‘My Kindness And Personality Didn’t Matter. My Breasts Did’: Guest Lecturer, IIT Roorkee

Posted on November 15, 2016 in My Story, Sexism And Patriarchy

Submitted Anonymously:

Editor’s Note: YKA has seen the e-mail complaint made by the author to the Director, IIT Roorkee, on May 14, 2016. When asked about the details of the action taken in the matter, Officiating Director P K Ghosh told YKA on the phone that “things are going on” but “no information is now available”. An e-mail sent to the Presiding Officer, Internal Complaints Committee, Prof. Ritu Barthwal, and the Director, IIT Roorkee (Dy. Director P K Ghosh is officiating as the Director right now)- asking for details of IIT Roorkee’s sexual harassment at workplace policy, redress-mechanism for sexual harassment survivors,  the specific complaint and those accused in it- did not elicit any response.

I want to call your attention to an incident at IIT Roorkee last year when I was a guest lecturer. Three professors arrived late to my talk, one continued to talk on his cellphone, three whispered together and one stared at my chest as I was trying to talk to the class of graduate students and faculty. The professors eventually interrupted my lecture with aggressive and antagonistic questions. They demeaned me, my research, my qualifications and my prior publications. By staring at me in a lewd manner, I was reduced to the sum of my body parts. My brain, my talent, my gifts, my kindness and personality didn’t matter. My breasts did. It was incredibly humiliating. I didn’t want to talk about it for a long time. When things like this happen, women feel ashamed as if they had done something wrong in being targeted in that matter. And that is why the men who do these things are able to keep doing them.

About 10 months after the incident, I filed a complaint with the National Commission for Women (NCW). Nothing happened. I filed a complaint with IIT. A board looked into it, talked to other witnesses and agreed with all my points. Still nothing happened.

My concern is this: What message does this give young women about their worth when a visiting faculty member can be treated like this? What message does it give men about how women are to be treated?

IIT is a good university. Its students are bright and ambitious. They need good role models and they need a safe environment that will be free from sexual harassment.

Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons