56 women walk into a police station.
No, it’s not one of those 3 men walk into a bar kind-a joke. But it is a joke, nevertheless.
One would think that 56 women walking into a police station filing a complaint of sexual harassment against an employee at the institute they are employed in, would bring the institute down. Or at least, would be heard by the police.
But this week at NIFT Hyderabad neither of these things happened. The punch line of this joke gutted the hopes of women involved because the institute fired all 56 of them as being lackadaisical in their work. The stenographer who allegedly assaulted these women is having the last laugh as he continues to remain employed by the institute while they decide what action needs to be taken.
It would have all started with one woman. He would have tried it, got away with it because she must have chosen to keep silent. Simply because she must have been scared to lose her job or to be blamed for this incident or worse still to find herself in a position where no one believed her allegations. It must have then happened to more women, each in their own headspace believing that it happened only to them or perhaps in some warped way they invited him by continuing to speak with him even if it was at the workplace. Or by not reporting him and egging him on further to do this, to other women. I wonder how many women it would have taken for them to realise that #YesAllWomen around them had gone through this.
Why am I going back two steps is because when the #MeToo movement started many women were attacked, saying that they were raking up the past and that they should have spoken at the time of the incident. I want all these people (men and women) who said ‘they should have spoken then’ to stand up for these women at NIFT Hyderabad because they are speaking up now and they are being fired for it. This is your only chance to salvage your argument and your face and stand by what you say.
Because believe it or not, it takes time and courage for 56 women to gather and decide that they want to take action against one man. That they want to make their workplace safe enough for them to simply earn two square meals a day. What if this man was a professor at the institute? What is the institute trying to save – the man or their reputation?
Or perhaps they know that just like any hashtag movement, this would die down soon enough and perhaps that is the reason they have decided to reinstate these women to their housekeeping jobs but have still not fired the alleged assaulter.
#YesAllWomen have gone through gender-based discrimination or violence at one point or another in different degrees. And yes, it’s also true that #NotAllMen are perpetrators of that violence or discrimination. The #MeToo movement revealed the power of numbers but a small, tiny fraction of it also revealed the section where #MenToo have been at the receiving end of this. I know quite a few men who will stand up for women but we need more #HeForShe in order to bring about a certain equilibrium to this society.
But before that happens, each home office and society should encourage girls and women to say #IForMe where I do not stay silent in a situation because I feel there is no choice left. And if I falter, there is someone around me to hold my hand and tell me that I always have a choice. #HeForShe and #SheForHer, where every woman stands up for the next one because no matter what anyone says, there is power in numbers and this is no laughing matter.
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