Reactions to #metoo in India and my response

Source: buzzfeed India

The Me Too movement has reached India a little over a year after it took Hollywood by storm. What has been an eye opener to me is to see the varied reactions it generated. They bring a gamut of emotions from frustration, to anger and disbelief. So I want to address some negative reactions I have been reading:

– Why did the women just react if it happened years ago?

It is extremely hard to talk about these topics, people make light of molestation or second guess whether you are over reading the situation. The victim goes through periods of shame, self doubt before finally revealing such issues. And in some cases, when you can finally speak about it, you are doing it because you don’t want any other woman to go through what you did. The point is the victim often carries scars of these incidents for years, so why shouldn’t she talk about it?

– She put herself in the position by <insert reason>

This just makes my blood boil because men are expected to be animals and women have the long list of don’ts so they don’t invite bad behaviour- don’t be outside alone in the evening, don’t wear short skirts or anything that invites attention, don’t smile, the list goes on and on. No matter what you wear, how you look, or where you are- you can never relax. There are predators everywhere you turn. And this something we just have to accept. If the consequences to harassment were severe and swift, this wouldn’t be true. But we all make excuses for the perpetrator and find a way to blame the victim.

– This happens to everyone, why make it a big deal?

That’s a travesty, that we accept harassment as a reality; starting from public transport or crowded areas to work place or in many cases with family/ friends or neighbours. The fact that we are finally acknowledging this is not ok is a first step.

– Only film industry has this issue

The me too movement originated with the entertainment industry but let’s not forget it is also because they have a wide platform. By bringing up this topic, they are raising this for women everywhere. We all can start fighting back in our own worlds.

– There are so many false claims so i don’t believe.

If someone told you there was a 95% chance a vaccine or medicine works, would you believe it works? Especially if it really affects you. It’s the same here- 95% of cases are true but we shouldn’t focus on the 5% false cases and assume everyone is lying. It is a far reaching issue- more than 50% of women have faced harassment of some form.

This is the first step in a long journey but I am so glad India is finally having the conversation. Don’t trivialise such a serious issue with jokes about witch hunt and men being the true victims.

The world I imagine for my daughter..

As I count the days to the arrival of my little princess, I have been thinking about the world I want her to come to.  The world for me was a lot better than me previous generation, but there is still sexism, women’s safety is a concern,  and women still have to battle for being treated equally.

5 dreams for my daughter are:

  • Safety for women is a right:

This needs to explanation: we live in a world where 20 schoolgirls were taken from Nigeria 2 years ago and there is no sign of them, university campuses in US have episodes of rape,and gang rape cases happen even today in India. We grow up with a sharp sense of fear, walking fast and being wary about strangers. It is a women’s job to constantly be alert and can never really relax. I hope the world is a nicer place where she doesn’t need to be on guard and enjoy the world for being what it is.

  • Sky is the limit for my girl:

“This job may not be right from a woman, it has long hours” or “it might be hard to do this job when you have a family”… how often have we heard things like this? If a man with a family can do it, there is no reason why a woman with a family cannot. We are breaking the glass ceiling, but it isn’t equal opportunity for everyone. It should be a given for all women to have any role they dream of, sky is the limit!

  • The term “like a girl” is a powerful statement, not an insult:

The Always “Like a Girl” commercial got me thinking, we use these statements all the time. But now when I hear someone say like a girl in a derogatory way, it will make me cringe. I want my daughter to never feel self conscious about being a girl, she can run like a girl and fight like a girl, but that is a because she is a girl, and there is nothing to be ashamed about!

  • No pressure on appearance:

A hot topic that has been written about a lot lately is the pressure on appearance. The airbrushed magazine covers set unrealistic standards for beauty and young readers get under pressure about their appearance, raising the ugly head of eating disorders, unnecessary plastic surgery, and self esteem issues. In a recent interview, Jennifer Lawrence (of all people!) mentioned she felt like the fattest one- something that baffles me. It is crucial to make all body shapes acceptable, as long as someone is happy and healthy!

  • Women for women:

This is something I often wonder about: when I got married, I decided to move to New York  to join my husband, I quit my job and I had not figured out my options. I had to face judgment from friends/family- strong career women who felt it was weak to follow a man around the world. When I speak to working moms, they mention how hard it is to juggle work and home and the often unreasonable work pressures. I used to believe women in senior positions would mean a more inclusive culture. But I have observed that often women in management roles have a uni-dimensional view of how to manage work life balance: the perspective is driven entirely on how they handled it. If they had full time nannies, they don’t get the pressure of leaving at 5pm to pick up from day care or take over from the day nanny. Don’t you think it is time we stand on each other’s corner? We should support any career choice or child care choices-we have so many battles everyday,  we don’t need to defend ourselves with other woman…


The world is your oyster and I hope nothing holds you back! ❤

Some thoughts on International Women’s Day

women's day

Happy Women’s Day!

As I think about it, I had a few thoughts: First thing that hits me is why do we as women need a day to celebrate? So companies and spas can offer women’s day specials? My cynical side questions if we are equal, why do we need a day to make us feel special?

But of course, a more balanced me reminds me that we are a long way from being equal- women around the world face the challenges of security and fundamental human rights, and maybe a day like women’s day should be the time when we re-assess what is going on, and what we could do to help.

