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, all instructed while one can watch a boy of that same age more carefree, with no rules to abide by. No one tells the boy to not harass, to not go touch a person without their consent, to not rape. 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.
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.
The same movement trickled down in Bollywood, owing to Tanushree Dutta opening up about the harassment she faced from a prominent actor like Nana Patekar. A collective sigh was heaved when a few other women, albeit anonymously or even open, spoke about the abuse they faced from several other prominent men in the industry. Would this mean that now women were getting together, in solidarity with each other, screaming out to men that enough is enough?
A recent round table discussion involving prominent mainstream actresses such as Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt, Anushka Sharma, Rani Mukerji, Tabu and Taapsee Pannu showed everybody that while the idea of sisterhood and being there for each other is almost happening, there are still regressive thoughts harboured by those once revered a change maker. At the round table, while all of them were on the same lane at some point, Rani differed and made a problematic statement which were clearly not approved by her co-panelists.
Rani said, “Being a woman, one has to be powerful within and believe in it, if such a situation comes one must have the courage to say back off, after all, everything relates to what one wants in their life.”
Deepika countered Rani’s statement saying that not all women would respond in the same way, to which Rani vehemently harped on why these women are the ones who need to change. She also went on about self-defence and martial arts being made compulsory in schools, adding that a woman has to take responsibility for herself. She also mentioned that we can’t teach mothers how to bring up their kids and it’s the sole responsibility of the woman to teach lessons to men right there rather that bringing it to the limelight.
Being an inspiration for so many young girls, it was quite disappointing to hear such statements from her. Rani, a once leading Bollywood actress, gave us bold movies like Mardaani and No One Killed Jessica in which she stood for woman justice. She was also actively involved in many humanitarian works and is vocal about issues faced by women and children. Hearing her statements on women defending herself rather than men learning anything takes the whole #MeToo movement 10 steps back, where we still hold the woman accountable for her actions while the man is still scot-free despite the misconduct.
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?
Rani was massively criticised and trolled by social media users calling her ignorant. Many celebrities have also criticised her statements and calling them problematic.
Counter statements and harping on self-defence as a tool to tackle sexual misconduct aside, mindsets need to change. Ultimately, if one were to peek into this movement, the brickbats that women face while naming their accusers is unprecedented.While women live and bleed out stories of pain, turmoil, guilt, and fear, every day, the support lent towards the alleged perpetrators and putting the onus on the survivors paints a dreary picture of this powerful movement.
ALSO READ: The Ultimate Guide to Consent by Chinmayi!