The #MeToo movement started in Hollywood when two journalists, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, from The New York Times wrote a story explaining the three decades of filmmaker Harvey Weinstein’s atrocities against women in the film industry in the form of rapes, sexual harassment, misbehaviour, and much more. It took 30 years for him to be called out and face the brunt of his actions. Moreover, it took over 80 allegations for the media to finally stop calling these women ‘attention seekers’, out to tarnish the man’s image. Subsequently, the story turned around, and many big names were called out for their sexual misconduct.
The movement gained momentum and many women, all over the world, came out to voice their stories. Ironically, this worldwide impact of #MeToo is often called “Weinstein effect”.
In the age where information travels in nanoseconds, it took over a year for the movement to finally hit India. It took so much time because when it comes to the struggles of women, everything becomes rather slow in the chaos of protecting men from the proven allegations. The delay is followed by witch-hunting. Oh yes, the witch-hunting of women has continued till date, except, now it’s insidious. Now, the women who dare to voice their opinions, their problems, and their experiences are labelled as “troublemakers” and are ostracised.
In India, the #MeToo wave first hit the academia circle in 2017 when Raya Savarkar and some DBA feminists shared LoSha publicly. It went on to oust more than 72 influential, powerful, and incumbent men. The personal accounts of the victims involved rape, molestations, harassment, etc. I wasn’t shocked. Why? Around 106 women are raped in India every day. As a woman, I have accepted that one day I could be raped too. I’d be somewhere at the wrong time, and there’d be men around me. They’ll stare at me the way every man stares at me in the metro, on roads, in the malls, in the movie theatres, in temples, in the market, and even at home. They’ll stare at my breasts and thighs; they’ll ogle and leer at my body; then they’ll strike me just like lightning strikes trees and turns it into ash.
So, the first wave of #MeToo in India didn’t shock me. But, I was shocked when comedian Utsav Chakraborty was called out for sexual harassment. My astonishment grew further when I realised that AIB knew about it and continued to work with him. Also, their redundant and asinine apology shocked me as well. They admitted that whatever they could say are just excuses, and of course it was an excuse. The allegations point out that AIB was too busy using feminism as a token to create and promote their videos and to portray themselves as “woke feminists”, instead of addressing a sexual harassment case in their circle. The cherry on the cake? The co-founder of AIB and co-king of “woke male feminists” circle Gursimran Khamba has also been alleged of harassing women for years in the past. His apology? Let’s not even talk about it.
The sacred “brotherhood” of men in such a crisis when the truth about them is finally revealed is obnoxious. To my great disappointment, few women join them too. The comments on Khamba’s “apology” (which was more of a defence with his “categorical” refusal to accept that he is an abuser) lamented that his image has been shattered by attention seeking, lying, and deceitful women. Apparently, the women are at fault here. How dare they speak against the kings of the comedy circle?
In their second statement, AIB disguised their self-victimisation in the garb of an apology. It ’s self-victimisation because instead of showing public disdain for Tanmay Bhatt’s role in the sexual harassment case and Khamba being an abuser, they were more concerned about how these two will be on a “temporary leave” and lamented over what will happen to AIB now. While the victims suffer for their whole lives, Tanmay and Khamba take the privileged road (the road most travelled by men) to take an “extended, temporary leave until further notice.” It enables them to disappear while the “ruckus” is at its peak, and return when things are muffled to make their “bros” laugh.
As an AIB fan, I did try to find excuses for them. But, there are none. When you have used feminism since 2012 to educate masses about it; make a nuanced video on “Harassment Through the Ages”; are surrounded with friends like Harnidh Kaur, Rega Jha, Srishti Dixit, Mallika Dua, etc., and write about toxic masculinity all the time, we know that you have the cognisance. You have no reason, no excuse to save yourself.
No, this #MeToo movement is not neoteric. Tanushree Dutta came out with her story about Nana Patekar in 2008. These stories have always existed, and women have faced “harassment through the ages”. Constantly and relentlessly. Even now, she’s out there fighting her case, but how many have come out to support her in an industry which has lakhs of people in it? People rewarded her courage with doubts and peremptory comments. Fact is, the struggles of women do not amount even to a picayune in a world which revolves around the men, unless every woman comes together and break this structure.
Personally, I do not like to call the experiences of the victims, which they courageously shared publicly, as ‘allegations’, because I believe them to be true. I know how difficult it is to come out and talk about these horrifying, and traumatising experiences on the risk of getting publicly ridiculed.