Ever since celebrities and commoners alike started coming forward with their sexual harassment claims against big names in the entertainment industry, many have questioned the credibility and validity of these claims. And as they should. It is important to support survivors and stand in solidarity with them, but there is nothing wrong with waiting for a proper investigation into the matter before reaching a conclusion.
False sexual harassment claims are very rare, somewhere between 2 to 5 %, but they exist. Even though it’s a small percentage and is often used against the other 95 % of cases which are true, we cannot completely ignore them. But that doesn’t mean we invalidate and ignore the many many women who come forward with sexual harassment claims that are true.
I agree that false claims exist and are very detrimental to the entire MeToo movement. But what I find worse is mocking the movement by calling it a PR stunt. There are an array of people, both online and offline, who are against this movement because they think that it makes men vulnerable. They think that the movement is giving women unnecessary power to rise above men, who by the way are already in power and have been so for centuries now. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? We don’t want power. We don’t want to be treated as secondary to men. We don’t want to be treated as objects that can only appease men. We don’t want to be rehabilitation centres for ‘bad men’. We only want equality and justice. Is it too much to ask?
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Men in power have historically suppressed women, and continue to do so even today. They have consistently gotten away with it because of how normalized the society has made this suppression. And they face minimum or no repercussions for it. Take Donald Trump for example. It is no secret that he is xenophobic, misogynist and sexist. His first wife, Ivana Trump, stated in a deposition that was held as part of their divorce proceedings that once when he was angry, he ripped out hair from her scalp and raped her. This is clearly a violent physical and sexual assault. But due to a confidentiality agreement she had signed, she couldn’t reveal details about her marriage. And today, he is the President of the most powerful nation in the world. On several occasions, he has mocked the MeToo movement in his rallies.
A more local example would be Salman Khan. He is regarded as one of the biggest names in Bollywood and is often worshipped by his fans. Even he has a history of physical and mental abuse with Aishwarya Rai. But did that affect his career at all? You tell me.
When asked about Tanushree Dutta’s allegations, he was visibly frustrated and conveniently said he was not aware of this. How could he not be when it was the only thing the industry and media had been talking about for several days?
The worst of reactions came from Rakhi Sawant. Known for being bold and speaking her mind, she took a rather harsh stand against Tanushree Dutta. In her first interview about this, she bluntly said that Tanushree Dutta was lying and that what had actually happened on the sets of Horn Ok Please was that Tanushree had passed out as a result of taking drugs. Her language and demeanor was problematic and disrespectful. In a following interview, she accused Tanushree Dutta of raping her, and said that she was a lesbian.
The most interesting part of her interview was her definition of lesbian- the body of a woman and mentality of a man. Does she even know what homosexuality is? Or that gender and sexuality is a spectrum? How crude are her words? Jokes aside, I don’t believe her. But that does not mean I will mock her or call her a drug addict. I will wait for a legal statement, a proper investigation. Although I am pretty sure it won’t come to that.
It is impossible to get rid of internal biases completely. We are emotional beings, and objectivity does not come naturally to us. A part of me wanted to call out Rakhi Sawant, but that is not what we are fighting for. It is essential to not lose perspective, to not forget what this movement is truly about. There will be rogue elements, there always are. But as long as we stand with each other and fight the system together, these elements will fade away into oblivion because that’s where they belong.
By Samruddhi Ganvir