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Jayati Godhawat

IWB Blogger

JLF’s Finale Debate Concludes Resolutely: ‘Men Have It Too Easy’

  • IWB Post
  •  January 29, 2018

 

The five ‘high on adrenaline’ and crazy days of 11th Jaipur Literature Festival finally came to an end today, i.e. on January 29, 2018. But, hang on, it saved its best bit to bring down the curtain.

Each time, the JLF’s finale is that a debate which breaks the panelists into two parts and the session really gets tense with all those heated arguments and fights between the panelists.

However, this time, though they titled the session as the Closing Debate, it was hardly a one! Why, you ask? Well, because the “debate” was on the topic, “#MeToo: Do Men Still Have it Too Easy?”

You must be living under a rock or must be an alien if you don’t know about the viral #MeToo. Spread like wildfire in October 2017, the hashtag was in response to many women coming out in public to reveal sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood’s big-shot producer, Harvey Weinstein. #MeToo gave the power to women to show the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment.

Coming back to the session, the panelists for the session were Writer & Journalist Bee Rowlatt, Writer & Journalist Manu Joseph, Advocate & a Politician Pinky Anand, Indian sex trafficking abolitionist, journalist, and activist Ruchira Gupta, Journalist Sandip Roy, and Political Commentator and a renowned media personality Vinod Dua. The session was moderated by Namita Bhandare, a journalist, and an independent writer.

Needless to say, that everyone spoke in favor of the debate topic and while there was no debate on the front that “Men do have it too easy,” the session really gave useful insights into the issues pertaining to the rape culture, the power dynamics, the patriarchy and its impact, and the multi-layered nature of violence against women.

Each of the panelists got four minutes to open their speeches on the topic and below are some powerful excerpts:

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Namita Bhandare (Left) & Pinky Anand (Right)

Ruchira Gupta: I am actually worried about the question. I mean why is there one. Why can’t we all stand up and admit that men have it too easy. Look at who was celebrating on January 26 that just happened, A DGP from Haryana who was sexually assaulting a young woman who used to come and play tennis with him. Does he not have it too easy? What about the judge who recently wrote in a judgment about a man that he let off that, ‘a feeble no is a yes.’ Didn’t that judge have it too easy? And, who will hold the Prime Minister accountable who doesn’t allow his wife any access to his life or his salary? 

Sandip Roy: Yes, there’s no denying that men have it easy. And, here’s why men are still having it easy: One, how many women had to come out and report to get Harvey Weinstein down. Two, the Institution is still run by the old boys club. How do you change the mindset to prevent sexual harassment from that of dealing after it has taken place? Third, Everyone sympathizes with the fellow co-worker who’s being sexually harassed in the workplace but nobody comes out in support and speaks against it. And, four, men still have it too easy when #MeToo turns into #NotAllMen. I wasn’t the one who sexually harassed her, I didn’t correct her for showing her bra strap, and I wasn’t the one who pushed down my hand under her shirt. But you were the one who sat back and saw and let it happen. And, you were the one, who passed on that terribly sexist joke on WhatsApp!

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Vinod Dua (Left) & Namita Bhandare (Right)

Bee Rowlatt: Duh! Are you kidding me? Why is there even a question! The question is the men’s behavior and that’s should be our focus. Firstly, no it’s not about all men are horrible. Some are lovely, but for discussions such as #MeToo, we need to assess similar things for comparison. Of course, men do have it easy. But what can we do about this information? Well, I have a solution for it and a rather simple one. Listening. Men should sit and just listen.

Vinod Dua: From early childhood, the boys are taught to protect their women, their sisters, mothers, and their wives. But, on the flip side, they are told, ‘Ladki ko patana hota hai. Ankh maroge to ladki pat jayegi.’ And, with so many songs normalizing stalking and eve-teasing, the men grow up with the entitlement over women.

On being asked about the multi-layered nature of violence against women, Ruchira said, “Most often than not, violence against women happens in the name of love. Like, he beats her because he loves her. But, should he be excused because he loved her? Women and young girls are advised and forced to keep their mouths shut and not tell anyone about the sexual assault they had to undergo to maintain the honor of their family. So, it’s the normalization of power that makes it easy for men where for one it’s okay to order and for others, it’s expected to follow.”

For their closing statements, again there were some very powerful thoughts that the panelists put forth and it gave a much-required food for thought to each one of us sitting in the audience.

Ruchira Gupta: The root of rape culture is that the men get the idea of power and a few men start abusing it. They get away with impunity due to this power imbalance. And so, the #MeToo movement has been started for naming, shaming, and calling out every act of exploitation against women.

Sandip Roy: Instead of rape culture, we need safe workplace culture. The change will happen when a woman who walks into the police station to report sexual harassment against her and is not asked what she was wearing, what she was drinking, why she was there, what was she doing, etc. Why do we have to put a curfew for women and not for men who are sexually harassing her?

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Manu Joseph (Left) & Bee Rowlatt (Right)

The men will have it easy until they understand that it’s a privilege that when they board the auto, they automatically don’t have to pull up a bag as a barricade.

Bee Rowlatt: To end, I would just like to quote Mary Shelley, “I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves.”

In the end, as the rule of the JLF’s closing debate, the audience was asked to vote in favor or against the session’s topic. And, there are no points for guessing what each of us raised our hands for!

Indeed, men have it too easy!

But, having attended this 5-day saga of JLF and being in sync with what’s happening around in the world, I am sure that it’s all about to change. With high hopes for 2018 and the years coming ahead, I know for a fact that starting this moment, men will not have it easy, because we, the women, and the society, will keep speaking up to make sure that they don’t just get away with it too easy, ever again!

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