Hindi Film 101: #MeToo and the Responsibility of the Court of Public Opinion

This is a very long post with a lot of big thoughts and some specific examples but even if you don’t read the whole post, you should read this new rule I am instituting for #MeToo related comments: IF YOU ARE COMMENTING HERE ABOUT A #METOO STORY, YOU MUST INCLUDE A LINK BACK TO THE ORIGINAL DETAILED REPORT, OR SUMMARIZE IT FOR US.  YOU CANNOT SIMPLY GIVE A NAME WITH NO CONTEXT. If you forget, I will find the link and summarize it in a reply.  But I’ll only do that three times before I start just not printing your comments, so please try to remember.

The “MeToo” movement is a general term for women coming forward and going public with their stories of interactions with male public figures.  In many cases, these are stories that had been around for years, but no one was listening to them.  Thanks to it being the right time, and technology providing the right platform, suddenly these stories are being heard, and believed, and shared.

Generally speaking, I think we can all agree that this is a good thing.  The authorities who are supposed to deal with these problems, the internal HR departments of large corporations, the civil courts, and the police, have proven ineffective.  The only solution left is the court of public opinion.  As these stories are shared, the perpetrators everywhere are put on notice that this kind of behavior is no longer acceptable.  And other victims are encouraged that they are not alone, that they will be believed.

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(Remember Lajja?  About women with only each other to rely on because no one else will believe them?)

Where I feel the need to be more cautious is when we go from the general to the specific.  There are three things that I have noticed as being different with this go round.  The first is that often there is no court you could go to, no “legitimate authority” to provide an answer.  In general when these stories appear, the public reacts either with anger and excitement and immediate judgments.  And that’s okay, because the public can make these immediate judgments and sweeping statements, and then wait for the court or the police or whoever else to finish their investigation and learn more details and then change their minds.  Or not.  It is the job of the public to be angry enough to force action on those who are empowered to act.

But in this case, there is no second step.  The public is still reacting with the same anger and excitement, but there is no court to turn to in most of these stories.  Often the actions described are immoral, but not illegal.  There is no purpose to this anger, nothing it is driving towards, it ends up eating itself, turning into a never ending cycle of anger.  Encouraged by the internet which allows for opinions to be shared over and over again with no firm authority to turn those opinions and stories into facts and judgments.  To decide what is the debt to society and when it has been paid.

Image result for jessica lal protest

(Remember the Jessica Lal protests?  That was a powerful anger and outrage, but it was driving towards something, towards a court case and true justice.  What if there is no court case possible, what if all that is left is the anger and outrage?  Does it not still need to be transfigured into something else?)

And then there is the other side of things, the way in which the original revelations are being made.  It is wonderful that women are able to feel safe sharing their stories through online outlets like Facebook or Twitter or just sharing in the comments of a blog post.  There are thousands, millions, of stories that could not otherwise find a public forum.

However, sharing something online is not the same as sharing it in person.  Sometimes.  When a famous person shares a story online about another famous person under their own name, they know it will result in questioning and cross-questioning, in those who know them in person, family and friends, reading this painful and humiliating story.  And it will result in punishment from shared work acquaintances and perhaps mutual friends since the world of famous people is very small.  All the reasons that there are so few false accusations of sexual assault.  But when an unknown unfamous person shares a story online, they avoid much of these consequences.  They may not have the same profession, they may not know anyone in common, they may not be able to be reached (post something on Facebook and de-activate your account), and it is even possible if the story is told anonymously that their family and friends will never know.  Can they be trusted in the same way?  Should all stories be considered equal, whether it is an anonymous online post or a police report with a famous name attached?

And finally, there is the danger of stories being seen cumulatively instead of one at a time.  If there are 20 stories of a man being rude at the end of a date, and 1 story of a rape, then the rapist is still far worse than the serial rude man.  But looked at cumualitively, the rapist may be ignored since there is only one story, while the serially rude man may receive undue notice. Often all we see is “another woman comes forward to talk about _____” and we start to think that “____” is a terrible person just because so many women are talking about him.  While if there is only one headline, “_____ accuses _____” it doesn’t feel so bad.  I don’t like looking at stories cumulatively, I want to look at each one individually and decide if that particular tale rings true and what it means, and then only after that see if the stories as a whole tell a pattern and how bad that pattern is.

Image result for jeetendra rape

(Only one woman accused Jeetendra of rape, and perhaps because of that her story has been a bit buried.  There is nothing new to discuss, it was only one accusation.  But surely that one accusation, complete with detailed story and police report, is more damning to him as a person than a few women on twitter saying that Kanan Gill held their waist tightly while taking a photo with him)

What I am leading up to is that, if the only court being appealed to here is the court of public opinion, then let us be a court.  Let us look at the evidence carefully and individually and judge it.  At least, when we are talking about individuals.  Is there a major systemic issue with sexual harassment and male power?  Yes absolutely, there is massive evidence of that.  But is that enough to declare every man, individually, as guilty without considering all the details?  No, it is not.  More importantly, is that enough to declare every woman equally victimized?  Should a victim of unwelcome flirtation be given the same sympathy and resources as a victim of rape?  Should she be given the same power to speak for victims purely based on her experiences?

