#MeToo & the perils of being a working male in India today
In the year 1983, when the Indian lawmakers amended the Indian Penal Code to add section 498a (to deal with matrimonial cruelty) little would they have imagined that it would one of its most misused sections. Over the years, married men and their families were amply harassed by their wives using this section as a weapon. Thousands of false dowry cases are still pending and being filed each other to make men more compliant. In fact, in 2017, even the Supreme Court of India had to take the cognizance of the rise in several false cases under section 498a.
The #Metoo fad reminds of this trend. In today’s time, Indian workplaces are in fact becoming dangerous and unsafe for men than women. Many careers are being destroyed simply because of false cases and accusations going around.
It is more so in office cultures in India because of our own complex social system. Since Independence, women have gained more recognition and space in white collar jobs in India. Still, our society is patriarchal in nature and there are many who believe that women have not been given their due.
That our population is still incapable of gender balance and equality can be recognized from the fact how so many women support sexual assaults and even help cover up gender-related crimes. Its all in the data and so many stories you hear on regular basis.
Our workplaces are in fact reflection of our society. Men will flash their egos and expect women to play a demure role. Why? Because they have grown up in a society where sisters are too compliant and mothers always firm in the background. Many women struggle in their workplaces trying to create a niche with their acquired knowledge. They struggle because they have been brought up in a society which makes them too passive.
While it’s an achievement, it is also creating an unhealthy working environment. I will give you an example of a girl, let's call her Z. She is quite friendly with her male boss whom we will call X. Now, when X invited her for a drink outside office hours, she agreed. It boosted her image in the office. The perception built up that she is close to the boss. Now when the boss gets little extra friendly with her, let's say starts calling her every night, she gets confused. She hesitates in saying no. It is cases such as these which later blow to sexual harassment and land on your social media with a #metoo title.
Then there is the spite. Like the false dowry cases, there is a spike in false reporting of sexual misconduct in offices, just for the heck of it. It gets the complainant sympathy, vengeance, control, or whatever emotion she is looking for. The male colleague suffers isolation, demoralization, and setback in a career.
And then there is pure ambition. We know of so many women at workplaces who to further their ambitions are ready to walk that extra mile. And in case things don’t go as planned, there is always an allegation to rely upon.
I am not saying that sexual misconduct in workplaces is an issue to ignore. It’s a huge thing. But there are women in offices who are supporting this. Some by their silence and some by participation. For if X the boss is expecting something out of Z his subordinate, there have been many before her who used X as a step of the ladder of their professional achievements. Look at the film industry, where the whole #metoo thing is getting the most attention. While some might point fingers at a director or producer for their casting couch, there are many who jumped over the chance to further their agenda.
What makes it so toxic is how we all treat such crimes. The #metoo campaign also relies on the same logic. We rely on insinuations rather than a fair probe. Whenever there is a matter of sexual harassment or assault, we are too eager to judge. Hence, you see a social media post with snippets of conversation and everyone taking sides. No one is happy to read the full story. Let us just name and shame. We forget very conveniently that when we do that, by passing judgment on basis of hearsay, we are belittling every claim of sexual misconduct. False or True, the allegation just remains that; an allegation. An incomplete statement, ruining lives of people and just serving fodder to rumor mills.