As feminists, we have been part of a long struggle to make visible sexual harassment at the workplace, and have worked with the movement to put in place systems of transparent and just procedures of accountability. We are dismayed by the initiative on Facebook, in which men are being listed and named as sexual harassers with no context or explanation. One or two names of men who have been already found guilty of sexual harassment by due process, are placed on par with unsubstantiated accusations. It worries us that anybody can be named anonymously, with lack of answerability. Where there are genuine complaints, there are institutions and procedures, which we should utilize. We too know the process is harsh and often tilted against the complainant. We remain committed to strengthening these processes. At the same time, abiding by the principles of natural justice, we remain committed to due process, which is fair and just.
This manner of naming can delegitimize the long struggle against sexual harassment, and make our task as feminists more difficult.
We appeal to those who are behind this initiative to withdraw it, and if they wish to pursue complaints, to follow due process, and to be assured that they will be supported by the larger feminist community in their fight for justice.
124 thoughts on “Statement by feminists on Facebook campaign to “Name and Shame””
Please add my name: Sujatha Gidla
I wonder where this faith in the system was when online support campaign for Menon was going on. Oh sorry, was that an unfair power play going on with the VC? Tell us about it. This sudden faith in the system amazes us.
Random Feminist, the “support campaign for Menon” and other similar campaigns are precisely about failure to follow due process. Punishment and harassment for alleged crimes without any evidence, without the other side being permitted to give its version of events, purely on the word of one person – were these not the reasons for the support? And are these not exactly the points we are raising here? Our appeal to follow due process is not a sudden faith in the system, rather, it is the insistence that the system must be made to be accountable, and that we need to work to set up the systems that do this. That is the work we are called upon to do, and most of those who call themselves feminists, of whatever gender or generation, have in fact been engaged in it.
I have been abused by a person, named that person only to be abused even more by others who asked for evidence. There’s no CCTV inside my campus, so I had to eat my experience. Please don’t stand on the way of those coming out expressing their experience.
In solidarity with you sistah. I totally support the online campaign.
Not sure about this article serving any purpose.
if you want justice, you have to talk to someone in power. i am not trying to say that the list doesn’t empower many women, but shame is not the tool we would want to employ here, our response has to be above such tactics which have already been used by those in power against people like us. you are not guilty, but what about those who might use it frivolously and dilute the purpose of your efforts? you yourself wouldn’t allow them to do that. and above all. stay strong! you are not alone, with or without the list.
Dear Prabha, I don’t think the problem lies with people “expressing their experience”. People are free to express what they have been through but naming and shaming people and public justice on social media is not something which can be considered fair by any means. A system such as the one we have in place, however weak in structure and administration exists for us and for us to be doing something such as this is only going to slow down the process of it becoming a stronger system. We are only destroying a system which has been made for us. Isn’t building and strengthening it our responsibility as well? Let’s not stand in the way of its improvement.
And what incentive does someone, who has nothing but her first-hand experience to back her statement, have to speak up against these people who wield such immense power in academic circles? The intent to strengthen redressal mechanisms need not delegitimise personal accounts. Please don’t discourage people from speaking out. And please don’t say “due process” if you can’t vouch for the protection of those who do come forward.
Thanks for the swift intervention. I do hope the lists are taken down and a fairer route is taken to seek justice.
It was indeed a shock to see an open Google doc where anyone could go and add a name!
This post was much needed!
I support this initiative which I think is much needed. But use of term “Natural justice” and the claim that it is. “fair and just” is problematic.
Due process is not necessarily just and fair. We stand for and believe in building such a process.
No matter how rudimentary or ‘factually incredible’ the list sounds, the least it does is to point out that sexual harassment in academia is not a myth and rampant. The specificities of each incident maybe a subject matter of enquiry and legal, social action and it will chart it’s own course as it is supposed to, however, there ought to be a space for recording and accepting experience for academia does not take into account experience it runs on cold shoulders of evidence, logic, provable theories. It is sad that experience does not qualify as a valid fact. There needs to be some space which can accept experience without bothering to check the veracity. The list merely encapsulates people involved in experiences which the proposer found predatory/harassing.
Thank you for saying this, this is high time to understand this.
I endorse and support this statement.
Maim that’s a very good initiative.I myself know and caught red hand atleast two people named in that list.So please do not hamper such an initiative by launching counter feminist crusade for justifying evil deeds of those harassers.Let them defend themselves by bringing evidence which proves their innocence.By launching counter platform,you are trying to divide feminist movement, and is equally guilty of providing public impunity to those rapist and sexual harassers to continue with their shameless predatory activities on other students.
This Name and Shame campaign should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. As feminists, we are just as invested in ideas of evidence, due process and natural justice, and to think otherwise is to go against decades of mobilisations by women’s groups on sexual violence. That sexual violence is not recognised as it should be in public discourse and in our institutions does not give anybody carte blanche to make grave accusations that malign and defame people.
I guess, only the great personalities on this list are qualified feminists and every one else needs to take diksha from them? Why should anyone feel ‘shamed’ by that list who has never engaged in the act of harassment or abuse? All the people on the list are in some position of power and it is harmful for the victims to go public…then why do you keep harping about ‘due process’.
What we know for sure is, had there been few dalit-bahujan names in the list, there would have been multiple articles on kafila ‘explaining’ the harms of ‘dalit patriarchy’
Just a clarification. Not one post of the thousands posted on Kafila over ten years have ever used the term Dalit patriarchy. That isn’t by accident.
Two – it is not beyond the realms of possibility that such names will soon appear on this list. We will still say the same thing – please let us follow due process. The question is, what will you say then?
Glad that you brought this up. Kindly do tell which great institutions have anything less than 90% brahmins/savarnas as faculty!
So, no I am not worried. That professors list will always be overwhelmingly Brahman/savarnas only.
Go check the faculty pages of regional universities.
An open comment to the open letter by the “feminists”:
It is with utmost shame, regret and anger that I reach out to tell y’all that the first response to a list of possible harassers comes from a group of self-proclaimed feminists who basically want to tell younger (also) feminists what real feminism is like and how to combat sexual harassment with due process.
Allow me to elaborate. While your own letter seems to hint at the flawed nature of due process, and while many of you actually bravely put up #metoo status updates recently (which were also on Facebook btw), you deem it appropriate to end the letter by asking women to follow due process so as not to malign 50+ male academics, most of whom hold tenured jobs or equivalent and belong to elite institutions (read: mostly JNU). Do you see the irony? Do you realize that many of you taught many of us our first lessons of feminist theory and praxis? Do you realize that some of you have written about how the archive fails marginalized voices? Was your writing performance for tenure or have you never personally faced harassment (not just sexual) in academia? I personally know for a fact that some of you who’ve signed this letter regularly gaslight your students.
So, again, just for a minute, if you can see the irony of asking harassment survivors to follow due process, then do you also realize that it is powerful female professors like you who should be initiating this due process? Go ahead, use this list, confront your friends, husbands and colleagues because you can and we can’t. You won’t lose your jobs, we won’t get a job. If you can look past the purported lack of taste in this name and shame exercise and see the real, core problem – which is that we are all surrounded by men and women we admire, whose books we read and then those who fail us; then please help us out and follow due process. Please put out an open call in your respective departments. Ask people to come forward. Listen to their complaints (not just women).
If you are lucky and if students confide in you then the “evidence” will pour out. We are dying to tell you and be heard. If you have the courage to protect us and bring your male colleagues to task. If the men “named and shamed” have nothing to hide or can defend their actions, clear their names. Go ahead.
Do you? Or do you just want us to limit our experiences to facebook so that you don’t have to do the hard work of doing the right thing?
Also, here’s a definition for you since y’all might have stopped reading after 1960s:
gaslighting: manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.
Hunting Witch, your vicious tone is entirely out of step with the tone of our appeal, and is enabled by the freedom of having no accountability whatever, as well an absolute and willful ignorance of what it means to be a feminist teacher. Have you yourself ever taken up a single instance of sexual harassment in your workplace, has anybody ever confided in you? Every single on of us here, and for that matter, feminist teachers everywhere, have had innumerable students confide in them, taken up these cases all the way to the end, including not just institutional redress, but counselling, sometimes providing shelter from abusive situations, and these are not things we speak or write about. This is just routine feminist politics.
You ask if our “writing performance is for tenure or have you never personally faced harassment (not just sexual) in academia?”. Surely you are not under the impression that feminist scholarship is the easy road to “tenure” (interesting term, this is not used in India, so I do wonder what your stakes are in the Indian academy, and how much you know about us, really). Feminist scholarship and politics marks people out as either lightweights or trouble makers, and every single one of us has faced opposition both at a personal level as well as in our attempts to make our institutions recognize sexual harassment, and we have fought it out for ourselves as well for others, in our respective places of work. We began as powerless young women too, and through our politics we have tried to make our institutional spaces more accountable. We are still not powerful, not at all, but we keep fighting the establishment and engaging with one another.
You ask if we want you “to limit our experiences to facebook so that you don’t have to do the hard work of doing the right thing?”
Are we not precisely appealing to those building this list NOT to limit your politics to Facebook? To bring your complaints out into spaces where the context of the harassment can be spelt out and dealt with, not just circulate sensationally in an “OMG, look who is on this list”, manner? Where can it possibly go from here?
I think, Hunting witch is making a valid point. I think you guys must confront these people and ask questions about these incidents. You can conduct a open hearing where people can come and testify against these professors(predators). It is really shameful that such renowned academician are indulged in such heinous acts. Your first instinct should be of empathy rather than asking people to take down the list. There are many incidents where you people have not worried about due process and have spoken on behalf of the victims. I hope you do the same this time also.
@Jhooti …Witch Hunt is making a personal attack and seems like exposition of a personal grudge (can it be counted as harassment of some sort?) and is wrong on facts. He/she says most of the 51 named persons are from JNU, whereas the report says 2 from JNU.
In her reply to Hunting Witch, prof. Menon asks: “Have you yourself ever taken up a single instance of sexual harassment in your workplace, has anybody ever confided in you? Every single one of us here, and for that matter, feminist teachers everywhere, have had innumerable students confide in them, taken up these cases all the way to the end, including not just institutional redress, but counselling, sometimes providing shelter from abusive situations, and these are not things we speak or write about. This is just routine feminist politics.”
In this context would the signatories, located particularly in elite HEIs in Delhi, clarify on the scholars accused of sexual predatory in the list released (the accused at the time when the signatories posted the appeal) and provide necessary information. Since some of the feminists were associated with more than one institution it will be a good job. The information may include the number of complaints filed against the accused, complaints resolved, time taken to resolve the complaints, and the pending cases by time period.
This would be much appreciated.
Could a man use this platform? Could I name her, here?
Completely agree.. the speed of response is suspicious.. it is as if these esteemed ladies here want to close ranks and protect people from their own circles.. also find the tone of the letter highly patronising.. sounds like your brand of feminism is better than theirs. . stop living a lie.. stop looking down at other people who might not have same worldview as you have..
More power to you Hunting Witch! Don’t let these so called “paragons of feminism” or so they think of themselves, deter you from what you must do!!! I believe in fairness and equality but every person has to find his/ her own way, and I don’t think Nivedita Menon or her bunch of followers has a right to appeal to anybody in their “oh so righteous” tones.
I find this letter by feminists extremely puzzling. I find even more bewildering the closing of ranks and this newly constructed concrete wall of silly solidarity that seems to have sprung up,, like Aphrodite, fully formed. Except Aphrodite was a self fashioned goddess who spoke of free love and personal choice. This newly fortified wall seeks to provide a sheltered backdrop to predatory men. This group of feminists seem to endorse standard protocol followed by all social groups keen to retain and reinforce the status quo. I thought that Kafila was a forum that tried to stand up to big media. Signatories to this letter are people whom I have admired and trusted and therefore I find it extremely disturbing that they have given short shrift to freedoms of expression and free speech that all of us have been struggling to establish as the most precious democratic right available to the disempowered and the weak.
When a group of feminists makes an apparently reasonable appeal that a list of names that have been put up, with no context be withdrawn and that the injured partiesmtake up the matter within their institutions and follow due process, as naming and shaming would jeopardise the long history of feminist struggle, the ideological. difference between the modus operandi of a right wing government and a leftwing women’s group is no longer discernible.
I want to know in which part of the world following due process in institutions has enabled and empowered women’s rights, and wherein institutional process has been supportive , particularly in the context of sexual harassment.. Or has the patriarchal world we have inhabited for centuries suddenly disintegrated while some of us were still sleeping?
I do not understand how speaking up, even it makes us uncomfortable about the places we work in, can harm the hard won gains of womens struggles. What is being said is that if you speak up and name people who have harassed or sexually intimidated you, that is an unfeminist thing to do. How is this any different from compulsory salutations elicited by playing the national anthem at will? We cannot and should not endorse this brand of compulsory feminism. As an idea It is as repugnant as the jingoistic nationalism that we are being suffocated with.
It is important to remember that this is not a list made by the most powerful in the land. It has been put together by women who have felt vulnerable and have had little recourse.Naming and shaming probably belongs to an older cultural practice., one in which women have been named and shamed, time and again. In this context, the unspeakable is finally finding its own voice, and vocabulary. We cannot impose a curfew and issue shoot at sight orders at this juncture.
