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Open Letter To Actress Mamta Mohandas: Welcome To The Victim Blaming Brigade

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Dear Mamta,

I have admired your work. I have admired the way you fought and beat cancer. You came back to work and gave us memorable performances. At Grihalakshmi’s midnight women’s half marathon, you ran in the front with Parvathy, Pearle Maaney and Sunitha Krishnan (who also happens to be a rape survivor fighting and working for other survivors). I was there too, I admired how you stood in the front and encouraged women to do their best. Well, the marathon was intended to make the statement that it is a woman’s right to occupy public spaces no matter how late it is! And here you are, making the counterclaim!

*sigh*

I read your interview with TOI which only reflected what I, as a woman living in India, have heard over the years from elders (who don’t care if a guy showed up late at home drunk but get butthurt when girls show up half an hour later than promised), and politicians who would rather depend on the privileged person’s vote more than women’s (here are some gems for you). I had hoped that the current generation of influencers will move forward and discard these age-old concepts.

Even the brightest and those who can only be described as ultra-modern, happen to have a brain that regressed with their attempts at pleasing patriarchal power structures. I don’t know if that is what you intended to do.

When the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) was formed, you made it clear that you are not a part of it, neither did you want to be. It is entirely your decision to not be a part or to support the actress who dared to speak out against actor Dileep. However, blaming the victim is uncalled for.

In an interview with the Times of India, you said, “However, the other day I heard someone say that some of the articles had it that instead of AMMA protecting its daughter, it’s shielding its son. It almost sounded like a joke to me. Firstly, it sounds very biased and secondly, to someone who is reading it, it is very provocative. You could really anger one section and comfort another.

I would like to remind you that in our social structure, women’s rights are confined by a Lakshmanrekha. Women, often called the fairer sex, have to be confined within this space or else they will be ‘at the mercy of those who intend to harm them’.

Sita is punished for her decision to walk out of the Lakshmanrekha more than Ravana for his decision to abduct her.

In other words, victim blaming.

You then went on to say: “I also think pretty women get attacked more. It’s very difficult for a beautiful or a self-aware and independent woman to survive and still stay strong. I think society likes challenging their strength, as we have more stories to tell. We do become victims of certain unfair things. I think average looking women have it easier these days — in all aspects of life, from relationships to professions. They actually do better. I don’t know if I should be saying this, but if a woman gets into trouble, I feel somewhere she is responsible for it. Because if I have gotten into any sort of trouble where I have felt that someone has spoken to me with disrespect or in this situation, a sexual assault or a sexual abuse or anything indicative towards that manner, I feel I would have entertained some part of it. This is what I feel and that doesn’t mean that I am pointing fingers because I don’t think it should happen to anybody.”

Rape is a crime ma’am. A CRIME. Molestation, sexual harassment, abduction, and all such atrocities happen to women because of a man’s decision to commit these crimes. Instead of holding the perpetrator accountable, women’s right to free space is being narrowed down by the power structure. One of the most brutal ways in which this happens in victim blaming.

You said that you didn’t join WCC because you felt you didn’t have an opinion. Lo and behold. This is your opinion – salt over the wounds of the victims.

Do you think that the December 2012 victim was assaulted because of her “sex appeal”? Do you think the 8-year-old from Kathua was raped because she was “pretty”? Do you think a 70-year-old nun was raped because of the same?

Was your statement a way of neutralising the controversies surrounding the issue only because the accused actor happens to be your friend/co-star?

Now, Mamta ma’am, in your statement you also said, “We don’t need WCC to solve women’s problems.”

What an irony.

Of course, AMMA president Mohanlal made it clear in his last press meet that AMMA “understands” women’s issues. You will see it more clearly after watching the AMMA Mazhavil skit which mocked WCC. You will see that AMMA did a fantastic job after listening to Ganesh Kumar’s audio which basically said, “Women are not smart enough to come forward. That’s why we don’t have women chief ministers.”

Director Anjali Menon in an interview said, “The sole purpose of WCC is to provide space for women actors and technicians.” Actor Rima wrote eloquently in her FB post that survivors don’t have to feel guilty for the atrocities they have been made to face.

Your statement let them all down.

Regards,
A disappointed fan.

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