The Problem Is Not Ali Zafar, The Problem Is The Mindset

The  MeToo  movement in America after Harvey Weinstein was exposed, seems to have touched Asia, what with  women coming  forward in Pakistan to make startling  allegations of sexual harassment against  singer-actor Ali Zafar.

But according to Aditi Rao Hydari who has worked with Ali, the problem is not Ali or any one individual. It is the male mindset which feels it is empowered and sanctioned to treat women the way they want to. Aditi who has been at the  receiving end  of unwanted male attention feels  the male gaze must stop falling ondisempowered women who do not know how to deal with predatory patriarchal attention.

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Says  Aditi, “A lot of the times when such an incident happens there is the  fear of being ostracized   by the  film industry,  of  not getting work. That fear should be dispelled. Whenever I’ve faced  situations  that have made me uncomfortable I’ve turned down the project. Have I lost out on good work because  of my refusal to ignore unacceptable behaviour? I may have. But at least I  can look myself into the eye when I  look in the mirror.”

However there  is  the  other side to this awful crisis  of credibility where the male  feels he is  entitled to misbehave, and even when he doesn’t misbehave his  every move is  looked on with suspicion.

Some years  ago a  young married actor with a child lost his face and career when the  househelp accused him  of rape. The actor spent considerable time in  the cleaner, came  out on bail and has now  reached an out-of-court settlement with the alleged victim who has withdrawn  the case.

Insistent whispers allege she  was part of a gang that  extorts money from “empowered” male sections  after accusing them falsely of rape.

There  is  always  this danger that if you are a man in a position of power you will misuse that power. But there  is also the equally imminent danger, never considered seriously, that if you don’t use that power in the way a woman wants she may use your power against you.

We’ve the case  of  a  well-known  filmmaker and a  reasonably recognizable  singer  being accused of  rape by a woman whom they had known for years.Both were finally cleared by the  courts.

The very articulate and decorous actress Dia Mirza feels the  cult  of sexual exploitation is often a  bogey used willingly by  the “victim” initially but eventually disowned  as being unwanted attention after the arrangement  of mutual benefit runs  its course.

Says  Dia,  “We must examine  the circumstances that foster and encourage men to misuse  their power. I think there is almost nothing worse than empowered men using their power to get sexual favours out of  upcoming aspirants, both  women …and men too. Let’s not  forget men are as susceptible to  being sexually exploited as women.”

Dia agrees with Amitabh Bachchan in Pink when he says a woman’s no means a no. But Dia is also concerned with how persuasive  and  convincing that no is. “I’ve been a part of this entertainment industry for 20 years. I’ve seen how ambitious youngsters avail of sexual favours to make their way up the ladder, not realizing that the short cuts are never a dependable route to success. Why should the onus  of  such  youngsters’ moral compromise  only be on the exploitative  elements in the entertainment  industry? If you are old enough to seek job opportunities you are old enough to know when you are being told  to compromise  for the sake  of  the opportunities. After that the choice is entirely yours. I never took that route of seeking favours by being ‘nice’ to  people  who  matter. For this I’ve been called boring. I refuse to see that epithet as an insult. I wear it as  a badge  of honour.”

Many actresses  and even actors  in  the  male industry  have  chosen to give  sexual favours in return for the promise of work. Is it right for them to turn around and cry rape  after they  achieve  some  success(and hence are empowered enough to say no  unwanted attention)or when they  don’t get the rewards that  pushed them to compromise with their sexuality?

As  the  Kathua gangrape and murder reminds us,  the atmosphere of  vitiation and perversion has  touched an all-time high  in  our country.The nation’s morale and morality are at an all-time low. Let’s  not waste time running after offenders who become offenders after not keeping their promise.

The real problem is  the offenders who sexually violate women and children to subjugate and dominate them.Not women and men who are  fully in control of their minds and body when consenting to sexual compromises.

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