Ratna, may I say that I in turn, find puzzling your equating of compulsorily being made to stand up for the national anthem, to an appeal from one section of feminists to another, not to promote a culture of naming for sexual harassment with no context. You call this freedom of expression, but let us remember, FoE is also what Sanghis claim when they attack many of us by name for anti nationalism and incite lynch mobs. A typical argument from them after filing police complaints for the kinds of things opponents of Sanghism say, is “Well, why don’t you prove it wrong? We have said what we have to say.”
If anything, the parallel with that kind of politics and this initiative is closer. And indeed, the fervid political climate in our country now is rich with possibilities for mob justice from gau raksha to national anthem sitters. But let me state quite clearly – we did not and do not make that analogy. I am simply responding to this strange and unsustainable accusation on your part with a counterfactual.
What are we saying in this statement? Not to name people without “context or explanation”. Are the names on that list being sent by the actual women who have experienced harassment? We don’t know. What is the form that harassment took? We don’t know. Christine Fair, for example, did name people, but she spelt out exactly what the harassment consisted of. And in my opinion, that was brave.
Yes, the academy is rife with sexual overtones and patriarchal power, we have all experienced it. This is why we have struggled and continue to struggle to name the problem, and bring it to light and justice. We have tried to establish codes of conduct that say that even consensual romantic relationships between professors and current students are not acceptable. Surely we need to differentiate between sexual harassment and inappropriate consensual relations. But in this last we have been unable even to name the problem let alone have it addressed.
As someone said elsewhere, who understands where the initiative is coming from and is generally in support of it:
These are our concerns exactly. Provide context and explanation, even if anonymously.
Who exactly is “imposing a curfew and issuing shoot at sight orders”? What is it about about our statement that indicates that kind of compulsion?
Is it now forbidden by self defined younger feminists for anybody else to speak, appeal for a rethink, or to start a dialogue? Is anybody who questions a particular political strategy to be rendered illegitimate, regardless of what the histories of those people are? Are you not determining what the correct feminist position is, much more so than our statement is? Assuming that it is indeed only “vulnerable women” who have faced harassment who are sending in names to the administrator of that document, should we not enable them and assist them in bringing the harassment into institutional spaces so that we can all know what we are talking about when we say that academic spaces are indeed rife with sexual power and predatoriness?
Or are we going to start recognizing the dangers of this kind of politics only when men from marginalized communities start being named here with no responsibility to establish context? Or when the right wing goes on the rampage naming every “anti-national” as a sexual harasser?
“Closing of ranks”, “concrete wall” – I see this happening from your end.
You don’t do this, but another easy epithet that forecloses the need to engage is “savarna”, which I see doing the rounds, predictably enough. Some including the originator of the list, say they have not read this statement, and don’t intend to read any “sexual harassment apologia”. Not read it, will not read it, but know in advance it is sexual harassment apologia?
I fear that this response too, will be read off in the same way, not with openness to rethinking, but with all the priori assumptions that mark your comment.
But in our experience, feminists do need to keep talking with one another, with mutual trust, that we are not each other’s enemy, and that is why we stick our necks out time and again.
I am new to the debate here and I am really unaware of the big reputations of these distinguished feminists here. The thing is that reiterating ‘due process’ and ‘justice will be served if provided with evidence’ are shallow points to me. In a legal system, which takes decades to prosecute the guilty and a system which actually favors the perpetrators rather than the victims, all this is big talk about due process is absurd. A victim has to answer obscene questions during trial, does Indian constitution have any procedure which can hold indecency during trial accountable? Is there any due guidance? The basic process starts with institutions which will be in the denial mode to cover the loopholes in the administration and then with the police, who are the most unsavory lot. And of course being a feminist you know all this also. But you still rely on the system and ‘although it is not perfect, we can make it better’ agenda. I know there should be some accountability in these statements even in facebook can cause heavy. But I feel this was a much required step, we need to step out from this age old idea of feminism, which are laid out by these self proclaimed feminist who use nothing but jargon express their view and the reason is their ideas are not clear even to them. Sure you must have helped several victims sheltered them but have you conducted a nationwide survey on universities or premier institutions about what is the percentage of students whom you could actually protect? The answer to my guess will be less than one percent. So, your ideas, how valuable they might be to you or to the processes you have helped to establish are obsolete. See from your statements, it is very clear you (at least one of you) take pride in the cases you were able to help, it is nothing but satisfying your ego that you have done your bit for the society. A person who actually helps or intends to help, does not list their achievements in a retort to make the other person feel small. Your idea of feminism actually acts as a buffer and protects these offenders.
To give you a small example there was an incident in IISER, Kolkata recently where the students took the case to the authority who tried to dissolve the matter by taking no action. But when signature campaign was launched and was circulated in fb the perpetrator was sent on leave and the authorities promised to take action (at least for now). So, your idea of due process failed the victim here and the new ideas are victorious. I think these new ways can inflict fear in the heart of a possible perpetrator in an academic scenario that the victim can shame him/her the next day or hour, this will protect victims much more than the hollow systems which are in place and in most cases not at all.
My conclusion is these self proclaimed feminists after being outwitted by these new wave of feminism is trying hold their forts in an desperate attempt to remain relevant. My urge to them is try to look at the world through other perspectives and not through your inflated egos. Chalk out a way to have a constructive criticism on the issue rather than harming the progress that has been made. Yes I am sure its a step forward and more people should be named. The new generation will not listen to the age old ideas you try to inculcate, which are not fruitful as I have seen.
Absolutely agree. This is a mob justice approach and a slippery slope at best.
And just to remind ourselves that people who have signed this letter have often stood by complainants against our friends and colleagues, and been branded and attacked for it, sometimes from “our own side”, as we are now. Histories are important to remember.
Meanwhile, Bidyut Chakrabarty and BN Ray, who were found guilty of sexual harassment by due process, verdicts arrived at through long arduous political struggle in which many of us spent long years of our lives, must be having a hearty laugh, for now they are on that list with men who have been simply named in exactly the same way, placed on the same plane, with no distinction being made between convicted and accused men.
Great work, folks!
I have not read the original “name and shame” post that is being referred to here, nor seen the way it is being collated and put up. However, reading the original appeal, and the subsequent comments, I am in full support of the appeal, that is, the “Statement by feminists on Facebook campaign to “Name and Shame””.
I don’t know which side of the fence to be on, especially since I have profound respect for Prof. Menon and her politics.
All I want to add to this discussion is among a half a dozen cases of verbal harassment faced by my peers I have been privy to, I can most clearly recall a case where a classmate used a harrassment case against a difficult teacher to get back at him for low grades on a project she was caught to have copied from other sources for. Here’s hoping the people compiling the list on FB are mature and take the right route to justice.
Given most of the signatories have been the pillars to initiate and strengthen the feminist in me first through their writings and then inside classrooms, this comment is written nor to reiterate the savarna rape-apologist response neither to question your feminist credentials, but to express genuine shock with this letter.
In such an uneven fight where institutions don’t have any functioning grievance redressal cells even after the 2013 mandate, in the handful of places which have had such cells functioning, the obvious discrepancies in power structures make complainants rethink about even lodging complaints let alone justice being delivered in the tedious processes of the “due course of law”, it is impossible to construe of any perfect strategy without an ilk of collateral damage.
Ma’am, don’t you think, therefore, that the list operates as an important strategical intervention, even though an ideal form of fighting back would have been to utilize such redressal mechanisms? Does naming and shaming really work in the same way in a massively uneven space of academia for the perpetrators and survivors? In a comment you have written that even if anonymously the complainants would have given the accounts of their harassment, it would have been a more constructive list (“These are our concerns exactly. Provide context and explanation, even if anonymously.”) Now, assuming the revered names on the list are of people who are not serial harassers, don’t you think such accounts would worsen the retaliation for the complainants even if they are narrating it anonymously?
In reference to your other comment on the difference between sexual harassment and inappropriate/exploitative consensual relations, as much as it is important to differentiate between degrees of harassment/exploitation, should it necessarily determine the effects on the complainants accordingly and thereby claim legitimacy (or not)? Even if I agree with the logic of collateral damage caused by this list, don’t you think one would rather have the damage of potential social ostracization caused to a handful of already established academics than to hundreds of students being in potential danger of being harassed (or “exploited”) year after year? What is the more pressing consequence do you think, even politically, because in the end it becomes either-or. Let’s face it, most of the names from the list either were a part of common sense that we refused to talk about, or just confirmed apprehensions for most of us early career scholars with access to these “elite institutions”.
Finally you have asked where does it go from here? I don’t think even the complainants think that it would go anywhere from here. Even the person who posted claimed that she is only doing this for the sake of building awareness. Nobody hopes it to go anywhere from here, as even most of the handful of registered cases go nowhere. Had it been on the complainants to take it up from anywhere, they would not have needed an anonymous non-residential legal loophole to come out and voice their stories.
Yes there’s risk. But what would you rather have? Thanks.
Full Support From Me! Any Accusations MUST be backed by admissible evidence. We have courts and a criminal justice system. If we are allowing online naming and shaming today, what is there to stop real life “Struggle Sessions’!
Then, arresting a man in 498A shouldn’t it be based on facts. Why arrest a man on the mere verbal complaint of a woman without even cursory investigation???
I have stood up to support complainants against many in the liberal and progressive camp, including those who have been personal friends and comrades and will always continue to do so, and it has cost me a lot to do so. But the politics of anonymous lists, branding people without any testimony, just crowd sourcing, is deeply problematic and its consequences need to be thought through. Note, our statement does not apply to a specific allegation made by a specific woman against Dipesh Chakravarty, it pertains only to the anonymous crowd sourced list without any specific complaints or instances. It’s amazing that many of us who continue to face enormous hostility and attacks for standing up with complainants of SH or rape against men from the liberal/progressive camp are so easily being labeled as apologists for SH, just because we are uneasy with the politics of anonymous name and shame lists.
When women, frustrated by deeply entrenched impunity, demand instant vigilante justice or draconian punishments, many of us do, on a daily basis, counsel against such measures. We point out that civil liberties do matter to feminism, and there simply are no short cuts, and that some measures that feel satisfying may have dangerous political consequences. Only recently, a rape survivor asked me if there was no way she could name her rapist publicly and anonymously without having to go through with a police complaint. She found it difficult to appreciate my explanation of the principle that any accused must have a right to defend themselves against an accusation. Would you, in my place, give different counsel? Would you offer to out the rapist on her behalf on social media so that other women are warned? It’s tempting, I grant you. But we need to think about the implications very carefully with regard to such situations and to the lists too.
Personal bias and personal knowledge of an individual affects all forms of human judgement. It affects human judgement in any form or process whatsoever. However, bias cannot be a justification for robbing the right of an alleged accuse to defend HIMself following due process. Look at some of the Rajasthan High Court verdicts (at the expense of being held in contempt I say this), do you not feel there is a discourse to which people are biased? Does this mean we should stop believing in the merit of the judicial process and MAKE A LIST?
The ethical basis of law is not to ensure that all those who are guilty gets punished (love it or hate it, but this is the truth). The ethical basis of law is to ensure that not a single innocent individual gets punished for a crime that HE did not commit.
Yes, I accept the system is not perfect; but the system ensures to safeguard the innocent even if it fails to punish all those who are guilty. In my ethical location, this is far more important in the theory of justice than ensuring a 100 percent conviction of the guilty.
Am not putting in the preamble or caveat or anxiety that I imagine we are all, or some of us, perhaps, feeling, the need to indicate that we are in endorsement of one position or another; but rather, just putting out a couple of thoughts. One of the things I think this ‘list’ and the act of putting it out indicates is the status and character of feminist practice in universities around? that we [and i include those on the list and those outside] are not aware enough of how to understand consent for discussions in the classroom and outside? what jokes may be ok for some but not for others, and therefore need to be left out altogether? that sometimes due process itself is experienced as unsafe? that interlocutors and contexts to our routine feminist politics [and thank you for flagging that term; it is so important to recall, in moments like these, that this struggle has a history as well as an everydayness to it] are changing as we speak? and, at the risk of sounding pompous, that there are many forms of politics that many of us may not endorse or participate in but will still have to learn from?
Can we take this as a sign that more conversations, at any rate, are needed?
Thank you for this. As someone who works on digital protest and its repercussions, I think the distinction between the forms of media and their affordances has been instructive in understanding what might be causing this schism – the fact that “crowdsourced” is immediately considered suspect, but if a journalist reports an “alleged case” of sexual harrassment, against a named aggressor in print media, that is considered “reliable.”
In solidarity with you sistah. I totally support the online campaign.
Not sure about this article serving any purpose.
In full support of the appeal. Such acts as this social media list of anonymous naming and shaming in fact trivialises the experiences of sexual abuse, and also the struggles that many have gone through in coming out open and following an institutional process.
My support and solidarity.
For all the insistence on procedure, it’s surprising the petitioners haven’t mentioned any conflicts of interest/disclosed names of friends of this list.
Please add my name to the statement. I endorse it. Since vigilante ‘justice’ has become one form of operation in India it is important to distinguish between speaking up and simply slandering. There may be truth in some of the accusations on the Facebook list. In that case as Nivedita says they should spelt out not in a court of law but even in a post or article. Of course it’s traumatic to do that as some people on this thread have said. As it was for people speaking out in any truth and reconciliation forums. I make this analogy but it should not be misread for I am not suggesting any reconciliation here.
