The passionate feminism has ebbed. The frenzied social media witch-hunt seems to have evaporated. So what has happened to those who were accused in the short-lived storm of #MeToo?
We know Aamir Khan suffers from sleepless nights feeling sorry for them.
We know that the patriarchy that drives several industries feels terrible for having socially ruined their careers and reputations.
And this collective regretful conscience has embarrassingly welcomed a lot of those accused, back into their old professions with open arms.
The biggest instance –Aamir Khan not only getting back into bed with Subhash Kapoor but also affectionately making it for him so he can comfortably lie in it.
In the wake of #MeToo last year, director Subhash Kapoor was accused by actress Geetika Tyagi of molestation. Caught in the ferocity of the momentum that this movement had gained, Aamir Khan seemed to be in complete support of the allegation. He extended this support in the form of stepping back from the film that Kapoor was meant to direct. An actor of Khan’s stature being this radically understanding did wonders for the movement, encouraging several other women to take actions against their perpetrators.
But the wonder was clearly short-lived. As the grapevine has it, Aamir Khan has rehired Subhash Kapoor for the very project that he shelved.
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“How come nobody in Bollywood has sleepless nights when a woman becomes a victim of abuse and is not able to work due to the trauma and ostracisation, If he has agreed to hire this guy, why not hire the woman who suffered the consequences of his actions? Why do only the creepy men of Bollywood get compassion?” (Tanushree Dutta)
Tanushree Dutta –the flag bearer of the movement in India, almost disappeared from the industry after the incident. Giving up on countless forthcoming opportunities and almost bringing a career as well as a livelihood to an end. Why did no one worry about her lost career?
And if that decision could propel the movement, who is to say that this reverse action will not drag the rest of the industry into this backtracking.
And it certainly is.
While this decision continues to be disappointing, few will attribute it with surprise. The past year has unleashed countless tales of assault and abuse but the industry continues to privilege the careers of men over the trauma of women.
Sadly enough, the list of Bollywood’s leading men who have been reinstated after their temporary purgatory does not end with Kapoor.
After similar accusations, Queen director Vikas Bahl was publicly condemned by the likes of Hrithik Roshan and Anurag Kashyap. Kashyap and others associated with Phantom even took the drastic step of dissolving the production house altogether. In addition to which claims of Bahl’s credits being revoked from the film Super 30 were also made.
But now that the film is out and done considerably well, it boasted of the same credits that were claimed to be irrevocable.
Another consequential name that had almost become synonymous with the movement itself was that of Alok Nath’s. And we’re all aware of the designated babuji’s role in ‘De De Pyaar De’ under Ajay Devgn’s production house. Ajay Devgn’s statement of justification sounds eerily similar to Amir Khan’s recent one makes you wonder if there’s a pattern here.
A pattern that will persistently continue to value the careers of accused men in an unholy solidarity over the tribulations of the women they have wronged.
Anu Malik –accused of molestation by several female singers has now been rehired as the judge on the panel of Sony’s reality TV show Indian Idol.
“I have never said that Subhash shouldn’t get work. But after I complained, I did not get work for a long time. The industry is patriarchal. Only women face the repercussions of complaining against sexual harassment, whether in the workplace or otherwise. They are ostracized when they complain.” (Geetika Tyagi)
While Bollywood certainly gets the limelight in cases like these, other industries too have been equally forgiving of the accused.
Speaking of the institutionalized industries caught in the whirlwind of the movement –MJ Akbar was certainly a name of immense consequence.
Akbar’s accusations of abuse by over 20 women heralded perhaps one of the most significant victories of the movements. His resignation as the minister of state for External Affairs last year was a major milestone in itself. For a month.
A little over a month later his column was published on the editorial page of Hindustan Times. The response to this criticism was met with an outright refusal of all allegations and a criminal defamation case against the first woman who spoke up against him.
The CEO of BCCI Rahul Johri on the other hand was welcomed back to work after his accusations of sexual assault with a cake and an endorsement article calling him a ‘thorough gentleman’.
While some accused cut celebratory cakes there are others who are sending out ‘save the dates’ for their lavish weddings.
Branding magnate Suhel Seth who was accused by multiple women of sexual assault the past year is all set to tie the knot with his model girlfriend this year. Gaurav Savant, Vinod Dua, Prashant Jha are just a few of the many names that have come up in this list of people that either never left their powerful positions or have been warmly welcomed back.
The list goes on and will keep going on with a constant influx of newer names being reinstated. But what about the women who have lost their careers? Why is no one suffering from sleepless nights thinking about their livelihoods lost? Amidst this welcome back wagon the women still lurk in the darkness battling whispers in the shadows questioning the claim of their authenticities.
While the very people who never paid attention to the accusations have given a clean chit to the accused, what does one have to do to be taken seriously here?
If equality is the argument that the detractors of feminism uphold, then equality (and feminism too if one paid attention when women talk) would have been to rehire and reinstate both the accused and the one making the accusations with equally welcoming arms.
When the movement was flourishing in its ferocity its critics were worried and eventually in fear of the careers and reputations of those accused. The movement’s critics had concerns regarding wrongful accusations, defamation and the threat of lawsuits looming. In retrospect however, it’s clear that all of the concerns and the movement to a degree too, was bordering on futile. The women and all those silently suffering have not been allowed the space even to be believed.
Still battling the defamation lawsuit issued against her by MJ Akbar, Priya Ramani said her move would empower women to speak up and help understand their rights at the workplace. Numerous women still drop out of the workforce not only because they’re not aware of their rights in the workplace, but also because of this very fear that discourages them to speak up.
The fear of not being believed, the fear of losing work, the fear a soiled reputation, the fear of career damnation. And it’s a long way to the point when this fear can be deemed irrelevant because as of this very moment –the fear is real and relevant.