I have written before about women’s safety in India and my personal story (Women Safety in India- My Story). The recent furore over the documentary India’s daughter reflects the issue with attitude towards women’s safety. Indian government has banned the documentary for being slanderous against India- but aren’t blasphemous views by the rapists and lawyers a reflection of the views held by a section of the population. In my view, this is an essential viewing, for all sections of population from school on-wards. You cannot change a mindset unless you first show the brutally honest reality that exists. Until every village and city views girls and boys as equal, boys are taught to treat women with respect, and women’s safety is a focus for everyone- things won’t change. This isn’t just an India problem- many countries in Asia and Africa have challenges in ensuring women have rights to education, safety, their bodies. And this is what we need to focus on.

The other thing I often wonder about is the corporate world: are programs to promote women in corporations helping us or hurting us? In my mind, sometimes these reservations and policies to promote women hurt us more than help- somehow your growth or success is doubted or questioned because you got the special program.Programs to help women manage work/ home, options to be virtual, etc would give women the opportunity to stay in the corporate world, and they will grow in the company on their own merit. As an independent woman, don’t give me any handouts or concessions- I want to go ahead on my own merit.  In an article, New York Times noted that the number of working mothers has been dropping in the US, and is lower than other developed countries (Link)- the main reason they found is the 8 week maternity leave is too short and there aren’t family friendly policies.

There is a lot of debate on the “having it all” idea- I wrote about this in an earlier post: (My musings on the article: Why Women Still Can’t Have It All). I think women leaders have an opportunity to lead the dialogue and direct it to a more inclusive direction- inclusive because maybe you managed your work and home without flexible hours, but you cannot take that option away from someone who can’t (I am looking at you, Marissa Meyer). Women need to support each other- backing our individual paths to ensure that we can carve our own paths. And there is hope: Katherine Zaleski, president of PowerToFly recently discussed with Fortune how she used to judge other working women until she had a child of her own. She co-founded a startup which matched women with technical skills with jobs that they could do from home. (Link). Stories like this give me hope of a more inclusive women workforce.

So as I end this note, I hope that by next women’s day we move to a world that is a better place for women!

Women Safety in India- My Story

I wanted to change tones today and talk about an issue that is close to my heart- women’s rights. There have been a slew of rape cases in India, and the reaction to blame the victim has my blood boiling. Women are always held to blame for being in the wrong neighborhood, having a drink, or going out without a male escort. In a country where women are routinely molested in trains and buses, have to face catcalls while walking down the street, and have to constantly face leering men in every corner, somehow we are still held responsible.

It isn’t even the outside world that is dangerous, there is an alarming number of assaults that women have to face in their homes- in the hands of uncles, cousins, and family friends. And these cases go unreported, the only trace is the impact it has on the victims. The reason this issue is so dear to my heart is I myself am a victim. I want to put my story outside to get some awareness on the issue, and share the lessons I have learnt through my experience.

I was a happy go lucky child- we had tons of cousins who were a part of our childhood. I was warm with everyone, and treated everyone as my own family. We all kids would sleep in a room, and there were some mornings where I would wake up and I felt my clothes were tampered. I didn’t realize it until I was 12 years old, I woke up and noticed that there was someone touching me. I tried pushing him away, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t get away. The next morning I was confused- this cousin was a genius, talented musician, favorite of everyone because he was polite and helpful. I was convinced this was all a mistake, a family favorite cannot make such mistakes. But the next weekend, when we all got together, he tried it again. After trying hard to fight, I ran to the bathroom and stayed there all night. I was humiliated, I cried all night- did I do anything to deserve this behavior? Am I sending some sort of signal? After a lot of soul searching, I told my cousin sister. She spoke to my parents, who were in shock. But we never spoke about it. I felt that maybe somewhere I was responsible- maybe my friendly nature was misconstrued. It left me with scars- I couldn’t sleep well at night for years, I always second guessed my behavior, it shook my confidence. After 8 years, I finally spoke to my parents- they helped me accept that I didn’t cause this, that I should stop blaming myself.

I am bringing this up because I feel as a society, we should take up these issue seriously. Every friend I have spoken to has faced similar issues and has never been able to talk about it. Some of them had long term impacts in their relationships because of the trauma. They have also gone through feelings of self blame and loss of confidence.

From my experience there are a few things address:

  • Every child should be aware of the improper touch, and should feel safe in sharing about this with family, teachers
  • Touching a child is the lowest crime- no family should tolerate such people, they need to be punished
  • There is a systemic issue in which men perceive the opposite sex- why is OK to take advantage of girls and women?
  • Men should be raised with respect for women, if they interact with classmates and sisters as equals they will stop viewing women as objects
  • There needs to be strict punishments for rapists and assaulters
  • In no way can a woman be held responsible- so what if she goes out late or has a drink? It is a society’s responsibility that every woman feel safe

It makes me sad to see the number of cases that come in the paper each day, and the hundreds of cases that go unreported. It is a travesty that the land where we worship Durga as the destroyer of evil does not protect its women. Let us all remove the shame, and have a honest discussion about this, so we can all build a safer India for women!