Someone has to look at the information and make a judgment for all these reasons, and if the public is being asked to make that judgment, then we should look at the information first and consider it and then judge.  Thus my new rule that, at least on this site, you cannot simply post a name.  You must include a summary of the accusation and/or a link back to the original source.

 

Now, I am going to take three cases from the recent purge of stories coming out of India: Vikas Bahl, Anurag Kashyap, and Chetan Bhagat.  All of them are in the wrong, but are they all in the wrong equally?  That is for us to determine.  Because there is no one else but us to do it, and that is an awesome responsibility.

Vikas Bahl:

I’ll start with the actual story.  An employee of Phantom films was with Vikas at a release party for Bombay Velvet in Goa.  She was recovering from an accident and on crutches.  She was really drunk and Vikas offered to help her back to her room.  When she got there, she really needed to pee and rushed to the bathroom.  She came out to find that Vikas had not left, he was spread out on her bed.  She asked him to leave and tried to move him, but couldn’t.  She was tired and in pain and finally built a wall of pillows between them and tried to sleep.  She woke up to find him on top of her, she pushed him off and said no and finally he masturbated on top of her and then said “Fuck you, Bitch”. She told a friend what had happened a couple of days later and went into therapy.  She was on strong anti-depressants with bad side effects and feeling suicidal for months.  At work, Bahl began to abuse her, insult her when no one could here, constantly make her run menial errands for him.  She put up with it for over a year and finally quit the company.  The friend she originally spoke to (the “outcry witness”) confirmed her story under condition of anonymity, and Anurag Kashyap’s girlfriend who is also a fellow employee of the company confirmed that she saw Vikas misbehaving at a wedding which made her believe this story.  Here is the full Huffington Post piece for your reference: https://www.huffingtonpost.in/2018/10/06/queen-director-vikas-bahl-sexually-assaulted-me-phantom-films-did-nothing-survivor-speaks-out_a_23552623/

 

So, in the court of public opinion, what do we think?  Do we believe the witnesses, and what is our judgment?

For myself, I believe this story completely.  For one thing, the woman is telling it to a reporter, someone who is questioning her and finding proof of everything she says.  For another, it includes humiliating details, not just the assault itself, but that she was drunk, that she needed to pee, that she was suicidal, all of those things that you might choose to keep out if you were consciously building a narrative rather than telling the simple truth.

And there are multiple people confirming her story.  Not just saying that they experienced something similar, but confirming her story in particular, outcry witnesses and friends who saw her disintegrating.  This story has the ring of verifiable absolute fact.

Image result for vikas bahl

(Vikas also looks kind of creepy in photos, which is definitely not evidence one way or the other)

So, what is my judgement?  Well, Bahl is a rapist.  And an experienced one.  He didn’t accidentally wander into this situation, he picked out a weakened victim (injured and drunk) and tricked her into letting him into her hotel room.  And he knew what he did, he spent months demeaning her so she wouldn’t feel able to tell her truth.  He deserves jail time for what he did, it was in fact a crime and most likely a crime he had done before and will do again.  He certainly should never be placed in a position again where he has authority over women, meaning he should never be given another directing job.

 

Anurag Kashyap:

The attack by Bahl happened in May of 2015.  The victim told Anurag (her direct supervisor) what happened in late October while picking him up from the airport and he said “I don’t want to hear this”.  He seemingly did nothing, and even assigned her to work with Bahl on a short project after that.  Kashyap does not dispute this, he says he was drunk and depressed during the original conversation and honestly has no memory of it. It wasn’t until March of 2017, after she had resigned from the company, that she received a text from Kashyap’s girlfriend promising they would look into this.  Kashyap then told her that they could not simply fire Bahl because of the way the partnership contract was structured.  He asked her to file a police report to give him grounds.  He also said that removing Kashyap would mean killing the whole company.  He went back and forth with the woman, asking her to go to the media or file a police report, telling her to make the decision while she just wanted him to decide.  He now says he was wrong to set up a company without understanding contracts and contingencies, he was wrong not to do something much sooner, he was wrong all through and he is deeply deeply sorry.  As of now, Kashyap is killing the company to remove Bahl.

 

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The Huffington Post article and the quotes from the victim imply that perhaps she was used in a partnership dispute.  Starting in February of 2017, Kashyap seemed to distance himself from his partners, and he kept pushing the victim to go to the media or the police, like it was her responsibility to do something, like he wanted her to do something just so he could cut Bahl loose.

However, I don’t have to agree with the Huffington Post or the victim’s perspective on the situation, I can look at the information available to me and make up my own mind.  Kashyap says he was so drunk and miserable and out of it after Bombay Velvet failed that he has no memory of that original conversation.  The victim says that she only told him once and it was in a car on the way back from the airport.  I believe her completely, but that also means it was an odd situation and moment that would be easy for Kashyap to forget.  Not a two hour debrief in his office, but in a car after getting off an airplane.  And she doesn’t say she spoke to him again about it.  Which, why should she?  Such a painful story, you would only want to go over it once.  But again, that means it would be possible for Kashyap to simply not remember the conversation.  And it is a matter of public record that Kashyap was extremely depressed after the failure of Bombay Velvet, at one point he even posted a public statement threatening to move to France.