Ratna Raman, Suppose you woke up one morning and found your name on a “Corruption Watch-List” or an “Anti-Dalit watch list” that is trending on Facebook, let’s say. What would you say? Would you not wish to know who put it out there and what proof they have? Can you defend yourself if you neither have any idea of who is raising the accusation nor know what is the evidence that the accusation is based on?
Meanwhile your friends would call, colleagues would raise eyebrows, perhaps news reporters would call…what would you say…yes, plenty of corrupt people exist in this country and corruption is such a menace. So if a few innocent ones get also “unfortunately dragged in” so be it? (I could make the same argument about casteists and the “Anti-Dalit list”, but I am sure you get the point).
At least there is a list for people to watch out for and ensure that these people suffer….
Is that what this is all about… I dislike someone, I could get them on one of these lists and make them trend so the rest of the world may shame them?
You people and your double standards disgust me. When you have to blame right wing for Gauri Lankesh’s murder, do hell with due process and law but when your own Savarna Left Liberal dudebros are accused of something (I am sure you all know about it) so real and so rampant in academia, you all cry due process and law. This savarna feminism is worse than those women singing “bhala hai, bura hai jaisa bhi hai mera (leftist prof Bhai) mera devta hai.” I feel sorry that you all are our teachers.
Descending to casteist slurs and name calling is not the way to go. Pro-Dalit individuals should be particularly aware of this. What you are actually saying is “Khap panchayats” and “Kangaroo courts” are perfect as long as you are the ones controlling them. Why pretend you mean anything else?
To my dear lady stalwarts of due process,
Do you remember Rajni Krish, the dalit student from JNU who committed suicide last year? Weren’t you the ones who guided and supported a facebook campaign alleging that he was indulging in acts of sexual harassment, almost denying that he was a victim of caste based discrimination in the campus. The lady in question then had chosen to not follow ‘the due process’ and utilize the institutions and procedures you talk about. If you have truly read the correspondence between Rajni Krish and the lady, did you not see a confluence of conflict between different cultures, caste and class backgrounds? Yet you would never go to the extent of calling her complaint an ‘unsubstantiated accusation’. You supported her, through a facebook campaign, after his death. He wasn’t there to provide any ‘context or explanation’.
Your statement is not surprising, it is only, as you say, dismaying for me too. You chose to protect your brethren professors after Rajni’s death and you take the same stand yet again. You used the same ‘manner of naming’ to ‘delegimatise the long struggle’ of the anti-caste movement after Rajni’s death. It is your doublespeak that is dismaying.
The truth of the matter is that this initiative has made your life as savarna feminists more difficult.
Feminist speak, no, we did not “guide and support” any Facebook campaign against Rajni Krish. This an outright lie. You can make any outrageous claim, it looks like. The person who did raise this aspect on Facebook was in fact from Dalit Camera, and he was very critical of Dalit politics in JNU around this issue. Of course that is not convenient for you to remember.
I must say though, that I am quite amused by the predictable shift all round from concern for feminist politics around sexual harassment, to “savarna” versus Dalit, through the usual mystifying routes. Are all the complainants Dalit by any chance?
And do you think the signatories to the statement have never taken on savarna sexual harassers? But please don’t let facts interfere with your rhetoric.
Nivedita Ma’am, you are harping a lot about due process, while you are aware that due process is neither completely fair nor just. I agree with you on the latter part that due process is neither completely fair nor just and that we should build such mechanisms which are fair and just.
However, at the same time I am appalled by your stand on this issue. Does it not occur to you that the unfairness and injustice of the system has shortchanged the experiences of the survivors and rendered them remediless and forced them to stay in the campuses where they have to face their harassers everyday, see them control their academics, their careers, and walk away with impunity. What choice do these survivors have against the clinching requirement of evidence and the obstacle of due process. Does absence due process belies the truth of their experiences? Can we really say that the people who have been named are targets? Isn’t there a possibility that they targeted some of their students, colleagues, visitors, scholars, researchers at any point in their lifetimes?
The biggest letdown was the statement where you differentiated between us feminists and them feminists? Really, since when do feminism became an us movement. My teachers have always taught that the biggest strength of the feminist movement is that it is inclusive, it has had its share of reinventions, critiques, moving back and forth on theories/strategies but it has never created a distinction of us and you, we and them. Even if what Raya Sarkar did was wrong there was no occasion for you to claim that she is making it difficult for you to lead a feminist struggle. I guess my next point will make it clearer for you.
I distinctly remember the campaign you ran against appointment of Bidyut Chakravarty as a VC. That was despite him being cleared of the charges from the Delhi High Court. It does point at two things one that the heavy faith in due process is risky. For even if due process is extremely fair and just, one cannot be sure that it will be handed down in fair and just manner. Otherwise there was no occasion for you to run a campaign against a tried and acquitted person for an academic position. Secondly, if you are unhappy with the list and feel that there is something wrong in it, I would urge you to use your position and status and run a campaign where Universities and SH committees in the institutions where these people are working hold these persons accountable and make investigations into the matter. After that they maybe charged or acquitted but don’t you think that the survivors must be given a chance to share their experiences without batting a doubtful eye?
There are two stories in the newspapers today: one of a mob attacking and nearly lynching a mentally challenged man in Jammu, mistaking him for a “braid-chopper”. Another of a crowd attacking a Swiss couple in Fatehpur Sikri and grievously injuring them. The excuse: they were kissing in public, which the couple vigorously deny…What do you think… was mob justice right? After all, they had apparently justified anger…. Too bad if the victims turn out to be innocent on later investigation. And of course no one will ever know who floated the rumours that led to it all…Is that the Feminism we all learnt? A new form of mobocracy, Shoot and Scoot or Hit and Run? Is that what we are being asked to defend and justify in the name of Feminism? And you want that the rest of the world be Fair to us?!!
I would like my name to be added opposing the post.
I think such posts deeply damage the feminist cause. A personalized Facebook post against an individual is different from a “list” created in this unthinking manner. It damages everything that feminists working in various forums are trying to do. Down with such Yippee online spear campaign.
How do you propose to gather evidence? Eyewitness accounts? Security cameras? How many perpetrators gather a crowd of strangers around them before committing a dastardly crime so as to leave as much evidence as possible? And how many perpetrators do you expect will confess to what they did? In other words, your claim is that, in the absence of CCTV footage, confessions, eye-witness accounts, it didn’t happen! The accuser/survivor must be lying! It is the age-old way used to silence women–“We don’t believe you”! If this is your “feminism,” I am, frankly, appalled! As a 7-year old child, I was violated by a dirty old man whose body odour I can still remember even though more than 40 years have come and gone since that fateful afternoon. But according to you, I’m lying because there is no evidence that this ever took place! Shame on you! Now the perpetrators have “feminists” as allies!
