ME TOO is a campaign started in Foreign Land where women publicly through social networking sites shared their bitter experiences at work place and in their personal time. Last month an actress Tanushree Dutta accused Actor Nana Patekar on his bad behavior with her. Later a women shared her bitter experience with Stand Up Comedian Utsav, who sent her inappropriate messages through Snap Chat. Many women who also gone through the same thing with Utsav came out and shared their respective bad moments on twitter and facebook. Initially he ignored those message, then tried victimizing himself explaining what happened from his point of view. But when things gone out of hands he openly accepted his wrong doings and asked for forgiveness by apologizing for what he did. With this many other women came out and sharing their stories under Indian METOO campaign. Chinmayi who is enjoying her success of her recent movie 96 for which she sang all songs and dubbed for Trisha, Narrated her bitter experiences too.
Where it all started:
It is very, very tough for women to remember accounts of when they were touched inappropriately; a ‘harmless’ hug that looks OK but makes them alone cringe. I was 8, maybe 9. I was sleeping. My mom was supervising a recording session for her documentary. Felt a man in priestly robes feel up my privates and I woke up. Told her ‘that uncle is bad’. This was in the studio called Santhome Communications that still exists. Maybe I was 10/11, December Music Festival, ‘respectable mama’ whose name I don’t remember kept pinching my thigh throughout a concert. I heard more gross stories of Sabha secretaries. In retrospect, a lot of children weren’t safe around some adults. To some men checking my shirt pocket to see if I had anything in them, thereby feeling my chest in my teens, having my first mobike accident that left my entire right arm scarred because of an eve teasing incident on Kilpauk bridge, a lot of us women learned to internalize.
About Vairamuthu, the lyricist on whom the issue is all about:
I was perhaps 19; again, veryyyyyy respected, wayy older man called me to his office on a pretext, my mom was with me, I was called in alone; we suspected nothing coz said man showed no such behaviour before,walked from behind his table, hugged me and felt me up. I remember leaving one of my footwear behind, hurriedly saying ‘Bye Sir’ and running for my life, shaking all the while.
Told my mom – she said this is some elder men’s way to test to see if you are ‘that type of a girl’. It was how ‘elders’ behaved in their wisdom, apparently. Mom and I drove home. ‘RespectedMan’ never repeated his behaviour but I’ll never forget feeling as if worms were crawling all over me; how I, a sane, ‘intelligent’ girl had dismissed that predatory behaviour for ‘That’s how it is’.
We internalize. But we cant forget.
‘Respected Man’ once raged and raged when I refused to do his bidding in a professional setting due to a prior commitment. Threatened political trouble from ‘Higher ups’. I was shaking. Thought the end is near. It left me in tears. But I did find my gut which had gone for a walk, picked up the phone, called his manager, clenched my teeth and told him to tell Respected Man to keep his politics to himself and keep me away from it. I filed the first case ever that led to arrests (it is not an achievement) after online harassment and threats to disrupt concerts/public events for over 3 years. Mom and I begged them to leave me alone. But I faced more bile and hate from Twitter for the case. Two popular women writers and activists said ‘A woman who sings Mayya Mayya cannot file case on harassment’. More men and other women cheered these women on. This was in support of men who said they ll throw acid on my face or that I need to be raped to be taught a lesson. I asked again and again and again for support; 2, maybe 3 gentlemen spoke up; promptly hushed by the same men with questions like ‘Are you sleeping with her?’.
No one wants to go file a case and fight it in our overburdened courts if only society would do the right thing.
I’d rather not be called ‘Brave’. I’d rather NOT have to come face to face with predators. I’d rather NOT be harassed. But no. Those weren’t my choices to make, were they? ‘Why do YOU alone get into trouble’ is a question I have had to answer a lot of times. I speak up. Others are too scared to speak up. That’s all there is. Women are told to not attract attention. Anything girls do is chided with ‘whose attention do you want?!’ Medicine, education, law, art, religion, journalism.. Even family – not one arena where there aren’t predators.
#TimesUp for each one of them I hope. Women *know* when a man touches them inappropriately. Hugging one man doesn’t mean it is an invitation. Wearing nail polish isnt an invitation.
And yes we also know #NoTAllMen
(Do NOT respond to this thread with ‘What about fake cases?’. No. Not now. Now, you just listen/read).
Year 2005/2006 maybe.
Veezhamattom. An album for Srilankan Tamizhs that I had sung in, as had Manikka Vinayagam sir. I dont remember if it was a book or an album release or both now; the performances and launch happened in Switzerland in (Bern / Zurich maybe). 3, maybe 4 years ago, he had a book release function & asked me to sing Tamizh Thaai vaazhthu.
I said I would be unable to.
He in turn responded ‘I ll tell (a politician) you spoke ill of him on stage, yelled at me and kept the phone down
I bawled. My parents in law consoled me. Then had the courage to call his manager back & told him ‘I ll go and tell the same politician you re lying because I have NEVER given a political speech and HE will trust ME. This for refusing to sing. And you ask why victims don’t name him?! To hell with those of you who do.
