A couple of days ago I had breakfast with an old friend who is a senior director with an MNC. We were talking about the Kavanaugh incident.
He laughed and said, “Well come one, we have all fooled around in the past and it was harmless… don’t you think it was a bit over the top? Especially because this happened so long ago and it was a different time back then?”
I actually mildly lost it with him. That fooling around was with other human beings that did not see it as ‘fooling around’. They saw it as an invasion of their bodies. But the biggest invasion was in their minds. Because we learnt from society that it was OUR fault.
We were manipulated to believe that it must have been something WE did to ENCOURAGE the fooling around. we smiled too much, we were too ‘available’, we were too friendly, that actually that is what we are there for – to be there for the pleasure of men to ‘fool around’.
It has scarred us for life because we were touched against our will, yet made to see that it was us who were responsible and that it was so shameful. Do you know that the guilt has lived with us for decades, that we must have done something to deserve someone doing this to us?
That has affected the way we see the world, talk to men, and bring up our daughters? Some of us have had to have counselling, often twenty years later, to deal with the impact, because we could not deal with it before. And now, when we have an opportunity to say something, you justify the stance of ‘fooling around’ and ‘along time ago’?
He was visibly shaken. He said, “I had never thought of it from the victim’s point of view. And what she must have gone through. Or that it could or would have stayed with her.” He stopped speaking.
On a verbal Tsunami, I continued, That is what I would call ‘male privilege’. The business world today hasn’t changed much. I’ve worked with a lot of women in the corporate sector over the last decade in India. Often they talk openly to me.
Not all, but a proportion of male senior leaders and mid-level managers are absolute predators, still looking for opportunities to nudge women in this direction. Dropping inappropriate comments at work, waiting for them to drink a little, put a hand here or there, make lewd comments.
And if you brush them off, or complain about it, then your career is at stake – you might not get that promotion or that contract. What do the women do? Change jobs. What do the men do? Get promoted.
With eyebrows raised and a few looks at the floor, I had to say the last bit. He has known me for ten years, I decided to let him know the other challenges I have faced.
And time and again, I’ve been told by female friends about myself ‘Don’t wear that – it is too revealing (with a kurta and a tiny slit below the neck); wear a dupatta; don’t smile so much, you are encouraging them; don’t be so friendly; don’t talk about your wide range of interests; don’t wear eye makeup – it makes your eyes look bigger and they get turned on.
Seriously??? This is what I have to put up with EVERY DAY. I have to change the way I look and talk, so I am not ‘giving the wrong signals.’ Is this fair? No, but it is the world we live in today. And yes I have lost contracts in the past, and had to deal with situations that would have been totally different, had I been a man.
The way they behaved, using the contract to taunt me as if it was a drug that I needed and it gave them the right to play their petty little power games. I am sorry. But I would rather walk away than lose my own dignity and self-respect. I have the luxury that I can afford to do that.
Others have to keep changing jobs or watch their business decrease. Then society wonders why we don’t have enough women in senior positions.
He looked really uncomfortable at this stage. But nodded. Afterwards, he sent me a message. “Your experiences have clarified my thoughts on the matter. The #MeToo movement is needed.”
Job done for 1. Now 3,857,864,898 more to go.
And for those men that are predators, or partake in ‘harmless fun’, please note that the sword of Damocles is swinging dangerously above…
#metoo #timesup #whyididn’treport