I have been through such an experience too and it has scarred me for life. But this list will do the same thing to many people. You presume that the women who complained are all honest and truthful. No one put in a name there with an axe to grind. That is what is so wrong. Feminism is for standing up for justice and fair play. Not for witch hunts Not even when it appears that it is apparently for a righteous cause. What if the tables are turned tomorrow and you find yourself at the receiving end of a false complaint of being anti-Dalit or anti-minority that gets wide publicity, but since you don’t know who the complaint is or what the nature of the complaint actually is, you can only helplessly watch your reputation torn to bits. And please, DON’T use verbal abuse as a way to make a point. Women have received plenty of it from male chauvinists, sluts, bitch.. For ages they have been employed to Shame us. That it now comes from others who apparently care for the women’s cause makes it no different…Doesn’t work.
Pardon the typos in the previous response. Here’s the revised one:
Names are missing from the women’s complaints because women are afraid of stepping forward for the reason I have stated above. They won’t be believed! And, for fear of consequences. These are men in power who can, and will, destroy the student’s/colleague’s academic career/reputation. They named names as a warning to other students. Not for “feminists” to split hairs. As for evidence, I’m sorry that I didn’t stop to whip out my mobile and take a video of what I was undergoing, that’s because I ran home crying, and by the way, I didn’t ask my violator his name so that I could gather evidence.
Also, where exactly in my post did you see “verbal abuse”? You have mentioned “sluts, bitch” in your message. Please point out where in my message either of the words is used. As for your “apparently care for the women’s cause,” let me inform you that I am a feminist scholar/activist, but may God save me from this kind of “feminism.”
It is so amazing that people are repeating the same opinion ad nauseum even after their rhetorically posed questions have been responded to.
1. Why take recourse to institutional measures when they are structurally biased against the powerless, and often reduced to being handmaidens of the powerful?
Reply: Prof. Menon and every body else supporting their statement did not once say that the legal redressal mechanism is perfect, did they now? They are insisting towards a transformation which can never be complete at any given point of time but the attempts must be continuous. Did the civil rights movement in the US and Dr. Ambedkar not insist on not backing the social struggle with legal measures and rights?
2. Why do the powerless harassed have to provide evidence when we have ‘experience’? And what counts as evidence: cc TV footage? Eye witness?
Reply: Nobody who has been part of the struggle to reform heteronormative, patriarchal biases in the criminal justice system and its discourses in the country will make the demand for evidence from the victim in order to start an investigation. I think what the voices of the likes of ms. Menon are requesting is that while the victims take names, they should not just limit themselves to that. Why not back the name with a fuller account of the experience? So that the list is not just a list, but a compilation of powerful testimonies of the humiliation, embarrassment, fear that so many of us have faced and lived with. A compilation that would be powerful archive for generations.
Even in the Harvey Weinstein case, people , many of whom are ordinary women, are talking in details of their experiences and those narratives are powerful as well as touching. On the other hand, the play ‘,The crucible’ was composed as a critique of the the list compiled by the American government to flush out communists from that country; anybody could name and report anybody without having to substantiate their claim.
No body is being asked to provide legal evidence; we are only being requested to provide fuller accounts even if anonymously.
3. Powerful men have have been preying in the most outrageous manner on vulnerable female (and male) students for decades and there has been silence or indifference for so long on the matter. Why is the first initiative by women to hit back at such crass abuse of power and the callous nonchalance about such abuse being asked to be ‘responsible’?
Reply: The only responsibility that we have is to make a distinction between sexual harassment, unequal relationships which maybe consensual, and sexual advances which may or may not be harassment but caused perturbations nonetheless.
Second, is the only way to counter masculine aggression, aggression by those bearing feminine names? Are we not perpetuating and strengthening masculine modes of domination in doing so? Feminine is feminine precisely because it is a subject position unlike the masculine one, blinded by power and aggression. The feminine (and thereby feminist ) position is to seek out the repressed, the overlooked multiplicities of experiences, subjectivity, sexualities. How can one list which does not delve into any of these nuances be advocated as empowering?
Some one proudly calls herself a witch hunter here; let’s remember that witch hunting whether it be during European middle ages or in puritanical America or in India today, suppressed voices, hindered airing and articulation of experiences, but insisted on hegemonising a monochromatic , rigid account,and allowed no space for doubt or dissent.
What a hypocrisy playing out here! Didn’t some of the signatories of this appeal hounded Khurshid Anwar to death armed with a Madhu Kishwar made video, that too despite no case ever been filed against him, they never going to police/judiciary. They hounded Tarun Tejpal after case getting filed and being sub-judice. They hounded Mehmood Farooqui before the case, after getting convicted by the lower court and then even after getting acquitted by the High Court.
And then they jumped into action defending men accused by Raya Sarkar and countless women on her timeline! Why? How exactly are Raya and the girls- all with names and faces- less believable than the joint letter of three men Kavita Krishnan used to spearhead social media trial of Khurshid? Because this time the men named are the ones close to the self designated sole spokespersons of Feminism? The ones who go silent on scathing questions from fellow, but perhaps lesser in their view, feminists about their role in above mentioned cases?
Shall I remind you all of Utpala and Shruti’s questions to Kavita Krishnan, who led the media trial and lynch mobs against all three mentioned above regarding her role in Khurshid Anwar case? Yeah, the questions she has been running away from?
And then the role of many here, including her, again, in Mehmood Farooqui case- slamming the judgement acquitting him? That means Due Process didn’t deliver in that case, right? Why this insistence here then?
Will I also remind the Feminists (I have utmost regard for and utmost belief in the integrity of Nivedita Menon and Ayesha Kidwai on this its, others I don’t know much personally barring Kavita Krishnan whose hypocrisy I just mentioned) the India Resists case? The complainant came out with a clear-cut case of not only sexual harassment but also criminal intimidation. What happened in that case? Why none of the champions in Khurshid/Tarun/Mehmood cases took up that one? I was shown the internal whatsapp group chat of India resists where a signatory here was all for internal inquiry and amicable resolution! Why the difference? Because the accused, in that case, was a close friend/comrade of some here, just like one named here is a senior member of kafila, as many have pointed out? No conflict of interest, right? No ethical questions, right?
Having said it all, Yes. I know that this #HimToo without taking any recourse to due process is dangerous. I know that anyone can blame anyone by this method- including me. But then why did they realise the danger only now? Because, again, this time those in the line of fire are from their clan, affiliates, friends, party cadre?
And even if they are- I repeat- how do Raya and other real girls accusing them become any less believable than they have always been? And that’s what brings me to utter sadness- of seeing it going from #MeToo, to #HeToo, to #EtToo!
Some thoughts on The List.
