Barkha Dutt’s open letter to #MeToo critics Tavleen Singh, Seema Mustafa & Manjeet Kripalani

India’s #MeToo movement is a powerful social campaign led by women. But not everyone is a supporter. Veteran senior journalists Tavleen Singh, Manjeet Kripalani and Seema Mustafa have openly criticised #MeToo, dismissed it as elitist and in some cases blamed the women making the allegations. Journalist Barkha Dutt questions them in her first video column for ThePrint. Read the full script here:

Dear Tavleen … Manjeet …and Seema…

Like millions of women I have watched in pain, anger and dismay… As you have run down the #Metoo movement …

In your time…you have all been game changers and rule breakers.

In an age when women journalists were asked to cover flower shows and fashion shows … You fought and made your mark…

Yet today…you mock and sneer and insult other women who are fighting.

Dear Tavleen, Manjeet and Seema: Why?

———————————————–

Instead of making men accountable…you have put the onus on women to remain safe from predators…

Isn’t that bizarre?

This language:

“Women threw themselves at him”, you say Manjeet, about Akbar…

“Why did you go to Suhel’s house”, you say Tavleen…to a young woman who has outed Suhel Seth’s violation.

And in the Tejpal rape case you…Seema wrote that the victim did not appear visibly agitated.

This is the language of inquisition.

This is the language of misogyny.

Like those who blame a woman’s clothes… her sexual choices… her coming home late… to rationalise rape, molestation and abuse.

Dating someone… drinking with him… working with him… or even marrying him… does not surrender our right to consent.

Dear Tavleen… Manjeet… Seema: Why…

———————————————–

Dear Tavleen… Manjeet and Seema… all three of you have mocked and dismissed #Metoo for being elite.

In ”#MeToo Hold Your horses” …Seema Mustafa you call the movement… Exclusive… Arbitrary …Subjective…

Manjeet Kripalani you go much further …actually sneering at courageous women as ‘Metoo Wallis’.

First. Feminism is not a binary, it’s not Either Or.

Second: What is elite about the Right to Work?

Between 2004 and 2012 – 20 million Indian women quit working.

Female labour force participation is down to 27 % just two points ahead of Pakistan.

And till now 70% Indian women did not report work place sexual harassment.

If the work place remains hostile, unequal, predatory…even fewer women will work.

Dear Tavleen, Manjeet and Seema… #Metoo is a movement for Economic rights…

Women being financially independent is at the core of feminism.

How can you of all women call it elite?

———————————————–

And finally… women don’t care about what you call legacy…

We don’t care if MJ Akbar was once a brilliant writer…

Or Suhel Seth a brilliant brand manager.

Or Vinod Dua a brilliant host.

Or Chetan Bhagat a chart buster.

Or Jatin Das a great artist.

Or Kiran Nagarkar a beloved author.

Or Vikas Bahl a super film maker.

Or Tarun Tejpal a successful editor.

Or AIB a super funny gig.

Women do not give a toss.

Manjeet you speak of Akbar’s brilliant mind and contribution to foreign policy.

Tavleen you call Akbar flawed and ask if we should remember him as a Sexual predator or brilliant editor.

So let me answer that …

Kevin Spacey was a great actor.

Charlie rose a great anchor.

NONE of it matters once grave charges of sexual misconduct and abuse surface.

Flawed is consensual affairs … Harassment… assault… abuse…THAT is a crime…

Dear Tavleen Manjeet and Seema,

You may have had to fight harder than millennial women…and maybe that’s why you are angry.

But if you can’t support women in this stirring #Metoo moment…

At least stop making excuses for men facing grave allegations…

Dont’ let women down.

Dear Tavleen, Manjeet and Seema: Why?

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45 COMMENTS

  1. This is a movement based on truth, and working women’s quest for dignity and safe working spaces. It has reached a critical mass, been validated by some of the powerful people it has dislodged from their pedestals and perches. Individuals, including senior lady journalists, are free to distance themselves from it, question its approach or methodology. They may be fortunate not to have experienced harassment during their long careers. However, in their hearts, they must know of many, many cases of inappropriate behaviour that have gone unreported, so obviously unpunished. So one shares Ms Barkha Dutt’s confusion and pain why they are so obviously not doing what would have been their dharma at such a time.

  2. Agreed. Why no one in north talks about chinmayi who complained about vairamuthu? The supporters of vairamuthu are shaming the lady and calling her mother in a foul language? Leave akbar for a day and bring vairamuthu to the frame?

  3. Isn’t criminal defamation illegal and punishable under 501. If instead of taking sexual harassment complaints to the media, social or mainstream, rather than to the police and judiciary is a movement, how is cow lynching any different?

    The rare cases that are reaching the police are years late with all material, circumstantial and medical evidence gone.

  4. She is talking the same language as the three she is addressing. The tone is not correct. Metoo needs to be explained in much more sober tones. It is more of a cause for things to happen (or rather, not happen) in the future; than a reaction to things that did happen in the past.

    She needs to explain why even though it is elitist in inclusion, it would end up being bourgeoisie in impact.

