Attributing it all to just sex



I wonder how many people recall that some years ago a leading publishing house in Bombay had allowed its printing presses to be used to publish a step-by-step guide to rape. In Marathi, it was titled “Balatkar kasa kartat’’ (How to rape) and was the handiwork of a Marathi journalist, who later ended up as a close advisor to a Maharashtra Pradesh Congress chief.

I was an active member of Bombay’s Women in Media group at the time and I still remember how we were all in a royal froth about it – we decided to protest with both the publishing house and the police. I was still pretty much a rookie at the time so it was a revelation how insensitive men could be to women ploughing a lonely furrow to make it in the world – any field, of course, but particularly media and politics. The police chief just laughed, did not think it worth any great fuss or complaint; the publisher just shrugged off any responsibility by saying he was not culpable for any content of private job works taken up by his press.

My own Chief of Bureau and News Editor – both with daughters around 15 years of age at the time – proved not just insensitive but downright crude when it came to not just reporting the event but also dealing with us. I was working for a wire service then and the CoB tried his damnedest after that to keep the only three women there at the time on night shifts — and reporting on pornography. When I refused to write on porn, I was given a memo – a highly offensive one, full of sexual innuendo. I still have that piece of paper for I had saved it for the sexual harassment suit I filed against the CoB.

Of course, the moment they received a copy of the notice his superiors from New Delhi flew down to pacify me and give him a piece of their mind about dealing with women reporters. “Your 15-year-old daughter could end up in an exact situation tomorrow. How would you feel if her boss asked her something like that?’’ I recall my Delhi editor telling him.

The Delhi guy, a South Indian himself, later told me, “No South Indian girl (we were all three South Indians at that agency then) should have to put up with this kind of nonsense.” I replied, “No woman should have to put up with this nonsense, Mr … Period. This is about women, not about South Indians.”

“Of course,” he quickly corrected himself. “We will take care that no woman who works for us has to ever face what you have faced here in the past few days.” But there was a condition for his supportive action – I had to withdraw my case against my boss. “This is essentially his stupidity but the agency could receive tremendous bad press about it. I guarantee you nothing like this will ever happen again in the future but you must take back that suit.”

I was young, with no larger plan of conquering the world and fighting only for my self-respect; I just wanted to get on with my life and career, so I did. I wish now that I had not because that particular CoB, while stopping to pick on me, continued to harass every other single woman who happened to cross his path and there was not much any of us could do except move out of that organisation.

I recall all of this now because of the controversy over Mayawati – and I am absolutely stunned that another woman should make such a remark against a member of her own sex. I believe Rita Bahuguna Joshi should know how difficult it is to make your way in a man’s world and at least she should have refrained from emulating Mayawati (oh, yes, Mayawati has said similar things about Mulayam Singh’s (non-existent) daughters before). Without ever stepping out of line, a woman has to continually battle allegations – and all of them revolve round sex in one form or the other. They either threaten to rape you (a journalist in Bombay was locked up for six hours and so threatened by someone she was investigating and she is still traumatised by that event) or label you a whore or reduce everything you have achieved on your own by attributing it to your having slept with everybody who might benefit your career. As though you were never capable of getting there on your own education/talent/enterprise.

I am not much of a soap watcher but this week I caught in the passing something going on on Raakhi Ka Swayamvar and the sheer insensitivity of that conversation made me stop and listen on. One of the grooms was asking Raakhi Sawant if she had slept with her boyfriend and if she had taken the casting couch route to fame in Bollywood. I was gasping in sheer outrage – I am not a fan of Raakhi’s but if that man had really wanted to marry Raakhi, really in love with her as he claimed, he would have asked her those questions off-camera and not on it. Of course, just like Mayawati with her detractors, Raakhi was up to taking him on – if you finger me, I will finger you, she said — and so he got ousted from her swayamwar. “And this time I am not sorry to kick someone out,’’ she said.

But I have not stopped thinking since: what is it that makes men in this day and age derive sheer pleasure from not just reducing a woman to just a sex object but actually hurt her and attempt to destroy all her self-esteem by attributing every bit of her achievements to just sex? Somebody tell me!

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  • http://mywriterkeeda.wordpress.com Ishmart Alec

    hmmm what your editor did was really low. I am guessing not all editors are sex pests

    About Swayamvar, forgetting the fact that its a total hoax, i am not sure why Rakhi agreed to the show in the first place. i am so disturbed that a respected lady like Rakhi who is known in the industry for her lady like demeanour has chosen to chose from an assembly line of guys on national tv.

    and what about girls asking questions to boys – How much do you earn?
    “no Boy from a small city|”.
    “are you gonna stay with your parents”,
    “no boy with brothers or sisters”, “no boy who is balding”,
    “he is not settled yet”

    might not be as offensive as the one that rakhi was asked (i cant believe it was even aired) but still…..those are questions that are disturbing. What’s important to one guy (not all) might be offensive to a girl… and VICE VERSA. of course, these questions could be passed off as being practical.

    but you are right about woman finding it tough to make it in the real world. earlier i used to dismiss it as feminism. but i have seen it happen.

