Of defence and attack

Amrita Prasad
Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Rani Mukerji’s statement on sexual harassment on ‘The Actresses Round Table 2018’ has sparked off a huge row. We present some more opinions on the issue

While we thought the #MeToo movement had fizzled out in India, it seems to have surfaced in public discussions again. This time, thankfully, it’s not due to any unfortunate incident. It’s about one of the leading ladies of Bollywood expressing her rather unreasonable idea of feminism. Unless you are completely off social media, your timeline must have been filled with posts and reposts about Rani Mukherji’s comment on #MeToo.
It all began with The Actresses Round Table 2018 where noted film critic and journalist Rajeev Masand hosted Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma, Alia Bhatt, Tabu, Rani Mukerji and Taapsee Pannu to discuss films, their most iconic roles in 2018, career and life, and most importantly the #MeToo in Bollywood. When the topic of sexual harassment of women in the film industry was raised, the Mardaani actress left the other actresses on table, host Masand and of course the viewers, aghast. 

While everyone agreed that men need to change their attitude and mentality towards women and workplaces need to be safe for female colleagues, Rani said that instead of pointing fingers at men, women should ‘take responsibility for themselves’ and ‘You can’t tell mothers how to bring up their children.’ She even went to the extent of saying that women should learn to defend themselves and be courageous enough to support themselves. While Deepika and Anushka countered her, she was insistent that it’s women who need to change. 
Anushka argued by asking, “Why should it always be women who need to change? Your workplace has to be the second sacred place for you. After your home, your workplace is where you should feel the safest and if you’re not feeling that way, then that’s the worst world to be living in.”

Rani refused to agree and said, “Everything that happens to you, relates to what YOU want out of your life.” She didn’t stop there and stressed that women must learn self-defence and protect themselves. To which Deepika clarified that not every woman is constructed with that sort of DNA. Deepika also asked, “But why to even bring it to the point where girls should learn self-defence?”
Rani repeated, “Everything that happens to you, relates to what YOU want out of your life.” 

This discussion has sparked a controversy with the Black actress receiving a lot of flak from people on social media, but it also raises a few important questions: Shouldn’t we hold men responsible for their act? Shouldn’t how a man has been raised to look at women be accountable? Aren’t families responsible for the way boys treat girls? Why should it always be a woman’s responsibility to keep her dignity safe and not that of boys? 

We speak to a few individuals to get their views on the matter:  

“It’s easy for a celebrity to make such a statement. Rani never had to go through the troubles most women go through. She is patriarchal in her thoughts and whatever she spoke during the discussion shows how regressive she is.  How can she say that a woman is responsible for what happens to her? Should we just let men misbehave because they weren’t taught to ‘respect women’? Whatever you teach your child, s/he grows up with those values in mind. Looks like Rani’s family didn’t teach her enough values that women should be treated as equals!” 
— Tania Kandoi, HR professional, Durgapur, West Bengal  

“I was so shaken up when I saw that when Deepika was trying hard to convince Mrs Aditya Chopra that not every woman can muster up the courage to fight back or protect themselves when being harassed by men, Rani kept showing off her martial arts moves and continued to make karate chop sounds. How annoying! She should learn a thing or two from younger actresses. This not about the muscle power, it is about how one thinks and acts, which is a result of how s/he is brought up. If a man, in his childhood has seen his father ill-treat his mother, he will do the same to his wife and other women. My mother ensured that my sister and I were raised to believe in equality for both genders. I think it is because of those values instilled in me that I look at women with so much respect now. And it is high time all men did it.”
— Srideep Ghosh, Entrepreneur, Kolkata 

“The saddest part is that knowingly or unknowingly, a few mothers end up raising misogynistic sons because they themselves have been conditioned to give in to patriarchy and that has made them believe that men are right and it is women who need to adjust. How sick is that kind of mentality! If an actress known for a film like Mardaani, can think that women need to change themselves, think about the number of women who pass on patriarchal values to their sons in our country. The boys need to learn from an early age that women are not objects — they are equal and sometimes even better than them. They deserve better opportunities and treatment from everyone. The day parents begin to do that, the number of crimes against women will see a considerable drop.” 
 SK Shahid, freelance writer, New Delhi

“Imagine a world that raised gender-neutral children. We are raised with the thinking that men are stronger and women are meek and need to be protected. This leads to the thought process that men can harm them. If mothers are aware that the result of their upbringing is going to impact society and the world at large, they will ensure that children learn the values like treating women with respect. Everything boils down to what we see and hear at home-— you see ill-treatment at home, you do it to the rest of the world. Men have to learn at home.
— Kritika Shaw, IT professional, Bengaluru

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