Kashyap should not have been running a company and responsible for his employees while drunk and depressed and not paying attention.  He should have structured the company in the first place in such a way that there was someone else the woman could have spoken to, like an HR department.  And you would hope that even drunk and possibly jetlagged, he would have snapped to attention while hearing this story and made a point of remembering it instead of letting it fall out of his brain.

The Huff post story says that it was in February that the partners started falling apart and implies that the decision to do something about the accusation in March was related to that.  But Kashyap and his girlfriend Shetty both say that she witnessed Bahl’s misbehavior at a party in December and started doubting him and nagging Kashyap to do something.  Which fits just as well with the timeline, that by January/February Kashyap knew Bahl was an attacker and distanced himself because of that.  It also fits that the victim resigned in January, which could have helped confirm Kashyap’s doubts.

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(Kind of an interesting coincidence that the movie which threads through this whole story is about a female victim of abuse looking for salvation)

Once Kashyap and Shetty believed her story and wanted to do something, they said they couldn’t because Bahl was a partner, the only way to get him out would be to dissolve the company.  Again, the Huff Post story and the victim imply doubt that this was the real reason.  But on the other hand, Phantom is actually dying now.  Surely if they were lying, they would have found another way to get rid of Bahl than actually killing the company.

There is a lot of livelihoods at stake, yet everyone is with you and want to do the right thing. You will decide the punishment and even if you sympathize , he will still have to go… we just don’t want to be suicidal, that fuck it, let’s kill Phantom.. we want to correct it and set an example.

(Message from Kashyap to the victim.  Notice he goes back and forth between wanting to save Phantom and being clear that Bahl is in the wrong and must go.  Both these emotions can be true together)

They also tried to put responsibility on the victim, to go to the media, to file a police report.  And that is wrong, it was their responsibility to do what they could to cleanse their company.  She had done enough and waited long enough for action.  But that is in the past, as of right now they are, finally, taking responsibility.  Not just killing the company and speaking to the media about Bahl, but actually saying the words “it was my responsibility and I am so sorry”.

None of this takes away from the wrong that has been done and perhaps never will.  I am better aware today to not allow ourselves to be in a similar place ever again.  I am deeply, truly sorry to the woman in question and she has known this all this while.  This will never happen again on my work premises ever again.

(The closing of his full statement in response to the Huff post article)

So, what is our final judgement?  For myself, I find Kashyap guilty of being a terrible manager and businessman, so bad that he should not have tried to set up a company and in fact created an environment where such abuses could happen.  I find him guilty of avoidance, trying to force the victim to do what he should have done himself.  And I find him guilty of loving his company more than the people in it, trying to save the company over the people.

But I find him also an example.  Because he is accepting guilt and responsibility and repenting.  And his sins, for me, are things that can be repented.  He may have been a terrible manager and businessman who created this environment, but now he is trying to change that by publicly modeling the right way to handle these disputes and taking responsibility for his part in this.  He tried to force the victim to take responsibility, file a police report and so on.  But he is now taking that responsibility back, loudly and clearly saying that he was wrong and should have acted far sooner.  And finally, he has in fact killed his company, a healthy company that let him have the creative freedom he always wanted, and he is doing the right thing and killing it in order to save future victims and do right by past victims.

I’m not going to say Kashyap is “innocent”, but he is not a bad man, he does not belong in the same category as Bahl to me.

 

Chetan Bhagat:

I’m picking Bhagat at random because he comes with screen shots, making it very easy for us to look at actual evidence.  A female journalist posted these screen shots of a series of exchanges someone anonymous had with him giving the background only of of “For context the person in question is a journalist he had only met in a professional capacity.” (original tweet link: here)

Here are the actual screenshots:

Chetan

Bhagat

Read the whole screenshot.  And think about it carefully.  Note not just the words, but the time stamps showing the rapid responses and that it is late at night.  And notice that we have no confirmation that this was the entire conversation, no way of knowing what went before or after.

As I read it, she is remaining neutral, not really saying she is interested or definitively telling him to leave her alone, which is what you do when you have to be polite and get through the conversation.  If this were in a situation where she couldn’t leave, if they were stuck in an elevator together or forced to work together, or if she was a waitress and he was a customer, then I would be unhappy with him for what he says.  Or if he was an employer, a relative, someone with some kind of power over her.  But this is over the phone.  She could end the conversation at any point simply by ending the conversation.  Don’t reply, block him, technology is there to help, they are not in physical proximity.  And there are different social rules for technology because of this, if someone keeps the conversation going that alone tells you they are not as offended as they could be.  She replies within a minute of his message with open statements, not “stop messaging me” or “I am going to sleep now”.  And we only get ten minutes of the conversation, with no idea what happened before or after.

That isn’t to say that this couldn’t be some kind of abuse.  Maybe there is context we don’t have where Chetan threatened to end her career if she wasn’t nice to him.  Maybe their in person interaction was scary for her.  We don’t know.

The only thing given to us, the public court, is two screenshots with no name attached to them and no idea who they were related to.  There is no further context provided to help us make our decision as to what is happening.  It becomes a Rorschach test, if you have experienced aggressive texting from people you could not be rude to, you see it as under duress.  If you have not, you see it as casual flirting.