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    varsha Reply:

    “you used to dismiss it as feminism”……thats rich…….feminism according to you is obviously a whole lot of bullshit created by man- hating embittered women,

    btw a girl asking a potential husband whether he lives with his parents is not exactly the same as a boss sexually harassing his juniors or publishers printing articles on how to commit violence against women..even men ask women “do you know how to cook” , “will you leave your job”

    so, whats your point?

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    Ishmart Alec Reply:

    point is this – What’s important to one guy (not all) might be offensive to a girl… and VICE VERSA. of course, these questions could be passed off as being practical.

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    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Feminism is very different from sexual harrassment — these days things at workplaces are getting better and more sensitive (remember even Infosys’s US branch faced a suit of this kind some years ago but action was swiftly taken in that case ). What is galling is if a woman raises her voice against this kind of attitude she is labelled a harridan — and a feminist!

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    varsha Reply:

    why is feminist a bad word? feminism is a philosophy, almost every truly educated woman is a feminist coz she believes in equal opportunities..I dont like it when people say “feminist” as if its an abuse.

    Alec, yep some of these questions are practical, obviously if you are compelled to live in your husbands home after marriage you would like to know how many people you will be sharing it with, if you had to live in your wifes house, you would wanna know too and if you are a delhi/ mumbai boy you wouldnt want to move to orcha or rampuror some random place would you.

    plus no girl likes to marry bald men, would you like to marry a bald woman.?

    and btw, i want to marry a man who cooks for me, plain and simple :-)

    but to get to the point, I have noticed that whenever some sexual harassment case is reported in the news, people immediately say, oh she must be lying, shes just making things up, these women can be very chaalu…Ive heard my parents say it and it sucks…

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    Ishmart Alec Reply:

    yea yeah… woman makes all the sacrifices..suffers a lot and men just sit back relax and enjoy the fun. men are pigs and women are angels from heaven. this was precisely why i stopped visiting Naomi’s blog. its full of this man-woman ****. SO whatever makes you happy.

    feminism is as bad a male chauvinism. For both of them, call it with whatever nice adjectives you want, its just. looking at only one p.o.v and nothing else. I have a friend who move to Ahmedabad after marriage. And lots more who moved to other smaller cities. And by saying that “you are compelled to live in your husbands home” you are essentially implying that you don’t wanna live with your in-laws or move out of your house, but are forced to do so. The questions that are asked are of course practical. BUt so are the questions asked by the guys. its NOT a gender thing. Its pure discussion of contractual terms before you agree to sign the contract – in legal terms.

    So the point is that every question, regardless of it being from a boy or a girl, can be termed practical. that’s a very subjective attribute. what maybe normal for someone maybe be really difficult for accept for some. Its relative. so to say that boys cam be unreasonable or ask shocking questions, is stating only one side of the story. Same logic goes for the girls too. so again, its not a gender thing. its purely subjective.

    good luck getting a man to cooks for you…. and if you do lemme know. So i can use him as an example to start cooking myself. :D

    varsha Reply:

    well….maybe you live in a very different part of India than I do…if you are trying to tell me that men there make as many sacrifices as women do..and are willing to be led by their wives….I live in Delhi..here things dont exactly work this way , nor are these “contractual agreements” equal….I have a lot of married friends, and I have noticed that if a man makes a compromise for his wife, he is called an angel, but if she makes a compromise, its regarded as her duty EVEN NOW its like that even though you might deny it.

    ..not every opinion is subjective or biased…some are based on pure facts…….

    and pleeez i never said that all women are angels or men are pigs..you are assuming that I think this way bcoz i said i am a feminist (( again your belief that feminism has got something to do with loving women and hating men).)…I know that There are a lot of women who are very bad wives, and a lot of good husbands as well….

    feminism and male chauvinism are actually different…the first is based on the belief that both genders are equal…the other is based on the belief that one gender is superior

    lastly…the day i find a guy who cooks for me I think i will die of shock…These things only happen in romantic chic flicks..in real life men do laze around on the couch waiting to be served…Yep even now its the same…but they want a wife who brings in the money as well

    Kushal Reply:

    Interesting discussion here. To contribute to the least… Varsha and Alec, Samar, our managing editor, is a great cook and cooks for his wife. And in fact, has a blog here: Our Daily Bread.

    varsha Reply:

    hmmm..Samar is a well brought up guy….but all these other chaps keep complaining about being maltreated by evil feministic women, who refuse to marry small town men with too little hair and too many siblings ..hahahaha…wicked, wicked women…

    Madcrux Reply:

    How much do you earn?
    “no Boy from a small city|”.
    “are you gonna stay with your parents”,
    “no boy with brothers or sisters”, “no boy who is balding”,
    “he is not settled yet”

    Oh yeah. I completely and wholeheartedly agree with you. After all questions, as obnoxious as these, have victimized “man”kind for long. How dare they counter question a man about his salary, about his whereabouts, about his preferences??? of course, a man can ask about her virginity, how many affairs she has had and to what *extent* they went, can she cook? Can she sing? Can she take care of her family members? Can she be this and can she be that?

    p.s- reactions of oppressed are justified than the actions of Oppressor. Feminism is an offshoot of the school where women were burnt, raped and tormented publicly on their being independent and free minded, and thus being dismissed as witches. The fight is against the chauvinism which believes in the pseudo superiority of male species, traces of which dates back to Manusmriti!!

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    Madcrux Reply:

    If any one, who lives in India, is not aware about Rakhi’s escapades, her stories and her life ki khooli kitaab, then either the guy has just been dropped from the stone age living amongst the bushes growing around him or was sent to an atrocious country of a forsaken continent where he was not privy to any relevant medium of communication.

    In spite of knowing everything, which intellect permits any man to ask about the virginal status of a woman of magnanimous silicon implants? Does that make any sense? Doesn’t it reinforce the parochial thinking of our male clan residing in great bharat??

    Did she ask how long your dick is? Or can you satisfy me on the bed with as much gravity as I expect you to? Or how many times do you suffer from pre ejaculation….

    I guess the questions are insinuatingly practical enough.

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  • D10

    I am utterly shocked by the Marathi piece which you referred to! I cannot believe that any person (who I am pretty sure has a mother/wife/sister/daughter would think up something so disgusting! And to read about your Editor’s reaction makes my blood boil! It is this sick mentality which holds India back. Where half the population of the country is treated like an object of sexual gratification devoid of any human dignity, how can any progress be expected? I wish you had pursued your case. Of course I totally understand why you weren’t able to and somehow that makes me angry too!

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    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    At that point of time, I just wanted my dignity restored and to get on with life — so when his superiors forced him to apologise to me, I thought my purpose had been met. I may not have reacted in such subdued fashion had this happened a few years later.

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    Anagha Reply:

    All it takes to reduce a woman’s achievement is to attribute it to an ‘easy way out’. Educated or not, all women are subject to such humiliation at some time in their lives. Another one of life’s unfairness! What makes it worse is that under the pretext of morality, other women also gang up against the victim. Whoever spoke of sisterhood…

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  • Atul

    Its all in the upbringing, and in the education. There is a change happening, but it will probably take another generation or two.

    On the social front, there is this silent stigma attached to girls & boys hanging out together. Takes away the healthy respect that the sexes might develop for one another while growing up.

    On Mayawati, I am told she reacted quite violently to Ms Bahuguna. And to my surprise, my 80 year UK educated aunt dismissively commented “Yeh bhi dalit, woh bhi dalit”.

    I guess many attitudes will take time to change, and we just have to peg away at them.

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    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Yes, it is all in the upbringing and in the education — fortunately I met the right kind of people at work in later years and so did not have to battle any more sleaze.

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  • http://blogs.hindustantimes.com/expletive-deleted Kushal

    Seeing things from another perspective is difficult. As a friend of mine once asked: why do women have to wear burkhas? Why can’t men wear blindfolds?

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    Ishmart Alec Reply:

    good point!!!

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    Pankaj Vohra Reply:

    A good piece Sujata. I know it is very difficult for women to come up in life in what is essentially a men controlled world. But the fight has to go on. As you rightly put it it is not a south Indian issue but a women’s issue which you have highlighted. Things have to be looked at with a broader perspective. As for Rakhi Sawant, I think these kind of shows should not be on the TV at all. As it is there is too much of filth all around and such shows only allow more filth to surface. Not that other soaps which show women in a very poor light and as subservient to men are any better.

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    varsha Reply:

    which publishing house was this? I guess this was at a time when there were no 24 hour news channels, bcoz they would have definitely picked it up and broadcast it day in and day out, like they are doing with the MP virginity tests of tribal girls….lol….there is no limit to the amount of absurdity that goes on in this country..