I began keeping track of men in academia after teachers became monsters. There were many instances where words of dead White men set the benchmark of intelligence, even though they came with statements that were brushed aside as soon as they were uttered – “Althusser killed his wife, but …”, “Neruda raped his maid, but …”, “Derrida didn’t claim his out-of-wedlock son, but …”, and so on. When I was being taught these theorists with these non-disclaimers, I did not realize that this was setting the stage for me to simultaneously learn that such treatment of women (murder, rape, unclaiming) was ordinary, expected, banal, but also reminding me that academia – the extremely exclusive promissory seat of social transformation – was an extremely unwelcoming space for me, and others like me. I was unconsciously being taught ‘my place’, as an absent semi-colon in history, while also being taught feminism, critical theory, and post-structuralism.
Soon afterwards, just as I had begun to feel safe in the university, protected in my role as an excellent, driven, and hard working student, I realized that my ambition and desire to learn would work against me if I did not acknowledge the power of my (often male) faculty. If I had somehow failed to learn ‘my place’ in the world in the classroom, if I had failed to assuage the egos of those who were paid to know more than me, if I progressed faster than they intended me to, I would be shown my place again and again, either through manipulation or through outright displays of power, all while these same people claimed by success for themselves. What is a student, if not clay that is moulded into brilliance by its teachers?
When I realized what had happened to me, what I had been coerced into, how many ways I was broken into believing ‘my place’ as the handmaiden of men who were always more brilliant than me, I also began to realize how I had been part of the problem – my enthusiasm, my excellence, my preparedness were all used to silence other students. Every time I was cherry picked as the student with immense potential, only to be ‘moulded’ and ‘placed’ in hierarchies where I could only be exploited, there were many others who never reached where I reached. Even though I have stumbled for two years trying to find a corner where I can speak without being attacked in return, I survived when Rohith did not. I graduated at the top of my class, when Akunth was failed. I managed to enter a PhD program when Swapna and Sucheta never went to university.
The List is, for me, another illustration of exactly how unsafe the university is for students. It shows us how empty political and critical theories of transformation are, because those who teach them are under no compulsion to believe them. The university fails insofar as its teachers are not held to the standards of the theories they teach, and it fails insofar as it blinds students to the power dynamics within their classrooms. The List shows me how desperate we have become, how powerless we have felt as students, that we have resorted to this method of sharing a warning: BE CAREFUL OF THESE MEN.
Because, the List is, after all, only a warning. A gossip network that has gone public. Gossip doesn’t often reach us in time, only after the fact. It is not a way to seek legal recourse, it is not a way to seek apology. It is problematic, but those pushed into corners often are not capable of coming up with ‘enlightened’ solutions. I believe every name on the List, because to not believe is, for me, a failure of not only feminism, but also a failure of not listening to my own experience of the university. We all know how the university systematically stacks the deck against any complaints against faculty – sexual, or otherwise. How does a student complain against a faculty member when he sits in the GSCASH committee? How does a student take him to court when judgments like Farooqi’s rewrite consent?
The List may not be the most feminist way to talk about the university as a protector of predators, but it also exists because -despite everything feminism has done for us – feminism has not succeeded in making safe spaces for such discussions, let alone in rethinking the idea of such a university.
I do not understand why we are leaping from this list to retributive justice. This list was never meant to bring anyone to justice. The problem was that justice was – and remains – unachievable. This response feminists have made has now pit women against women, and taken attention away from the names on the list.
Someone put the name and details of a friend of a friend of mine (who loved clubbing; which no one ought to have any problem with, but which many conservative men see as a sign of “loose morals”) on a porn site that eventually got circulated in some WhatsApp groups. We may have our suspicions, but we couldn’t pinpoint who it was. What is wrong, with the list, you say? Just an innocent list. Nothing happened. No one meted out retributive justice. A warning, you might say. But do you know what the woman went through? Just because it now happens to the “other side” is it OK? Anonymous name calling can neither be treated as innocent nor unmotivated by ulterior intentions. You have to be seen to play fair if you actually hope to help women survivors. These kangaroo courts set up by a few women will invariably be accused of providing a platform for women with an axe to grind who are using “SH” as an excuse.
More power to you, Shraddha. Couldn’t have been more articulate myself.
Thank you, Nivedita Menon and other signatories of the letter. Quite frankly, I am more disturbed now at the sheer numbers of people who think it is perfectly alright to make and publish a list of people whom a few anonymous people are accusing of criminal offences without clearly stating the crime and without furnishing any evidence.
The “due process” is a failure. Please appeal to her for the “evidences” to be made public.
I don’t think the statement defends “due process” as a perfect or complete mechanism. The anti-statement camp seems to see and project it like that. “Due process” can certainly be imperfect (in places where it exists or functions!) and does not always serve as the multi-pronged antidote that we so urgently need to address the multiple forms and levels of damages caused by sexual harassment. That’s why its work-in-progress understanding and the emphasis on greater engagements and improvements.
Although at a visceral plane I understand and appreciate the need for the list, in my legitimate and desperate search for a quicker, sharper and comprehensive redressal, will I go to the list as-it-exists? No. I fail to see how random, out-of-context naming and shaming can be seen as better or defensible.
Let’s look for a constructive way out. After all, we are all fighting a common enemy.
There should be a list that names women indulging in sexual harassment. If required a more sophisticated process should be utilised to make a reading of how women come together to capture academic departments and government subsidies across Indian universities to further themselves. This coming together happens under the garb of feminism.
Indian academia is full of old female hags who who achieve and conquer their places through bullying of decent ppl.
There should be another list of women who misuse harassment laws systematically to capture spaces which they could not not on the basis of real work.
Another list is being prepared of woman who have filed false 498A and rape cases against men.When that gets published, let us see how this ‘name and shame’ game will unfold.
But where was the due process for Khurshid Anwar? One of the signatories to your letter surely didn’t believe in ‘due processes’ in his case and openly called a ‘name and shame’ campaign in your words.
I do wonder if Kafila would have given so much consideration to due process had the names of the men on that list been mostly right-leaning types.
I’ll bet some of you would have liked nothing better than that, so you could go off on another Two Minutes Hate session against your usual bete-noire, Hinduism and Indian culture.
Unfortunately for you, the list seems to name mostly champagne-swilling, Marxist, jholawalla / JNU-type male “professors” (who, incidentally, produce little by way of serious, peer-reviewed scholarly work in international journals because their lecherous selves are busy doing other things).
Pretty embarrassing since it is your fellow travelers and “comrades” who are accused of assaulting vulnerable women while hypocritically singing paeans to feminism, eh?
