The Sisterhood of #Metoo: Here's What Farah Khan's Tweets Say About Feminist Solidarity
While most Indian men have clearly been sitting this one out, the #metoo movement, thanks to Indian women, has been gaining steady momentum with each passing week.
Image credits: Yogen Shah
Filmmaker Farah Khan broke her silence about the sexual harassment allegations that have been levelled against her brother filmmaker Sajid Khan and said that she will, in no way, endorse sexual harassment, and pledged her solidarity with the women who have been 'hurt' by her brother's behavior.
Khan's show of solidarity could not have come at a better time. Ever since the #metoo storm swept the social media channels, the reactions -- especially from the side of those accused --- have been very similar. While some accused men followed up their apologies with a litany of lame excuses, others resorted to gaslighting. As for the friends and family members of the accused, they have chosen to be silent bystanders, and I assume are quietly waiting for the storm to pass.
However, unfortunately for them, the #metoo movement in India has only just begun. Thanks to Tanushree Dutta, Bollywood too, is very reluctantly warming up to the idea that the status quo of powerful men exploiting women, or harassing them in the name of the casting couch, can no longer continue and is trying to mend ways.
Actors like Aamir Khan, who had previously dismissed Tanushree Dutta's charges of sexual harassment against Nana Patekar as a 'he said, she said' story, which 'public should investigate' into, has dropped the film Mogul after the director of the film, Subhash Kapoor, was accused of sexual assault. Akshay Kumar canceled the shoot of Housefull 4 after Sajid Khan, the director of the film (who has finally left the project) was accused of harassment, and Anurag Kashyap and the gang dissolved Phantom Films, after three years of being very well aware that his partner, Vicky Behl, allegedly tried to sexually harass a woman who worked at Phantom films.
However, Farah Khan -- the woman filmmaker -- who is often criticised for the poor portrayal of female characters in her films, chose to be the surprising voice of feminist solidarity from Bollywood. While everyone else in Bollywood is in damage control mode, trying to not be in cahoots with alleged sexual harasser(s), Farah candidly opened up about how she feels being related to someone who has been accused of harassing women.
The first sentence of her tweet -- in which she reacts to the allegations against her brother-- she wrote as a sister. "This is a heartbreaking time for my family." said the filmmaker. But, the follow-up sentences she wrote as a human being and more importantly, as a woman. "If my brother has behaved in this manner he has a lot to atone for.I don’t in any way endorse this behavior and Stand in solidarity with any woman who has been hurt," she said.
She isn't the only member of Sajid Khan's family to publically denounce his alleged behavior. Khan's cousin, Farhan Akhtar, also tweeted, "I cannot adequately stress how shocked, disappointed and heartbroken I am to read the stories about Sajid's behavior. I don't know how but he will have to find a way to atone for his alleged actions."
Khan's support for the women who alleged her brother of harassment upholds the true spirit of #metoo movement -- empowerment through empathy, and while the filmmaker could have chosen to be silent on the issue, I'm happy she didn't.
Like Khan, many of us have discovered that the #metoo movement impacted us way more personally than we might have thought. As a tsunami of social media revelations began to pour out in the past few weeks, not only did we find that many women friends/acquaintances and/or old colleagues have gone through personal trauma trying to deal with sexual harassment at workplace, all on their own but we also realised that the predators or harassers can also be the 'nice' male colleagues we work with, the guys we have known and trusted for years, and men we have looked up to as role models.
While some men who were publicly named and shamed enjoyed the reputation of being harassers in the whisper networks of women, several others, who were accused recently, have never been associated with sexual harassment. Perhaps, that is why, the sense of anger, betrayal and also profound sadness hits you harder when you realise that the seemingly harmless ex-colleague who sat next to you for years and made polite chit-chats about movies and investments is capable of forcing himself on a woman, despite her saying no, or to learn that your brother-in-law's best friend with whom you hang out at every other house party has harassed a girl at his workplace.
However, thanks to the #metoo movement, we have not only discovered how brave most of our women friends are, to come out and talk about their traumatic experiences of being harassed but also found out that we, as women, have collectively believed and supported every victim's narrative so far. While most of the accused men have followed up their apologies with excuses, several women have already begun shunning those men -- who may not have done anything to them personally -- have caused irreparable trauma and pain to others by harassing them.
While most Indian men have clearly been sitting this one out, the #metoo movement, thanks to Indian women, has been gaining steady momentum with each passing week. For all the stories of harassment listed under the #metoo hashtag, there are many others that were and perhaps never will be told on public platforms, but those who came out saw an outpour of support from women all across the nation.
Women journalists took it upon themselves to tell the stories of those who wished to stay anonymous, many victims reached out to other victims to help them deal with their pain, and mental health issues that have stemmed out of harassment. Female lawyers offered free services to women who wished to follow-up naming and shaming with legal cases, mental health professional offered their services at a reduced rate. For all our fears of missing out the #metoo movement that completes one year in the United States in 2018, our time to speak out against sexual harassment has finally arrived, and we have brought it at our doorsteps, or rather on our timeline, by lending support and showing solidarity to one another. Long live the sisterhood.
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