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    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    It was ages ago, before the advent of 24 hou news — and it was a publishing house that had made quite a name for itself during the freedom movement. You can guess.

    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Thanks, Pankaj. It is indeed difficult for women, though by and large I have been lucky and do not have too many complaints about how life has dealt me. And you are right about the swayamvar show — it is really trash and I wonder what kind of men would want to marry so publicly. I guess they are getting paid to be on it and not really interested in marriage or anything else. As for the soaps, I never watch them — women are all goongi gudiyas on these shows and never fight back against even any extreme atrocity — their subservience on these shows makes me puke!

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    Pervin Reply:

    Sujata, the humiliating experience you had to go through with your ex-colleagues, is indeed shocking and deplorable. Agreed, professional standards some moons ago, weren’t very high but having to endure apathetic seniors is distasteful. It especially hurts if one’s ideologies and that of the organisation you work for, don’t match. Am also flabbergasted that a book, such as the one you’ve spoken about here, was published! Had this incident occured in recent times, there would’ve been an uproar! Haven’t watched the Rakhi Sawant show yet, so no comments. If it’s puke-worthy, why spend precious time over it?

    Your blog is very interesting and I truly enjoy visiting it. Thank you.

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    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Thanks, Pervin. Yes, that experience was humiliating — and he really said unmentionable things in tha note to me. This was the Eighties, so he got away with it. And you are right about that book, today that man would have been lynched!

    D10 Reply:

    So true! I always wonder… Why do girls’ hostels have curfew. Why aren’t the boys locked in?

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    Brijesh Kalappa Reply:

    Shocking piece, brilliantly well written with immense feeling…. Rita Bahuguna Joshi’s remarks were terrible, really terrible. I personally can’t get over the low level of the remarks she used.

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    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Thanks. And, yes, neither can I get over those remarks. Mayawati was always crude but I would have thought Rita Bahuguna would have had more sophistication…

    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Very true, Bunny. Don’t they say only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches?

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  • Anil

    I agree entirely with the content of your blog, slightly to differ. Woman is her worst enemy. Arushi was murdered twice. The second time her honour was killed, when she was no longer alive to protect her honour. Every body knew who is killing her honour but no action. The DGP NOIDA, news channels (almost every hindi news channel) was crying hoarse with dramatic re – construction of Arushi Murder. The Chief Ministers of both UP and Delhi were women. The Congress President was women. Some of the news anchors were women. The president of India was women. It was one of the most shameful display of public balatkar of honour. Madam Shiela Dixit made some atrocious comments when a fellow women journalist Soumya was killed. All in all it a basic lack of respect for a person as human being

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    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Agree with you about Arushi and what you say about women being their worst enemies is also true. But bonding is also greater among women than among men and they can also be the ones who can take on the whole world for others of their own sex.

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  • http://incorrectpolitically.wordpress.com Akhilesh

    Here’s a small survey that I recommed people to take…..to Sujata of course, but also to people like Varsha and others….it’s just a different take on the issue….

    That women who complain the most about “perceived” ( mark the emphasis on perceived) sexual harrasment are also the women who look “relatively” worse-off than women who who look good, do well in life and excel in their careers !!

    Want to know the reason, why? Because these women themselves beleive in the dogma that successful women have done well in life because they have been willing to sleep their way to success. And since such not so good looking women find less or no takers for their “charms”, they imagine / presume that their lack of success is because of sexual harrasment. And every normal activity in life is measured by them in sexual terms alone.

    Try the survey and one would be surprised to find that not even one women, who has unsuccessfully complained of sexual harrassment , is “good looking” in the conventional sense. And the reason that their cases are unsuccessful is because the complaints would have been made on flimsy grounds / out of pique / jealousy / preumptions/ failures in professional world, etc etc.

    Genuine harrasment cases are never unsuccessful and the complainant does not withdraw them on the first available opportunity like apology!!!

    And lastly, never have I found good looking women compplaining about sexual harrasment. Never. And never have I found successful women to be not good looking, or underserving.

    Finally, there are perverts in society like CoB in Sujata’s case and they need to be weeded out with ruthless action.

    Regards,
    ( I have not meant offence to anyone and so apologies if any unintended offence)

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  • Tormentor

    @ Mr. Akhilesh….
    Disturbingly interesting as your views are…I believe you should be honored with the ‘noob-iest’ statistician of the year award. Just your attempt at trying to quantify two of the most subjective aspects of life, something called ‘Success’ and something called ‘Beauty’ exposes your immaturity and superficial level of understanding of the human mind and society.
    And I’m not even venturing into the subtleties of sex and the society here.

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