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(It’s like this young lady or old woman picture.  It tells you more about your own perspective and expectations than what is actually on the page)

That isn’t to say Bhagat is “right”.  He is a married man, and he is sending flirtatious texts to a woman he just met.  That’s wrong.  But I don’t know that it is any of our business?  If he wasn’t married, and if the woman was interested, this wouldn’t be wrong.  He met her in a professional setting, but does that mean you aren’t allowed to follow up and try to make the professional personal?  It doesn’t say he was her boss or anything like that, they just first met through work.  Half the couples I know first met through work.

He is married, so he is breaking a covenant he made with his wife (probably, we don’t know their marriage) and the general social contract which says married men will keep their distance.  For me, that is the only thing I see as wrong here.

Image result for chetan bhagat shaadi.com

(And he will probably lose his endorsement deal with Shaadi.com, which seems like a fair punishment to me)

If that is the sin, what is my judgement?  Well, for me, my judgement is that it means Bhagat is not flawless.  And that is hardly a surprise to me, because I don’t assume anyone is flawless.  But it might be a surprise for other people, and that is his judgement, for everyone in the world to now know that he isn’t perfect.

 

So, what do we have here in our grab bag of #MeToo stories?  We have a dangerous rapist and abuser who should be locked up where he cannot harm anyone else.  We have a weak man who became a collaborator by incompetence and now regrets it and is trying to do better.  And we have a celebrity who we now know is not flawless.

What good is this doing?  I think all three stories serve a good purpose, but very different purposes.  Bahl, he is the simplest, women need to be warned about him for their own safety and now they have been.  That is a definite good.

Anurag, he is a cautionary tale, he is the man who didn’t actively do anything wrong but didn’t do anything right either and now is trying to do better.  Men of the world should take note of him, learn from his mistakes and do things right in the first place.

(It’s worth it to read Anurag’s statement in full.  It truly is an object lesson in how there are more than one factor in solving these problems.  For instance, the victim’s boyfriend became involved late in the discussion with his own feelings about the situation)

Chetan Bhagat, he has shown himself to be flawed.  And that is a good thing.  Public figures, especially male public figures, are too often seen to be flawless.  It leads to blind belief and blind following of them.  A pop culture celebrity being blindly believed and worshiped isn’t necessarily that dangerous, but the same habit of belief easily translates to more dangerous arenas, political powers who actually guide society.  If people now know Chetan Bhagat isn’t perfect, perhaps it will make them less able to believe anyone is perfect, more likely to question, and that is a good thing.

 

One final comment, a reminder really, India is now very excited about women posting interactions with public figures in media.  But while public figures in media may be very exciting to read about, they do not hold the real power.  And those who do hold the real power have been not just accused in twitter images but in actual court cases.  This is not a problem of Indian media, or the upperclass people who share stories on twitter, but a problem of the whole country top to bottom.  (from a report from the Association for Democratic Reforms, full updated details here as of the most recent election):

Highlights of the report

  • 6 MLAs have declared that they have charges of rape against themselves in their sworn affidavits submitted with the Election Commission of India at the time of their election.
  • Of these 6 MLAs with declared rape cases, 3 are from SP namely Sribhagwan Sharma, Anoop Sanda and Manoj Kumar Paras from Uttar Pradesh, 1 from BSP namely Mohd. Aleem Khan from Uttar Pradesh, 1 of BJP namely Jethabhai G.Ahir from Gujarat and 1 of TDP namely Kandikunta Venkata Prasad from Andhra Pradesh.
  • 36 other MLAs have declared that they have other charges of crimes against women such as outraging the modesty of a woman, assault, insulting the modesty of a woman etc.
  • Of the 36 MLAs who have declared that they have charges of crimes against women, 6 MLAs are from INC , 5 from BJP and 3 from SP.
  • U.P. has the maximum number of MLAs (8) who have declared that they have charges of crimes against women, followed by Orissa and West Bengal with 7 MLAs each.
  • 2 MPs, namely Semmalai S of ADMK from Salem constituency in Tamil Nadu and Adhikari Suvendu of AITC from Tamluk constituency in West Bengal, have declared that they have charges of crimes against women, such as cruelty and intent to outrage a woman’s modesty etc.

 

For all of these reasons, I want to maintain a sane court of public opinion and not contribute to it.  I don’t want excitement over big names and weak accusations to blind us to the realities of Indian society where a rape case is a stepping stone to a political career.  And I don’t want it to stop us from being able to use our brains and consider situations individually.

 

THEREFORE!!!!   IF YOU ARE COMMENTING HERE ABOUT A #METOO STORY, YOU MUST INCLUDE A LINK BACK TO THE ORIGINAL DETAILED REPORT.  YOU CANNOT SIMPLY LIST A NAME WITHOUT LETTING US JUDGE THE CIRCUMSTANCES. If you forget, I will remind you.  If you still do not post the link, I will post it.  If you do this more than three times, I will not allow you to post any more #MeToo related content until you add links.

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27 thoughts on “Hindi Film 101: #MeToo and the Responsibility of the Court of Public Opinion

  1. I think you’re asking the wrong questions but it’s not just you. It’s also our culture in the US and in India that defaults to arguments about whether to believe victims (I say victims because men are also victimized and have even more incentive not to go public) and also degrees of victimization. The conversation needs to be much bigger and talk about how we design institutions that protect everyone, both women and men who are targets of sexual harassment and assault and women and men who may be falsely accused.

