When NO means NO!

After actress Sruthi Hariharan accused actor Arjun Sarja of sexually harassing her on the sets of Nibunan/Vismaya, she faced a massive backlash, a copious amount of slut-shaming and  saw the ugly side of patriarchy. When actress Tanushree Datta revealed that actor Nana Patekar misbehaved with her, she was called out for having done ‘intimate scenes’ with other actors. What is flabbergasting is that even educated women, including actresses like Harshika Poonacha have been making ludicrous sexist statements. 

“I’ve personally seen these so-called great activist actresses smoking ganja, having a great time in their song shoots in foreign countries, falling on famous men,” says Harshika’s nonsensical post. What’s alarming is that most Indian people don’t understand the concept of ‘consent’ ie the permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. 

Actress Hitha Chandrashekar, who’s been vocal on her support for Sruthi says, “‘Consent’ should be taught to every boy and girl while growing up, by parents or as a part of sex education in school. A woman is free to say ‘no’ as she is free to say ‘yes’ to any man. Both have to be respected equally. Even a sex worker has the right to say ‘no’ when someone makes a sexual advance towards her — If that’s breached, it’s harassment. Going against the will of a person/forcing a person into a sexual act versus the person being attracted to a man and giving her consent for it, are poles apart. Women assassinating other women’s characters is sad womenfolk should uplift each other.”

Anytime a woman, especially a celebrity speaks up about being harassed, she’s bombarded with chauvinist comments. Meme pages have been trolling Sruthi for doing intimate scenes with actors and also for speaking about sex in one of her interviews. Actress Neethu Shetty, who strongly condemns Harshika’s statement, says, “She’s a friend and a colleague who I always think of as a sweet girl. But today, she has actually played to the gallery by sticking to popular opinion. None of us know what the ‘truth’ is and I see no wrong in giving emotional support to the victim at this point. But Harshika has called all the actresses supporting #metoo as ‘activists from the liberal gang’ and this has hurt me. I’m neither a leftist nor a rightist and reducing something to a political agenda is quite sad. Consent is a concept people (even women) just don’t get!”

One actress who’s been a target of misogyny is Rangitaranga girl Avantika Shetty, who had accused Raju Kannada Medium’s producer Suresh of objectifying her. “I’d like to remind people of Mr Bachchan’s monologue from Pink, where he speaks of consent. If anyone drinks or smokes, that doesn’t mean someone has the license to misbehave with them. People like Harshika are belittling the movement. She needs to understand that sometimes, a ‘no’ does not work and women are forced. She is living in a different world where rapes don’t happen!”

Designer and singer Shachina Heggar adds, “A majority of the regional media and people here haven’t understood the difference between consensual sex and sexual harassment. Sexual harassment within the film fraternity is getting diluted by what India pride’s itself in abstinence from sexual acts before marriage and lifestyle choices. Majority of India still judges a woman based on how conformed and submissive she is and this is because India’s still a deeply patriarchal society.”

With patriarchy being the root cause of misogyny, one can only hope that the #metoo movement contributes to breaking the shackles of chauvinism. 

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