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Khushboo Sharma

IWB Blogger

The Apologies Have Come In Too late & Look Like PR Exercises: Aparnna Hajirnis On #MeTooIndia

  • IWB Post
  •  October 9, 2018

Entertainment journalist Aparnna Hajirnis started calling out AIB way back in 2014, a time when the platform was in its prime and nobody had a whiff of the real side of its woke boy feminists.

“I never really bought the entire “wokeness” and feminism of AIB. I have been calling them out since long because I have always known there was toxic culture brewing in AIB,” says Aparnna.

Thus, no wonder that today she stands as the few who helped #MeToo gain its momentum in India. In a recent conversation that we had with Aparnna, she talked about how she became one of the patrons of the #MeToo movement in India, how she envisions it progressing from here, and how it can sustain in India.

Here are excerpts from our interaction:

What drove you to facilitate the #MeToo movement in India and call in women to share their stories with you and subsequently with the world?

I wanted more and more women to come out and talk about their experiences. But I have seen that they didn’t have an outlet, they didn’t know whom to trust, they didn’t know how to go about it. That’s when I realised that I have to step up and provide a platform to these women so that they could talk. I wanted to provide them with a safe space where their trust was not betrayed and that’s when I decided that let me go about it.

How did you imagine #MeToo going to India? Is it in line with the direction it has actually taken?

I am glad about the direction that it is taking right now, I am happy that it has gained momentum, I am happy that men are being called out for their problematic behavior.

There have always been blurry lines on consent and people are confused about what appropriate behavior is and what is not and I am glad that the conversations have started on that note. Things that we brushed aside earlier by saying things like he is probably just new at it or he probably doesn’t know how to talk to women are now being addressed. I don’t think that kind of behavior should be discounted and that’s exactly what’s happening.

As an entertainment journalist, you are literally one of the insiders. How surreal is it to watch men you have known being called out publically? 

A lot of journalists have been called out, comedians have been called out, poets have been called out. I am glad that women have finally found a voice.

In fact, what I really want right now is that the entertainment industry should be purged. I really want people to share experiences because I know that they exist. I know that there are predatory men in entertainment and I want these men to be called out but these are not my stories to tell and I cannot force women to share. More and more stories should be coming out and like I said my DMs are always open for everyone to share.

With the stepping down of Prashant Jha and so many others, it looks like the movement is yielding real results. What are your expectations from the movement now?

I want women to be heard, their experiences to be heard. Secondly, I do not want men to think that they can get away with everything. I don’t want men to think that they can get away with their problematic behavior or the yeh chalta hai attitude. That has to stop, they have to start respecting women, their thoughts, and their choices. It’s not just enough being “woke” and then going back and doing the same shit in real life. It’s not just about being politically correct but also inculcating whatever you believe in your behavior.

And I also just hope that this movement is not just restricted to social media, journalism, and Bollywood. I want women from all walks of life to come out and talk about their experiences. Of course, there is no pressure but they should at least be provided with a platform to share their experience.

Last few days have taken a toll on everyone, especially women. We see so many of them quitting social media just so they can regain their balance. You are literally reading each and every one of these jarring testimonies which must be really exhausting. How are you keeping a check on your mental health amidst it all? Are you giving some advice to the women approaching you?

Since I am neither a lawyer nor a mental health expert, I am not advising them anything. I am just providing them with a platform to vent out. As for me, I am Indulging in things that I enjoy like ice creams, TV, and conversation with friends.

More importantly, I have been getting into a conversation with my male friends and telling them what is appropriate and what is not. Some of them are calling me and asking questions, a lot of them have been introspecting their behavior. They want to know if they have erred in any way in dealing with women.

We are presented with a new counter-point and new way of counter-questioning every time a new #MeToo story comes up. Do you find value in any of these counterpoints?

I have watched a show called “How To Get Away With Murder.” It just shows how to get away with a murder but that doesn’t mean that there are not murders committed, right?

If there are men who have gotten away with rape that doesn’t mean that you should not raise a voice about it about it. If there exists a law people constantly seek a way to dodge it. But just because there exists a counter argument for each of your arguments doesn’t mean you will stop speaking on it.

After being called out, a lot of men have come up with elaborately crafted apologies which are highly verbose and still seem to miss the point. How do you think should they be approached? 

I think they probably got instructions from their PR and legal teams. These are very carefully worded “non-apologies” as I would like to call them. But the truth is there for the world to see. The victim’s accounts are what should be taken into consideration, the survivor’s account is what should be believed. Their apologies have come in too late, and look like PR exercises and legal drafts.

What according to you is that one thing that we need to do if we wish for #MeToo to sustain in India?

Listen to the women, that’s all. Understand where they are coming from, they have been silenced for long, they have suffered for long, so listen to them.

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