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.