    The baseline presumption has to be whenever you have a situation where someone has power over another person, some of those powerful people will become abusers. And therefore given that assumption you design systems that help prevent abuse and swiftly address allegations of abuse when it does occur.

    The problem now is we litigate every allegation on an individual basis with endless circular conversations about whether you find individual people credible. But without a clear structure for addressing these issues the conversations never land anywhere decisive unless you have a situation like with Weinstein and Cosby where criminal charges are possible.

    Another big issue is the powerful men and women who are not abusers but could lead the change on a bigger level for better structures and accountability. They aren’t speaking up. Amitabh, the Khans, and other powerful people who presumably don’t harass women on movie sets could come out strong and say here is what I’m doing to make sure women are treated respectfully and not abused and set the tone for the industry. But they aren’t doing it.

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    • Let me put it this way. I am taking it as a given that there is a larger conversation needed about institutional changes, and that is what Anurag’s statement referred to as well (you should read it if you haven’t, it’s interesting in terms of discussing the legalities of how studios are set up and the way artists are giving managerial responsibility without having any idea what they are doing). That’s the point of my first section, these stories are valuable and important when talked about cumulatively.

      However, if we are going to talk about them individually, which seems inevitably part of the conversation, then I want each individual instance discussed to be truly individual. It is one thing to say “there is a massive structural issue with accountability”. But it is something else to say, “as proof of that, let me list off with no context a group of names”.

      This is one of those posts I wouldn’t have bothered with if I weren’t also hosting a public forum. I want to make sure the conversation here, at a place I can control, is fruitful rather than empty. So either you talk in generalities about society and responsibility, or you talk in specifics about particular people with details of exactly what happened. But you don’t talk in generalities about particular people, because that gets us nowhere. Does that make sense?

      If the end result of this post is everyone going “talking about people in particular is exhausting and boring, I would rather talk about generalities!”, then I will be thrilled, that is what I would prefer to talk about as well.

      On Mon, Oct 8, 2018 at 11:54 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I’d rather talk about generalities not because individual stories are boring but because they devolve into a referendum on an individual’s character. Which isn’t useful because garbage people are victimized too which doesn’t make the victimization any less awful. And people who are nice in other contexts can also be abusers.

        I had a high school teacher who was very popular, kind, funny…and had sex with a boy in his class who was vulnerable because of family abuse. The teacher confessed to it on videotape in a sting set up by the board of education and the victim more than a decade after it happened.

        I know you agree on this but to explicitly state it: we need a system where protecting victims doesn’t depend on them being “nice” people and being “nice” doesn’t absolve abusers from the consequences of their behavior.

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        • Going back to the last point, that is what I don’t really have a solution for but am aware of in the Indian context, that we are seeing this spat of stories about celebrities, being spread by people who are at the upper level of society (because they have access to the resources to share these stories). But, is this a good system to address abuses by less famous people towards less powerful people? I think it is in America, because internet access is so much more widely spread, as is literacy and everyone speaks the same language (literally), so you could theoretically post a statement about a teacher on a high school facebook group and get attention for what happened to you. But I am not sure if this particular system will be catching, for instance, the maid that Shiney Ahuja raped. And I am not necessarily sure that the people who are very upset about the stories being spread by educated upperclass people would pay equal attention to stories being told by less “nice” people. I could be wrong of course, but it’s something I am concerned about.

          I don’t have an answer for this at all, just a statement that I don’t think social media sharing is going to be the silver bullet that solves all harassment in India. And that I am a little worried about the kinds of invisible harassment losing attention and resources towards the more visible kinds. It may not be a problem in the end, , but it is something I am a bit concerned about.

          Anyway, whenever anyone is very excited about something (#MeToo is a solution for all sexual harassment, Padmavat is a brilliant movie, etc. etc.) I start having a big warning “caution! caution!” light in my head and begin looking for flaws.

          Also, I have no idea how you do bolds in comments and I am very impressed by it.

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          • With regards to #MeToo in the US, the internet is a great way for people who wouldn’t otherwise get their stories heard to reach people but it’s not a substitute for building equitable systems (to say the least, look at poor Dr. Ford and all the other women getting dragged through the mud).

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          • One systemic thing that I am very aware of is that the current economy is very friendly towards sexual harassment. The norm is now “contract” work which is really just an at will employment with no security or benefits or anything else. And the whole company you work for is under contract as well, some small place ruled by one person with no one above them to complain to because they just hold a contract with a larger company that holds a contract with an even bigger company and on and on and on.

            I haven’t experienced sexual harassment myself, but I’ve experienced pretty much every other employer abuse. Missed wages, no breaks, no paid vacation, no paid sick days, etc. etc. And if we complained, we could be fired without cause or unemployment pay or anything like that, because we were never really “hired” (the curse of the W9 employee). Or more likely we would just suddenly stop being scheduled for shifts. I had a co-worker who the manager casually openly talked about how he stopped scheduling him because he didn’t like him. Nothing wrong with his work, the manager just didn’t like him, so he removed his name from the schedule except for two days a month. But also there was no one to complain to, because we were working for these tiny companies who had their own contracts with larger companies, or else who were small hobby businesses for rich people (I had another co-worker who complained about being expected to work 80 hours a week, and the response was to buy her an air mattress for the office so she could sleep there). No HR department, no corporate contracts, none of that. I didn’t even think of it as odd until I was talking with a friend who works for Target HR and everything is formalized and clear and if anything goes wrong, you complain to her and she fixes it. Amazing! I’d never heard of such a thing at the jobs I was working at!

