TVF: From Qtiyapa to Molestation

Arunabh Kumar, co-founder of the comedy sketch and immensely successful media start-up, The Viral Fever or more appropriately TVF, recently stunned many, first by being the alleged perpetrator of a string of sexual harassment cases carried out over two-three years; and second, by admitting to the following statement – “When I find a woman sexy, I tell her that” – as a casual display of the machismo-as-lame-excuse culture.

The woman who brought these incidents to light, alias ‘The Indian Fowler’ was a fire starter which led to many such revelations.

After the post, many ladies stepped up saying they too faced the similar incident. Reema Sengupta who directed a show for TVF last year came forward in support of Indian Fowler and said she too was a victim of Arunabh Kumar.

Kumar’s admission to the tabloid Mumbai Mirror, the day after the sexual harassment charges against him surfaced in an anonymous blog post in the portal Medium, written by a 24-year-old woman who goes by the title the Indian Fowler, is basically to offset the grave accusations leveled at him as nothing but by-product of a seemingly liberal, contemporary, young and sexually charged workplace.

But, most certainly it is not. Where was, and this is crucial, the consent, the lynch-pin of a modern sexual relationship? Minus which it’s the law – Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 – which will decide.

The TVF sexual harassment case has brought to light various abiding misconceptions and untruths that lie embedded in all discourse around sexual harassment.

First, that the girl should have complained to the police right away. This is just absurd as a demand to make of a young woman from Muzaffarpur who starts working in a big city. The fact that she did it anonymously, the fact that she quit is courageous enough.

Women stay in abusive marriages all their lives. Women stay in offices where they have been harassed for decades. We need to understand why rather than condemn them for it. A new office, a new work-space, a young start-up and a sleazy boss are all difficult things to process for anyone.

Second, that a single, heterosexual man has the right to call women sexy (and he did much worse), even if they do not like it.

While it is important to avoid cultures of moral policing and support and promote healthy cultures of sexuality between young people and old people, it is very clearly an offence to say and do something to someone against their will.

Being “sexy” for your pleasure isn’t why women exist in workplaces. They exist because, well they work. Exactly the same work that, and often far better than what, their male colleagues do, but are not subjected to the “You’re looking sexy today” idiocies. Nothing that you wouldn’t tell your male colleagues is okay with your female colleagues, because they are colleagues first and women later.

This is just male, heterosexual entitlement and it is hetero-sexist, hetero-normative and misogynist. If they do not like it, one has to stop immediately and apologize.

Every time you go to work, you will take your need for love and sex with you. Each time you meet a woman, you’re going to have to confront her need for bread, for sock and shoes. Also, her need for respect and consideration.

Look at her. Really look. Take a moment’s pause and ask yourself: am I having to corner her or manipulate her into being alone with me? Is she smiling right now or does she look frightened? Witness her humanity before you witness her womanhood.

If, through some misunderstanding, you have made a mistake, do not plough further in the same rut. For God’s sake, say sorry. SORRY.

Say, I misunderstood. Say, I thought you might also be feeling the way I felt and I feel wretched now but I swear this will not happen again. Say it in those exact words. And mean it.

Edit: India Today reports that the inquiry against Arunabh Kumar which was opened by the Mumbai Police may be closed this week as no victim has come forward to lodge the first information report(FIR).

Further Edit: According to ANI News, Arunabh Kumar has on Wednesday, been booked by the Mumbai Police for molestation, based on a complaint of a victim in Mumbai.

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