The difference between consensual, flirting and harassment
About #MeToo being hijacked by casual flirting, married men wanting to woo other women, single or otherwise. I wise person told me it is not anyone’s place to take a moral high ground.
There is a sleazeball and there is harassment. “A date going bad ain’t harassment.” In the age of Tinder, swiping right and left et al, messaging and whichever way young people get to know each other these days in the dating scene as long as the man knows when to stop if the woman says no; whether she is drunk or not, whether she smokes or not. ‘I am not *that* type of a girl’ is a statement that comes from girls that I don’t understand either and cannot endorse.
In this thread I did err in sharing a whatsapp thread of Bhagat. In retrospect sharing a whatsapp conversation was unnecessary. I cant moral police him. Difference lies if a man of power and influence didn’t stop at the very least and continued to pursue making a woman feel unsafe and at the very worst use the refusal of a woman to make her life miserable at her workplace; intimidate et al. Of the stories I shared yesterday and today of the reviewer – the refusal to cow down to his flirtation would result in character assassination, propaganda depending on who is refusing the advances. To me that was intimidation and I shared that in that PoV. I stand by that.
However I believe #MeToo cannot be hijacked by screenshots of flirtatious whatsapp conversations and I stand corrected; it is not my place to share private messages; I have always wanted to be the better person and shall remain so. Likewise, men and women questioning the character of victims ‘why is she messaging’ or ‘show proof’ is something that cant be taken lying down. “Women cannot report on YOUR clock. They cant do it early. They cant do it late. They can do it when they feel strong enough to take hate.” Going to the police for such cases is a looong way off. What we can hope to from the #MeToo movement is that men can no longer get away with entitled behaviour; they dont own the women they work with nor are they doing them a favour by treating them as equals.
A lot of women and men in India are new to the rules of dating. Most don’t understand the concept of asking a woman / man out nicely. Men asking women out is not harassment. Men will take a while to understand consent but with #MeToo I am sure they ll be on an accelerated path. Some of the instances and stories of rape by older men, teachers, uncles, religious priests, grandfathers even on young boys is heart breaking.
To all the men and women who shared – I wish with all my heart you heal. I know it is not easy. Hoping for a better society.
First reaction from her husband Rahul Ravindran…
Support from Samantha
Some Questioned her about this matter, lets see them and her answers.
Q) Is this for your Popularity?
Q) Why you invited him to your marriage?
Q) Why not complain in Police Station or file a case in Court?
Q) Is it necessary for a singers to meet lyricist in the absence of Music director ? I think NO.
Q) Why you tweeted about his padma award and his songs that you sang.
Q) Will you take a stand and not sing his songs?
And the famous question…
Q) Why now? Why not then?
A) Vairamuthu, the lyricist who was accused by Chinmayi Sripaada is a popular name in Tamil Film fraternity with great political background which she explained above by one of her encounters with him in which he threatened her in the name of a politician. She doesn’t have any proof to prove her accusation on Vairamuthu to court. The cases with solids proofs have not served justice in court, then what is the use of filing a case when there is no proof and when the other party is so much influential. This will destroy her career and she will not get justice for which she risked her career, Everyone opens up when they can’t have it anymore. This is the time she felt she can’t take it anymore. Does she need any extra popularity? No, She already have a National recognition. Don’t ask why now? why not then? She will share when she feels she should not before or not later. It’s her choice. Many women are opening up now through this MEE TOO campaign. Why not ask the same question for them? Utsav got exposed and he is apologizing now for what he did years or months ago. And with that many other women are sharing their bitter experiences now.
So what happened after all this series of exposing of men who are harassing women…
Chinmayi Sripaada can’t go to court without proofs and support to declare a war against Vairamuthu. Now after sharing her story, many women who also faced these bitter situations with Vairamuthu came out and shared their stories. Now it reached internationally. National commission for women wants to take it forward if a written complaint is given, which Chinmayi is giving soon. Organizers of a Switzerland event where Chinmayi Sripaada performed and where she was mistreated by Vairamuthu are ready to give factual evidences which will help her in court to file a case against him.
Many women are coming out and exposing the men who gave them bitter and uncomfortable experiences. This is an opportunity to women to come out and share their stories and for men to change and know the difference between appropriate and inappropriate.
Everything about this campaign boils to one small statement…
It’s not wrong to have consensual relationship or to flirt or to ask something you want. It’s wrong when you still do it forcefully when she Said NO.
So what all you should do now?
You don’t need to believe their accusations nor you have to support them. All you need to do is to remain silent and observe. Let women share their stories, let them get to know about other women who also faced the same, help them if you have any evidences to strengthen their accusations or wait and see someone who has evidences who prove them wrong. It’s their war. All you need to do is to patiently see what happens. Some accusations might be false, truth will come out in due course of time. Some accusations might be true, people who have evidence or experienced same situations will strengthen their claims. You don’t need to support or talk bad, you don’t need to judge. Just wait for a while, listen to them, wait till the other party counters and let the court decide or judge who is correct and who is not.
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