            Almost every millennial I know is working these kinds of jobs, no security at all and no recourse if something goes wrong. When I hear the stories from the film industry in particular, almost any film industry from anywhere, that is what feels similar, it’s an industry that has always been contract to contract with enormous power given to the one who holds your contract.

            On Mon, Oct 8, 2018 at 3:57 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I read an interview with Jane Fonda in the New Yorker and she said that once you learn more about one kind of injustice, you realize that all injustices are intertwined, and that includes economic justice. I agree that the climate that sustains misogyny also makes economic exploitation the norm. I’m a Gen Xer and I’m horrified whenever anyone my age criticizes Millennials. When I graduated from college I had a job with benefits, my own apartment with no roommate and was able to pay off my student loans in New York City. That is gone now. I’m scared for my son’s future.

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          • Oh, I’m just assuming I graduated at the worst possible time! Just you wait, ten years from now tuition will be back to normal and there will be some better system for health care and I will be that old lady wandering around saying “when I got out of college we didn’t have all those fancy ‘jobs’ and ‘doctor’s appts’ and luxuries like you kids have!”

            What I noticed is when your expectations become so low from your employer, like you are grateful when they pay you on time, that it is easy to stop having expectations in other ways. Of course college loans are impossible to pay off, of course rent is too high, of course you can’t afford insurance, that’s just the way the world works. And if all those things are true, you just sort of accept other kinds of abuse from those in power as part of the norm too.

            On Mon, Oct 8, 2018 at 6:28 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. Following your rule and posting the link to the article with the original post: https://www.pinkvilla.com/entertainment/news/chetan-bhagat-accused-sexual-harassment-yet-again-journalist-read-details-428127. Would love your thoughts on Chetan Bhagwan given this new information. Especially regarding your comment “If this were a situation where she couldn’t leave … or forced to work together… then I would be unhappy with him for what he says.

    To me, while I agree that each instance needs to be critically evaluated, with most people who use their power unethically (whether it is to (1) make the other person feel inferior or powerless, (2) sexually harass or (3) rape) there is usually a pattern. And patterns shows a person’s behavioral tendency. That is not to say a one off instance is not to be given the credibility it deserves.

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    • Thank you! I really appreciate the link, and I immediately went over to read it. It does sound like a pattern, in that I would still say the first one is potentially innocent, or at least not that bad. But I would say the second one is not, and combined with the second, it sounds like he has done it multiple times, and if that is the case, if this is his standard operating procedure, probably most of those times it was on the sleazier end of things.

      And yes, exactly, I will always pessimistically expect a pattern. But I will try to not assume a pattern (if you see the difference?) until one appears. Expect, but not assume.

      So I’m not exactly surprised to find out Chetan is a serial creep, but I also don’t want to go back and change my opinion in this post, because based on the evidence I had, that was correct. Anyway, I think that’s what you are saying too, just wanted to say it in a different way to make sure we were saying the same thing.

      Oh, and my thoughts about Chetan are that he is creepy, and also an idiot! He rushed out an apology statement saying it was one time blah blah. Why would you say that if you knew perfectly well it wasn’t just one time??? SO DUMB!!!!!

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      • Also said he was sorry MOST OF ALL to his wife. Which is such a douche-y thing to say. In a pubic apology directed towards the woman he exchanged those texts with. Not to mention the way he thought she’d be FLATTERED if he told her she was one of 4-5 people whose IQ was high enough for his tastes. Ugh. A creep who thinks he’s being all feminist-y, which is exactly what he thinks his apology is conveying too.

        Have you read about Tanmay Bhat? I agree he was complicit in continuing to hire an alleged harasser, but I don’t like how he’s been burned at the stake simply because he’s more accessible than congresspeople or movie producers. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/metoo-continues-to-haunt-aib-tanmay-bhat-to-step-away-says-comedy-group/articleshow/66119810.cms

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        • If he wanted to apologize to his wife, he could have just apologized to her. Making it a public thing immediately makes me angry at that kind of apology. Because clearly you AREN’T apologizing to your wife, you are trying putting on a performance for the public. Why insult our intelligence and pretend otherwise? Kashyap’s statement was just slightly different, it wasn’t an apology directed to the individual, it was a general apology and acknowledgement of his actions, kind of a public shaming. Chetan’s just sounds like a PR move.

          Speaking of, thanks for the AIB link! I can see their instinct, to just cut out the cancer as quickly as possible and try to save what remains. It also makes me think either their contracts are a lot less ironclad than Phantom’s (possible) or they agreed to some kind of a buy out and mutual arrangement to get rid of these members. I’d prefer a messy complete destruction like Vikas Bahl to this clean and quick and (probably) fairly painless solution.

          On Mon, Oct 8, 2018 at 7:16 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • He had no ownership in AIB. He was just another employee. Maybe even freelancer.

            I agree 100% on Chetan Bhagat’s apology being all performance.

