Over the past month, I’ve been following the #MeTooIndia tweets on Twitter, as the movement spread from the entertainment industry to journalism and then to advertising.
Some have called it a watershed moment for Indian advertising. Others are cynical whether outing them, so to speak, will actually change anything. Some have expressed shock that the esteemed veterans named in those tweets could’ve stooped so low.
I’ve worked in the same offices as two of these men. Others are friends or ex-bosses of friends. And I have to say, I’m surprised. Not that they’ve been accused of misbehaviour. But that people are shocked by it. I’m surprised men think there actually exists a woman who has never been sexually harrassed by a man. I’m surprised they believe that predators stop being predators once they enter an air-conditioned office. I’m surprised they are not fully aware of the extent of this problem.
Perhaps they choose not to be. Perhaps it’s easier to pretend that the woman you love hasn’t been touched against her will by other men. By the way, it’s always plural, boys. On railway stations, in tuition classes, in crowded buses. In temples. Everywhere.
Dear men, sexual harrassment is the ugly truth of our everyday lives as women. #NotAllMen, you tell us, but to borrow from Hannah Gadsby, a lot of them. Yeah. All our lives we’re warned to stay away from boys because boys only want one thing. And then we grow up and these fine examples of the male sex, reinforce that warning. Again. And again. And again.
So if women are talking on Twitter about their experiences, guess what? It’s not new. Because wouldn’tcha know, women talk. We always have. And women who have had bosses or colleagues take liberties, warn others. This is how the conversation goes.
Me: I heard you’re quitting. How come? A: Because my boss is an asshole. Me: Why? What did he do? A: Arre, he doesn’t know how to talk to women. He told me the other day that he’d shove a rod up my ass if I didn’t make a better layout.
True story, by the way. Want another one?
B: Hey are there any openings in your agency? Me: I’ll check. For whom? B: Me. I’m quitting. Me: Didn’t you just join *award-winning agency*? B: A month ago. But my boss is a creep, man. We went for a meeting to Delhi and the entire flight he was only talking to me about sex!
So yeah, women talk. And women listen. And women remember. Something those who doubt the #MeTooIndia movement would do well to remember.
Perhaps those named in those tweets will lose nothing more than their jobs. Maybe they’ll get hired elsewhere. Maybe, although it’s a long shot, some will get help or take a long hard look at the men they have become. Or maybe none of these things will happen. But what will happen is that the women who work with them now or choose to work with them in the future will enter the work situation forewarned. They will be on their guard, they will know who and what they’re dealing with. And they will process the situation and tailor their responses minus the confusion, the trauma and the gaslighting.
Because it’s easier to fight a wolf when he’s been stripped of sheep’s clothing. And if that is the ONLY thing #MeTooIndia achieves, it’s still a hell of a lot.