    Apart from that, Barkha is right.

  5. It is people like Tavleen Singh and Seema Mustafa who are supremely arrogant and elitist and they have the gall to call the me too movement as elitist..no gives gives a toss what these women journalist say..Me too provides a platform for those 90% not so strong women who chose the anonymity of silence..its frightening to confront the harasser when your job your reputation is at stake in a Male misogynist society..The journalists named by Barkha Dutt may have been trail blazers but they should have the humanity to show compassion to those less fortunate mortals

  6. The lesser spinner about the author the better..its open secret what this author is ..most disgusting ever journalist and fixer

  7. This #metoo movement is a smart step by clever vixens who kept their gobs shut to get favours and to get a spot in the sun and after having enjoyed it all, are crying wolf! Smart manipulators! If they had courage and dignity, they should have rung the alarm bell there and then and risked losing the job than succumbing to the predators. I am not defending the males, but I scoff at these female Januses, who want to have their cake and eat it too!

  8. Dear Barkha thank you for speaking up on behalf of the many millions of the disadvantaged who are voiceless. We need more people like you to speak up the way you have against women who are in fact spoilers of the Me Too movement.

  9. The same question can be asked of Barkha Dutt and her former employers at NDTV, why? It is inconceivable that the activities of people like Vinod Dua and Suhel Seth were unknown in journalistic circle. The media thrives on bringing to the fore what people want to hide. Are we to believe that NDTV and Barkha Dutt did not hear any rumours about these two predators? And inspite of it Vinod Dua had a long run in NDTV and Sushel Seth would regularly pop up as a panelist. Why, Smt Dutt, why?

  10. I am not against #MeeToo campaign. Providing safe environment to working women is a laudable objective. The only trouble is that the movement began and ends up with film industry- an industry which thrives on rumours and supposed affairs between celebrities. The principal gravitational force of this industry is box office. As such boycotting famed characters who are accused on account of this campaign is utter nonsense. If the ‘#MeToo movement focuses on show business, shining with ephemeral glamour and glitter, it is likely to have premature death. Nothing tangible would come out of it, unless it focuses on issues faced by ordinary women toiling hard and lending a helping hand to their families by working in non-glamorous jobs.

  11. Why?
    Because within the single issue of meToo, there are many subissues.
    Perhaps Tavleen and co want to explore subissues, and you do not.. you want to present it as a monolith. You say “put the onus on men to make women safe from predators”. Many powerful men are indeed predators, drunk on power. But there are other patterns too. Perhaps some women’s sexuality is such that they are drawn to powerful men, and they try to “ride the tiger and see how far it gets them”.
    You Barkha Dutt focus on just one pattern.. men as predators and women as damsels in distress. You act as if there is no other pattern.
    These MeToo dissidents are each trying to shine a light on other patterns. I wish they would articulate it better.
    Globally, there are many MeToo dissidents as well.
    RT journalist Oksana Boyko is one, and she articulates why quite concisely.

    Tavleen is distraught by what’s happening to women and girls 100 times worse off than middle class journalist women.

  12. Burkha is no angel, but here she has a point in pulling up the critics of Metoo campaign.It is high time , the society wakes up Atleast now and do something to rectify the situation.By the by, no tears need be shed on the plight of the people accused.They deserve it.

  13. A sensible article from Barkha after a long time. Wait till few more congress, Communist skeletons come out. She will remain quiet.

    She would not talk about Vairamuthu because he is also a Hindu hater and is a DMK, Congress supporter.

  14. Mixing two different things doesn’t make good journalism.
    Go out take a survey on the women who dropped out from work force.
    95% will be family related.
    Even if they don’t have children.
    With a child or two families one or all of them overseas or far off places, many who care quit to take care of elders.
    Next is the work place issue how many do it to climb the ladder faster than rest, some of greed some forced by bad men.
    Who did they nor do all these years, just yo belittle the beti padavo, bwti bachavo program itself.
    Rahul calls tax amnesty before demo as fair and lovely.
    What did moraj desk do in cong in 68,69, r venkeyrsman do I nearly 80s later PC, BRANAB do earlier on such amnesties.
    Whilst about Sanjay Gandhi and his friends do for ages, his friends r still in cong, search their history will be shocked to death

  15. You don’t talk about Rahul Gandhi and his involvement, he has raped many and you barkha dutt too know it but you don’t have the balls to talk about it, does it only apply to MJ Akbar, No one is talking about shah rukh khans involvement?
    Does it apply to only those who you want to expose?

  16. When Barkha Dutt questions Tavleen Singh’s comments, she perhaps fails to notice a very important point made by her( Tavleen). How and why is it that the ‘victims’ of Mee Too movement are only women belonging to slightly higher segments of society? And why
    does the media not take up and vigorously follow cases of ordinary/common women who suffer no less if not much more ? Is their pain less than those of ‘celebrity’ victims? Why this selectivity? Is it because that the perpetrator too happens to be a much bigger celebrity and a highly established person? May be, otherwise, the story may not be that juicy in which case the motives behind the media pursuing the stories take an altogether different shape and meaning.

