rejects a man’s advances, the stalking that is often called “love” and the fact that men can go about and get away with everything they do and when, finally, women open up and talk back, she is called crazy and asked to shut up.

The obvious double standards in holding our women accountable for what a man does reflects upon a society that caters to men’s needs where there’s no place for a woman unless it’s her performing domestic duties, something that is forced upon her. When was the last time you had heard someone complimenting a woman that went beyond her looks, maternal instincts, and didn’t have a man’s named affixed to her achievements?

Marimuthu, an actor who has been known for his character roles, shared his thoughts on why it was okay for Vairamuthu to harass women. He said: “It would have been humiliating if he’d been accused of stealing from a jewellery shop. He’s been accused of calling a woman to his room. So what? He is a man, isn’t he? What’s wrong in this, I’m asking. Let him call. If you wish to, you go. He’s a man, right? He has hormones. He’ll feel it’d be nice to hug a woman and sleep, won’t he? That’s why he called. That woman has now said this publicly.I won’t say that this is an insult to Vairamuthu. What is there? It’d have been wrong only if he had called a man to his room.”

He further went on to put sexual harassment and dogs in the same sentence and made absolutely no sense. In his words, apologising was the same as apologising to a dog you could’ve run over (??!)

So going by Marimuthu’s logic, men have more hormones therefore if they sexually harass a woman, it’s justified because of hormones. However, irony died a silent, terrible death somewhere. Women are often asked if it’s “that time of the month” when they react a bit, alluding to hormones, but if a man is hormonal, he is justified to sexually harass.

Moving on from illogical and downright offensive statements, here’s the thing; men like Radha Ravi, Marimuthu and scores of others who believe that the girl should be held accountable – leave her alone and for heaven’s sake, question the man! If you believe in innocent till proven guilty, then assume the same for a woman. Moreover, talk to more women and then you’ll see the harrowing percentage of misconduct they face on a regular basis to the point that it’s actually considered a normal part of their daily lives.

And if you will only look at a woman as someone’s mother, sister, daughter or whatever family sentiment you can conjure up, then wash your brain with some good old feminist readings of Bell Hooks, Simone De Beauvoir, Gloria Steinem, Maya Angelou, Kamala Das, Indira Jaisingh, Tarana Burke (who coined ‘Me Too’), and so many other women who are not just tired of cleaning up a man’s mess but will school their limited knowledge on equality and humanity. If this is still too dense for you to comprehend, then might I suggest you look at women the way you look at men – as human beings. Unbridled, unattached, and free.

Sincerely,

An angry, tired woman.

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