I am a 31-year-old woman, I have worked in 10 different places since my graduation in 2008. Five years ago when I took to entrepreneurship, I realised my life had one common thread that would never leave me alone. Being a salaried employee or being the boss makes zero difference to your life if you are a woman — you WILL be harassed.
I could quote the many instances when men humiliated me, women too, who made me cry in the washroom for they never understood it could be them in my place some day. Men have given me the hardest time at my workplace for many reasons, but all of them thought they could get away with it because I am “just a woman”.
So let’s start with a basic question: what is harassment? “Can’t a man like a gal at work?” — sure, you can, and so can a woman. “So what’s the big deal if I express my interest in her?” Well, let’s see — did you do so in a way that she did not reciprocate it? “LOL, yeah, but she is enjoying all the attention I am giving her, soon she is going to give in — girls like to play hard to get.” Sure, sure — because women like men who think out of their asses, right?
No, women don’t like to play hard to get — women are scared that your entitlement might put them in danger, they are playing “hard to not give a fuck!”
“Whoa! whoa! Calm your tits, bitch — it’s not like you are good looking anyway — you must be glad I am throwing some bones at ya!”
Relatable? Been there, said/heard it? Now, I am aware that this is not how every workplace is, I really do. And I know it because some are worse. In some workplaces, women get raped, and for complaining about being raped, fired from their jobs too. You must be thinking: “Wait, come on, don’t you go on exaggerating just because you are a man hater! I am not like that, and so many men I know respect women too, don’t generalise.”
So it seems to me that being a decent human being who does not rape a woman makes you feel like you deserve an award, right? RIGHT?
And then comes another conundrum — what is this “workplace?” Is it Tidel Park? Is it Mahindra City? What about your own house? How about CCD down the road? What about the road itself?
What if I tell you that the Indian government has declared all of the above to be workplaces in an Act that came into existence in the year 2013? No, really it has — and it is awesome that such an Act exists. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 has a very clear definition of a workplace.
“Any place visited by the employee arising out of or during the course of employment, including transportation provided by the employer for undertaking such a journey.”
So will Kaveri aunty who comes to do chores at our house on a monthly salary, call our house her “workplace?” Damn right she will! The Act “includes all women whether engaged directly or through an agent including a contractor, with or without the knowledge of the principal employer. They may be working for remuneration, on a voluntary basis or otherwise. Their terms of employment can be express or implied. Further, she could be a co-worker, a contract worker, probationer, trainee, apprentice, or called by any other such name. The Act also covers a woman, who is working in a dwelling place or house.”
In all my experiences with abuse under the hands of the many, many men I have worked with, almost every time, the patriarchal society has gaslighted me into believing that I will never win and that it was always my fault. How can it be my fault if somebody masturbated at me? How can it be my fault if a male colleague passes a comment about how I must shop for an XXL? And please, please tell me this: how can it be my fault that I have breasts and a vagina? That seems to be the root-cause for every single abuse that has come my way, and a man’s entitlement to not stop even if hurts me, because it gives him pleasure? So I got thinking, and in December last year, I decided to work on this overbearing helpless feeling.
I am making a documentary on workplace sexual harassment — it is going to be historic. I am fucking sure about it.
This is not just a film about harassment where we dwell on the obvious alone, but it is a lot more than that — it will critically examine the nature of workplace sexual harassment by speaking to both the lawmakers as well as the people for whom such laws are made. What constitutes a workplace? What happens if the harasser is your employer? What are the policies and rights of women, and how are the governing bodies responding? What happens to women who get harassed on the basis of their age, lifestyle or sexual orientation? Is it harassment if it is not sexual? What about people with disability?
In a world where sex sells, talking about women’s rights fall into an abyss with zero receivers. I should know because I have been banned, blocked and yelled at by some folks ever since I started my research on this film and put it up for crowdfunding. And tragically, a lot of instances where women have been harassed/abused/murdered have happened since then. I often am abused, and get to hear things like: “LOLOL, a man hater is making a film about how women are “so innocent”, feminazi alert!!”
Sigh. Imagine having to meet your abuser every day, where despite the complaint, he has not been fired and you are abused more and more. Ever heard of KPS Gill, Phaneesh Murthy, Gopal Kanda, Tarun Tejpal, Binoy Jacob, Amal Vishnudas, Lingeswara Thilagam? No? How about this, encountered comments such as this one? “LOLOLOL, but it takes two hands to clap? The woman led him on, do you even know what she was wearing that day or how much she had had to drink?”
There have been instances in the past when a film was made by contributions as small as one rupee, donated by a large group of people. One rupee! That doesn’t seem like a lot to part away from, does it? Of course, you can part with a lot more, but I am happy with just a buck from your office of say 10,000 people. You get the math, don’t you?
Funding a film is not always about how much can you contribute, quite the opposite actually. It is about how many people can contribute, however much they can. Those who know me, know that I am not making films because I want to buy a Mercedes — not even close — I am happy with my 9-year-old Activa. I am quite tired now and have been for a few weeks since I started raising funds. Especially when I see that money is being spent on shows that further degrade women. Not that it is any of my business, but is it not? Is it not yours too?
Quite simply, I need money to make this film, and I need to make sure I reach a lot of people at the same time with my campaign. I need your help with that — would you do that for me?
There are some secondary level awesome things associated with this project too — I have managed to pull off an all-woman leadership crew, and we have a Hollywood music composer helming the music department. YES! Miriam Mayers has been in projects like “Saving Private Ryan” and more, and now she has joined my team.
A lot of women have come forward to speak about their experiences from a wide variety of industries and various line of works — not just corporate. Truth be told, getting these women to speak in the film was rather easy compared to raising funds — and now that all of us have formed this squad, it will be a shame if these stories don’t get to see the light of the day.
I do not believe that this film will directly result in zero crimes against women, and neither should you. My film is my expression of angst, a means to bring to light the violent crimes against women — not a man hating, feminazi achievement to propagate misandry. The film is for everyone who is affected by work place harassment. This is about me, and this is about you too.
I understand not everybody can donate money, this is in no way to imply any kind of compulsion — but if you can understand the importance of workplace harassment, please do help me gather a group of people to donate or help get the word out. I think it is your film as much as it is mine.
So tell me, how much does it cost to buy safety? Would you chip in for a voice that could help change the horrifying reality?
You can fund my campaign here.
Can visit the website here.