I object to #MeToo because I see, so far, it is only the most empowered Indian women who are making allegations, says Tavleen Singh.
Here, dear Barkha, is my answer to the many, many whys in your video letter.
Why do I not think #MeToo is an appropriate movement? I do not believe an allegation against a man should be taken as an assumption of guilt. I believe that everyone – man and woman – should have the right to remain innocent till guilt is proven.
My second objection is to the victimhood that the movement implies. My generation of women fought for our place in the workplace – as your mother did a little before us – not by being victims but by being fighters. Rights are not usually given to victims but those who fight for them.
Your charge that we have ‘rationalised rape’ is quite simply, absurd. None of the women in the media who have charged editors and writers with ‘sexual harassment’ have said they were raped. Some of the sexual harassment could have been dealt with by simply speaking up in one voice at the time it occurred. M.J. Akbar was himself an employee and if so many women were being molested by him on a daily basis, they could have come together and complained against him to the owner of the newspaper. It is a mystery that they did not if he was so awful a ‘sexual predator’.
You say there are fewer women in the Indian workplace now than before. This is primarily because of mechanisation in agriculture not because they were kicked out of newsrooms for not succumbing to the unwanted attention of editors.
You object to my calling Akbar ‘flawed’ and say that flawed applies in a consensual relationship. Actually, in my book, that is romance. It can sometimes be a flawed affair but that is not always the fault of the man.
I have worked since I was 19 because I needed a job – specially after I became a single mother. So I know the importance of the economic need for women to work.
I also object to #MeToo because I see that, so far, it is only the most empowered Indian women who are making allegations. When it begins to include women who are truly vulnerable, it will have my fullest support.
To charge us with misogyny is absurd.
In the case of the girl who, I said, had gone alone to Suhel Seth’s house more than once, my question is: if he hit on her, why did she go more than once? And, why did she not just give him a kick in the right place instead of waiting 10 years to complain?
I say women who go into a hotel room, and a man opens the door in his underwear or in a bathrobe, should either run for their lives or be prepared to fight back unwanted advances. I was once stalked to my hotel room in the Islamabad Hotel in Pakistan’s capital by a man with an Uzi. I was scared out of my wits but not that scared that I could not call reception and make a huge stink.
Fundamentally, the difference between my generation of women and those who are in the #MeToo movement is that we were not victims. We were not ‘trailblazers’ as you say, but just not victims. I would have said all these things to you in the tweets we have exchanged in the past week, but tweets limit articulation.
The author is a senior journalist and columnist.