  17. This is a movement from courageous women who had to suffer silently and broke out when right time came.
    All should encourage this movement so that more and more women who suffered in the past will come out.

    The “powerful men” will think now twice before they show their power to women in workplace and society.

    Dignity of women will be restored by men not by change of heart but by fear of losing their “reputation”.

  18. The one thing that is evident is that most comments are based on emotions. The movement was to bring out facts that were the basis of emotions. Let us Concentrate on the facts and not on the emotional aspects. The challenge in all these is that there is often no witness as the incidents occurred between just two parties often behind closed doors, leaving one with an emotional trauma and the other a sense of achievement.

  19. Thank you, Barkha. I had a senior colleague tell me why didn’t the women walk out, if it was so bad. It is the women who should quit because some man can’t hold himself. Your open letter puts everything in perspective. Thank you, once again

  20. #metoo is about how a woman felt in some incident. She can feel attacked even though the assault may be asexual.
    First problem with #metoo is that is based on the regressive old thoughts that only men are good at reason as opposed to women, who are good at feeling.
    Elitist bias ,oh yes, we all know how poor girls from Nepal and poor villagers are supplied to brothels, we all know it ,it doesn’t need a sting operation by investigative journalists to be stopped. But those poor girls don’t have a voice to say #metoo.

  21. Completely agree with Barkha. Being a brilliant professional doesn’t entitle anyone to a discount on decent values or sensible behaviour. It entitles them to money and fame and no one grudges that.

  22. Thanks Bdutt for speaking out on behalf of those who cannot speak … for raising the general awareness about issues of gender inequality whether it be at places of work or home. another level of respect and more power to you.

  23. Barkha Duty! Your article is brilliant! Keep fighting on behalf of women’s issues in India. And there are many many issues that need to be exposed and resolved. Not for nothing I’d Infia known as the tape capital of the world.

  24. You have changed beyond recognition! Wonderful lines, feelings..Tavleen @ co should get into the bandwagon to add force of their might..

  25. Well done Barkha. In your own simple and straight forward manner, you have touched on some basic issues. However, I don’t anticipate an equally straight reply. These are eminent women, who have succeeded by their proven merit. If they have taken the stand that they have, the reasons must be formidable and I don’t want to go there.

  26. To call ppl who don’t go along wit da metoo movement a misogyny is totally wrong. Som can b misogyny n som who support for metoo can b misandrist. Both of which r nt fyn.
    As da saying goes ” b slow in our judgement ”
    “Der should b no partiality in our judgement.” For one gud reason ppl can lie n manipulate. Both men n women can do dat. May of such accusations hav been true bt so also many such accusations hav been false as wel.
    N wen we help should we nt b able to help da rt person n nt da wrong person.
    Should we nt kno who is accountable or falsely accuse b4 shaming n insulting som1.
    Da noise is loud som r facts n som r jus noise made to distract our minds n our judgements.
    Datz da reason y som choose to luk at da facts b4 giving a judgement n may b datz being responsible.
    B4 saying
    yes I agree.. M wit it .. Dey deserve it.. Punish dem… Shame dem…
    Plz ask if its right
    ask if we sure abt it

    Coz we can nly sensible decisions by sensible n correct judgement.

  27. I can only say written very well. Would this have been any different if she had not addressed the three women individually and differently? It’s almost like imploring them to join in support of the movement! Do we really need an unwilling member to join or give consent to the movement?
    The movement appears to me , one of the best manifestations of the Social media ,a sense of anonymity , a sense of having your back, support from unexpected quarters!

  28. Kudos to the brave women who spoke out against the oppressors! It will give courage to the present women who are working and facing similar situation

  29. Barka is just another me-too person looking for attention on this issue. I don’t see her or any woman taking up for poor women who have not even heard of social media.

  30. How a woman journalist can dictate to some other woman journalist not to express their views, if they don’t support a particular movement?
    Is it not against the freedom of expression?
    Amused to see the the so called champions of freedom to advise some persons from their own profession to shut their mouth if they don’t agree with her views?
    And the same Lady journalist supported JNU
    Anti National slogans on pretext of freedom of expression !

  31. Madam Barkha Dutt, I don’t recall your response when Ms Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor was found dead in suspicious circumstances. Can we have your views on this.

  32. How can a person, with 2 decades plus experience in her profession, be so wrong. All #me too ladies are educated and reasonably independent. But somehow, all waited for years instead of discouraging advances and fighting it out during that moment. After all, all aggressors were also employees or accountable to someone higher. Then, there is this tendency of going to media rather than authorities who are empowered to deal with such issues. Ms Dutt should be more balanced in her approach considering her long tenure in the profession, instead of being childish

  33. You go get them Barkha. It’s women like Manjeet, Tavleen etc who make us women hang our heads in shame and who encourage such behaviour in men

  34. Oh please! She’s just jumped the bandwagon herself! Watch her on interview for India’s daughter’s against Leslie and an American journalist making a mockery of feminism! Defending the national image! Not long ago! Bah humbug Barkha Dutt is more like it!

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