Beyond the tales
Amidst the magical wave of feminism sweeping across the world right now, the long-suppressed stories of sexual harassment have started surfacing everywhere. From shaming Hollywood star Harvey Weinstein to the online #MeToo campaign; people have started bringing out the sheer scale and depth of abuse that women have endured silently for centuries. And, then it was the turn of The List, an attempt to name and shame, largely Indian academics, who had allegedly sexually harassed women at some point in time. The movement has given many Indian women space and encouragement to come out with their own experiences of sexual harassment. Though the women expressed the immediate need for change in a society that stigmatised and silenced them for too long, this appears like a fitting way to name and shame the predators. This method of calling out criminals could be tricky and could well be used to settle personal scores. Not only that, it would delegitimise the long struggle by women against sexual harassment and create a repercussion against them in the workplace. As such a list symbolises the grey area of ethics, it sparked a furious debate on the due processes and forced several prominent feminists to issue a statement of caution. Academics often teach that the starting point for any issue is to look at a wide spectrum of competing narratives to arrive at a fuller perspective. And, that appears to be happening with this movement also. At first, the dominant narrative was enthralling – to see how this list received immense popularity among women to talk, deliberate and comprehend the nuances of privilege, position and power. But, the other side of the narrative was completely ignored. Those accused have already been judged or presumed guilty just because they were named anonymously in an open list. Surprisingly, in most cases, it was not even known that what the allegations are! No one could deny that it is essential to believe the victims of sexual harassment in this heavily stacked system. But, the other side must not be ignored that somebody can't be presumed guilty on the basis that he has been named on social networking sites. Nonetheless, even if we say innocent until proven guilty, voices mustn't be submerged with the alibi that anonymity gives an unbridled right, often to the undeserving. That women have been silenced is no matter of contention. A list like this opens avenues, but it mustn't be the final word closing all avenues. Since sexual violence requires making of an institutional response – any such move must be inclusive. Though many may argue that our laws are prone to be dodged by the predators, could only naming the harassers be a permanent solution—we must think beyond.