Roar, young woman, roar

When I was a newbie in TV there was a guy slightly senior who spent the entire day making inappropriate suggestions, his conversation with me and a couple of the other girls always lewd, full of sexual innuendo. A simple statement like, Damn I have to go to X place and have no reservation, would result in him winking and saying, You can share my berth and we’ll have a lot of fun. In retrospect I realise he never did this in front of anyone senior to him.

None of us girls had the courage to speak up against him although we spent a fair amount of time talking about it and working out strategies to ignore him. The rest of our contemporaries would say, ‘Oh he’s harmless, just a lot of hot air, avoid him.’ Which we did. But how was he harmless when he made us all so uncomfortable, me more than others? What did happen though, was it made us unsure of our issue, we didn’t know if we were being too militant, we didn’t know if we should go to HR and complain (because the poor boy’s career would be ruined over a little joke), we didn’t know how to tell him to shut up (he had a powerful older brother in media)… and so it went. I still regret not having spoken up about it. Media offices tend to be rather casual and it would have been quite a tamasha.

Some time ago I was asked to share a room with a photographer on a shoot and I was finally strong enough to refuse, asking for my own room. Admittedly I am a mother of two but I don’t think that matters. Having to turn off the lights with a strange man I’d never even met before the shoot was something I couldn’t stomach. I lost out on that shoot and that particular publication never offered me any more work inspite of the good work I’d done for them previously. I was probably dropped as too fussy, but I’m okay with that. Would any other corporate/business send a man and a woman on a project and ask them to share a hotel room? Were they going to stand guarantee for the photographer? Would anyone have thought Tarun Tejpal would assault a young girl, one who is friends with his daughter, one whose father he is acquainted with?

There are endless cases of women being harassed at work, and media houses who stand up for the cause of the woman never stop to think of the woman working with them. Here’s hoping the Tehelka journalist stands strong and gets justice. I wish I’d had the courage to do the same.

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9 thoughts on “Roar, young woman, roar

  1. Reading this post makes me realise just how rampant this is but we all choose to ignore it or take the easy way out…i too hope the Tehelka journalist gets justice and is able to live in peace…

    I heard some of my colleagues exclaiming about a guy who loves seeing women dressed in sarees..apparently, he even openly says the office would look so colourful..luckily, this guy sits at another office..he also happens to be related to the management…it makes it all the more difficult to complain if anything untoward happens…

  2. You learnt to stand up for yourself over time, and that is what is important. Your posts are always an inspiration to me. This one is no exception.
    I have always been a shy girl who steered clear of controversies, who didn’t want to fuss too much. I did have strong opinions, always, but never really stood up when I wanted to. Of late, I have started doing that, and it has changed my world. I am glad I learnt that.

  3. Your post and the Tehelka story remind me of my stint with STAR TV, India eons ago. Big powerful bosses preying on young, eager to please, vulnerable women. It was so frikkin’ rampant. As bystanders, we talked about them endlessly in our own cliques but never stood up. We just accepted it as a culture thing- “this is what goes on when you work in the entertainment business, a highly sexualized workplace” – a senior said to me. And come to think of it, I was part of the HR team-I worked mainly on OD initiatives, not on HR policies and employee relations issues but still. Now I tell myself I was a coward back then.

    Glad you put your foot down about sharing a room. This easily can be a sexual harassment lawsuit here in the US.

  4. That publication which wanted you to share is just – as we say in Bambaiya – fultoo chindi. And I bet it charges a nice round sum too. Name and shame woman, name and shame.

      • True. But it might make one of your readers aware, and give them basis to resist, if they find themselves in the same situation with the same firm. They can then go to HR and say “Meri fraand hain na, woh MM, usne kahan nahi karo beta. Chalo chalo, doosra room do”. Come on, role-model time!

        Ok, ok – how about giving (not so subtle) clues without naming?

  5. After reading endlessly about Tarun Tejpal in the last few days and questions about why the young woman did not complain ‘earlier’, I came looking for your blog knowing that you had worked for a media house earlier/your feminist slant. And yes, it needs a lot of courage to speak up under these circumstances. I am impressed that the young woman thought so clearly about what to do next and even more, that she had the courage to speak up. Most women would brush it under the carpet and feel guilty for ever. The point again is that is all about power (sophisticated or crude).An employee under him, a girl as young as his daughter, if that is not about power, what is? I do hope she can see this through strongly and live peacefully.

  6. Hello MM,
    I completely understand. I have had bosses asking me to share rooms with my male counterparts. When I refused, I have been asked if it it because I don’t trust them. Then, I didn’t know how to explain that it wasn’t about trust but also my privacy. Of course I was friends with these colleagues, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I like my space. And I work in the diagnostic industry, so it’s not just media offices.

  7. Just read this post. And I frankly am appalled that there exists a management/HR/whatever that thinks it is *normal* for two different gender, unrelated people to share a room without awkwardness. I mean the cluelessness bordering on criminality is just staggering. Even budget cheapness has its limits. Even if you don’t name and shame, please write a strong (and *write*, don’t call) letter of criticism to the concerned management, cc’ng at least one middle and one high-level manager. So that hopefully they know that there is a protocol about these things and that people are aware of the inappropriateness of it all. Might even make them up their HR training game a bit,.

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