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  3. This was the first #MeToo style case in India to come to national attention in India post Nirbhaya but a couple years before the hashtag #MeToo was coined. Sexual harassment and abuse of power in the workplace. The irony, as with many such cases in America, is that the workplace in question was a hardhitting investigative journalism newspaper, just the kind of establishment that would normally be at the forefront of investigating cases like this.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/17/indian-editor-tarun-tejpal-charged-rape-sexual-abuse

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    • Thank you! We were just talking about patterns, and it is interesting how there are all these stories that were one day wonders and then disappeared, and no one put them together into a pattern. It was the same in America, many of the #MeToo accusations had been around for years, but no one put them together or paid attention to them until suddenly they did.

      Since we are looking at old cases, what was the reaction to the initial arrest of Asaram Bapu? Was there any kind of self-questioning or anything like that? That’s the case that fascinates me, and it also seemed to come right at the cusp of this movement. And it’s also in that part of Indian culture that I can’t access from the outside. I can understand the universality of the ability of spiritual leaders to abuse their followers, but beyond that I feel like I am missing some factors.

      (following my own rule, here is the link: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/asaram-bapu-indian-guru-rape-conviction-who-is-he-following-spiritual-leader-ashrams-a8321246.html )

      On Mon, Oct 8, 2018 at 9:07 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. Agree with Alisa’s point completely. #MeToo serves its purpose, kinda similar to the South Africa Truth Commission. But I’m personally more interested in thinking about how we do things differently moving forward, especially considering that the standard “beyond a reasonable doubt” is almost never achievable in these cases unless a videotape or eyewitness is involved.
    Here’s an example of a different way of doing things. In my early twenties, my friend was molested by her GYN during an exam. It’s an extremely vulnerable position, replete with plausible deniability because the GYN claimed all his actions were part of the exam. So I decided back then that I will always ask for a nurse or PA to be present in any exam where the doctor is touching me or examining my person, regardless of if the doctor is a man or woman. Some doctors are caught off guard, but most are fine with it. Decades later, I’m surprised that it’s still something I have to ask for, it should be automatically provided. It protects both the doctor and the patient. Unless the nurse is in cahoots with the doctor, then it’s worse for the patient, because the eyewitness will say nothing happened.
    Another thing I think should change, at both the institutional level and the societal level, is the excuse of alcohol or substances. In the usa at least, when you drive, if you cause an accident and you are drunk or under the influence of a drug while doing it, society considers that worse than causing an accident while sober, and laws & verdicts & sentencing penalize you much further for doing the same while under the influence. Meanwhile, if you rape, molest, harass, or threaten while drunk or under the influence, people excuse you with “oh he was drunk, he didn’t know what he was doing, he would have never done that sober, he didn’t even remember doing it.” And maybe you end up with a lighter sentence, or none at all, because it isn’t viewed as an intentional crime.
    My opinion is the opposite. Alcohol and substance use bears a personal responsibility. Not everyone rapes when they are drunk. I know I don’t. But if you are the kind of person who engages in violence of any form while drunk or taking drugs, then you should not take alcohol, or at least severely limit your drinking such that you don’t reach the stage of drunkenness. As a society we should be disgusted by people who commit violence while drunk, instead of excusing them as merely having been drunk. And legally, violent crime committed while drunk or under the influence should carry a heavier penalty than the equivalent circumstances sober. And if you’ve been convicted in the past of violent crime while drunk and you do it again, then you clearly have no respect for society, and so perhaps your right to owning and/or ingesting alcohol should be revoked, bars should not be allowed to have you on the premises and police should be able to arrest you for possession.

    To give an example, I’ve posted a link below to an example where the sentence was considered severely low by popular opinion – some think it’s in part because of alcohol (i.e. He would have never done this sober and he was so drunk that he has no memory of doing it) and in part because of white male ivy league privilege and that the white male judge had a similar ivy league background.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2016/06/stanford-sexual-assault-letters/485837/

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    • I like your example of asking for a second party to be present during exams. It reminds me of the standard policy at my church for the children’s classrooms, there always have to be two teachers present and they cannot be related to each other, and the door always has to be open. Which is a pretty simple set of rules, and it’s not like we’ve ever had any issues with any kind of abuse of children, but now we don’t have to worry about it. If anything happens, even a fight between kids, there are two unrelated adult witnesses. And just keeping the door open tells everyone that you have nothing to hide.

      I hope that is where this conversation goes, I think common sense preventive policies can help in lots of ways beyond the obvious prevention opportunity, for one thing giving a general social sense that it is the responsibility of everybody to make sure these things don’t happen again, not just the perpetrator.

      I agree about the alcohol defense. And I wish the public service campaigns and so on would take more of the attitude there is towards drunk driving now. It’s now expected that you stop a friend from driving home, or even a stranger if you have to. Why not have the same attitude towards stopping a friend from going off alone with a woman?

      On Mon, Oct 8, 2018 at 9:58 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. ‘.. But in this case, there is no second step.  The public is still reacting with the same anger and excitement, but there is no court to turn to in most of these stories.  Often the actions described are immoral, but not illegal.  There is no purpose to this anger..’ I disagree with this statement. In the media industry specifically, reputation or brand is usually the biggest factor. Taking AIB as an example, their credibility as an organisation that furthers feminist causes & other liberal ideas are completely destroyed now. Technically, it is one comedian’s immoral activities but the consequences are that AIB top boss has to step aside, their show with Hotstar is cancelled,Mumbai Filmfest has dropped their show & most importantly the brand AIB has taken a severe hit. This is going to taint anything they have done in the past & anything they choose to do in the future. I would think those are very good next steps. It also sets an example of caution for all the big media, entertainment houses & people to not take things & people for granted. Rajat Kapoor has apologised for his misconduct. All those high profile accused will have to react in one way or the other because in one instant it’s all in the public domain now. Sometimes that’s all the victim expects also-an apology, an acknowledgment that they were treated badly by so & so & that fame does not give anyone the previlage to disrespect anyone. Of course in more serious cases, the court of law & due procedures follow. So I don’t agree that there are no second steps to this movement.

    The movement also demonstrates the power of social media. Digital records from past that you thought as innocuous flirtation texts can be shared in an instant with the world. Not to mention the feeling of making your voice heard instantly. Filmmaker Vinta Nandha who has accused actor Alok Nath of rape, mentions the same. She has been a victim of abuse for 20 years & we would never have heard this story if not for the current environment of social media.
    https://www.firstpost.com/entertainment/alok-nath-sexually-abused-and-violated-me-20-years-ago-but-norm-was-to-stay-silent-filmmaker-vinta-nanda-tells-firstpost-5341421.html

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    • One thing I have noticed in the #MeToo movement everywhere is that it is the people/groups that have an identity of being liberal and feminist which take the biggest hits. Because their audience cares more/is more aware. Does that make sense? So AIB is scrambling, but I’m not sure if, oh, some southern director famous for sexy heroines and tough heroes would take as big of a hit in their career because their audience may not be as aware of the story, or care as much if they heard it.

      Thanks for the Alok Nath link! That’s a messy one. As in, it brings in the way women might stay quiet because they know the person and their family, how a man with a particular kind of reputation might make people protect him more, how a woman might be willing to put herself in danger again and that does not change the reality that it was and is assault. I like the messy ones, because they remind us that life is messy and we need to accept that instead of expecting the “perfect” victim and the “perfect” crime.

      On Mon, Oct 8, 2018 at 11:22 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • To answer the question consequences on liberal v/s conservative harasser, the accusations on lyricist Vairamuthu down south has to be followed. He’s a legend, National award winning poet,a frequent collaborator of A R Rahman & in company of several powerful politicians & a Dravidian face that Tamilians strongly identify with. If not anything there will be paid goons to defend him & shush things. Chinmayi Sripada is a well known singer too with s big career to lose. But now that the allegations are out in the open, don’t know which way it will go.

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        • It will be an interesting one to follow. Especially the indication that it is an open secret, meaning there might be more people coming forward, and there will be guilt by association if everyone knew and did nothing. Which gives another motive to downplay things and keep it quiet. Keep me updated if you can, since I am no good at southern news sources.

          On Tue, Oct 9, 2018 at 12:02 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  6. And now it’s Rajat Kapoor, disappointing.

    https://www.scoopwhoop.com/filmmaker-rajat-kapoor-issues-apology-accused-of-sexual-misconduct/#.sa49cg5ys

    His response on Twitter (at the bottom) is just awful, creepy and disingenuous, like he didn’t know he was harassing people (3 accused so far) and now will “try harder” not to. Or, he’s a good person so he couldn’t have harassed anyone. I don’t know what he was trying to do.

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  7. I m totally for #metoo movement and let the skeletons come out.

    But is it fair that an entire company having 100s of employees should suffer /shut down because of misdeeds of boss.

    Phantom closed down due to vikas bahl what about 100s of employees working.

    Similarly director of aib film was working on it for 5 + years .y should his work go waste if the producer is incompetent on handling issues.

    Also is hritik etc are in fault tht director of his next movie turned out to be a rapost.its a thin lime with no solutions visible ,bit I hope some sort of solution. Does come out

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    • Phantom is tricky, because ultimately it had to shut down, it was Vikas’s company, unless he was willing to do a buy out of his share (also not great, because essentially he would be given a huge pay off instead of being fired and shamed). Anything short of dissolving the whole company would still give him the ability to stroll in and out of the offices and use their resources and prestige to help him attack more women. Not to mention his partners would have to go to work every day aware that they were working with a predator. The only answer was to shut it down.

      I’ll be curious what happens to Hrithik’s movie now that he has come out against Vikas. (link: http://www.bollywoodhungama.com/news/bollywood/breaking-hrithik-roshan-blasts-super-30-maker-vikas-bahl-sexual-exploitation-charges-refuses-work/)

      Hrithik is still culpable, there is record of the Mumbai Mirror story Anurag put out long before Super 30 was planned, and it supports Anurag’s claim that he was warning people away from Vikas back then. So it is hard to believe Hrithik didn’t know anything and still chose to work with Vikas. Perhaps he didn’t believe it because of the similar issues he was dealing with. Now though I think Super 30 has finished shooting or close to it. Hrithik could never work a day more with Vikas and still release the film. But releasing it means Vikas benefits from it both financially and professionally. Do you refuse to support the film (as Hrithik could do, just refuse to show up at promotional events and so on) and therefore kill it as punishment for Vikas? But then that also punishes everyone else who worked on the film. It’s an interesting conversation to have and I don’t necessarily have an easy answer.

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