If this is the state of affairs among the leftists and progressives then it is clear that the embracing identity politics is proving to be fatal, at least among these academics.This politics will enable further divisions and in more usage of us vs. them approaches than in building solidarity. The issue being discussed is sexual harassment and using the identity politics of caste here is doing great harm as caste politics is used to override gender politics . Are all institutions equally bad/worse in this resolving harassment complaints. Are they no good examples. Cant those who produce and defend such lists at least agree that it is possible for any group to produce another list on a different criteria and defend it. Someone may come up with a list of ‘victims’ among academics who have been unduly targeted by feminists. The point is when a person’s name appears in this list, he is marked and that itself may create an impression against such a person as if he is an offender beyond any doubt. For strangers or those who do not him personally it may give an impression that he is a rogue in an academic setting. Does that mean that all those who do not figure in this list or similar lists are paragons of virtue and are perfect gentlemen. The irony is they have included the name of an academic who is dead and gone. How can he defend himself now. Does this not amount to casting aspersions against a person who cannot defend himself. In my view it is high time both the defenders of the list and the critics who signed the statement do a rethink on why this is happening.
Reblogged this on And The journey continues.. with a RAY OF HOPE.
I am ambiguous about my stand on the list/statement. But I am definitely clear that the vilification of feminists who have signed the statement is absolutely uncalled for. Their hard labour and emotional and political investments in fighting patriarchy and gender based violence cannot be erased and written off just because they have expressed a different view. This name calling/mud slinging is absolutely condemnable. In solidarity with Nivedita and others.
These women activists are so much worried, as detail analysis of the names in the list highlights the moral character of people associated with certain ideology (with which these women are associated) emanating from certain region. If the list has many names from other ideology groups, their views will be different.
Dear J Devika of Kafila managing team,
One of the accused in the name & shame list of sexual predators from Kerala is a professor of Malayalam from Sree Sankara Sanskrit University, Kalady, Kerala (I repeat & emphasise the word accused). This professor has worked in different Centres of the same University and from many centres sexual harassment cases were filed against him (newspaper reports). He is a facebook friend of Devika Jayakumari and very often appreciates & recommends your work as scholarship maintaining high standards, the last if I remember correctly was in connection with the Sunday Hindu article by Manu S Pillai on the Nangeli narrative/myth in Cherthala. The facebook exchanges between both of you reveal that you are known to each other personally.
We wish to know, as a feminist researcher and activist how do you respond to this situation. There were reports of complaints against this professor for so long. Have you ever enquired about the nature of cases against this Malayalam professor to feminist scholars and students; men and women in the SSSU? If not earlier, will you make an enquiry this time and if there are complaints against him, will you keep off his company until the charges against him are proved wrong by “due process of law”?
If the friendship continues until charges against him are proved under due process of law, what is the message that is being sent to the complainants in sexual harassment cases?
I have no clue about these cases but will of course respond if the complainants reach out and if my intervention will make any difference. Otherwise, my work would be to focus on the institution i work in and make it safe for women as much as I can. Secondly, given the high incidence of sexual harassment and gender insult, it is hard to avoid such men altogether. I am sad and amused at the same time to see the number of known sexual predators and gender insult specialists cheering Raya Sarkar on! You yourself are a gender insult specialist , evident from your exchanges on the Hadiya case. But I am afraid this is the last time we will be talking, because I have decided to avoid people using pseudonyms unless they are speaking from very constricting spaces. You are able to insult so coolly only because you hide behind that mask.
This controversy has raised some very important issues about the nature of sexual harassment, forms of protectionism, feminist responses, strategies of resistance, and so on. These are not simple issues as I learnt from the sexual harassment and gender based discrimination that began for me within a week of my joining St Stephen’s College. For years I was harassed by my HOD and Principal, socially ostracized, and treated like a supplicant even by some of the people who otherwise stood up for me. I recall feeling punished because I resisted that role.
One of the important lessons I learned from that experience is that there is a power equation even between the victim and those who support her, which is why manipulation of the victim/complainant of the kind that has been mentioned in responses to the Kafila letter, becomes possible. To not acknowledge this, is to not see the nature of power. Or of gender.
Nowadays there are institutional mechanisms to deal with sexual and gender-based harassment, but things haven’t changed that much. Institutions, now as then, remain lopsided and structurally violent towards the vulnerable. Power imbalances and inequities are thus institutionalized structurally and, because of that, the institutional provisions for redressal continue to be structured within that same dynamic of inequality and imbalance.
In such a context, the concern that has been expressed in the Kafila statement for the men named in the list, is strange since no institutional action of any kind is likely to be initiated against any of these men, and if and when such institutional redressal is sought either by the victims or by those named, the weight of institutional patriarchal bias, will fall the way it always does.
I know some of these men personally, and have cordial relations with most of the ones I know. Obviously then, my observations here have nothing to do with them individually, or as individuals; they pertain to the way in which institutions are structured to favour the powerful, and particularly in cases of sexual harassment, these are overwhelmingly men. If these men are in fact innocent (as may be the case), my friendly advice to them would be to speak up in ways that can clear their name without ceasing to be sympathetic to the larger issue. I understand that one of them has already done this.
Sexual dynamics are complex. If there is one thing that my experiences as a member of sexual harassment committees has taught me – i.e., my participation in the very same “due process” that is now being bandied about–is that the process is fragile, and needs consolidation and nuance. There has been little respect for due process by many of those who are now lobbying for it, and I can personally vouch for that. Some of the signatories have been responsible for effusive commentaries on media channels, or in print interviews and articles and sometimes, with little concern for the facts of the matter. Some have been behind-the-scene actors/negotiators. Some have conducted similar public campaigns, in the name of the very feminism that they claim is threatened by this one.
I myself do not think that the only modes of legitimate action are those that are laid down by the bourgeois and patriarchal state (if that were indeed the case, all manner of peoples struggles would be delegitimised). If one particular institutional process seems unrealistic, because the alleged victim feels she will not be treated fairly for instance, then the onus is on the person named as the harasser to prove his innocence by publicly calling the person to a dialogue on mutually agreed terms (the onus of proving innocence on the man is now a legal accepted standard in cases of sexual violence, so there can be no call to cry foul on that count). But silence is not an option; and neither is a counter-campaign against the accusers.
Institutions do fail women. They fail the poor, the marginalised and the vulnerable. The sheer volume of support for the list, especially from younger women, should serve as an indicator of the extent to which they in particular experience this failure. The signatories who are more established in the academy could perhaps consider the different ways in which their statement can be and possibly, has been read: as arrogance; as motivated by a genuine concern for “due process”; or by their personal and/or social and/or professional proximity to some of the men named in the list; by anxieties over losing control over the discourse itself; or simply, as an upper-caste elite knee-jerk reaction (as has been alleged by several younger colleagues). That is why the basis of this particular collective of signatories coming together must be made clear. Notwithstanding the patronizing tone, the signatories cannot possibly see themselves as the custodians of Indian feminism, or of the Indian women’s movement.
Just as with the men on the list, I know almost all the signatories to the statement, some personally. And as with the men, my observations here are not aimed at individuals, and I hope they will treated in the spirit of a contribution to a much larger, much more important issue than the individuals involved. And as with the men involved, a friendly word to the signatories to this statement: I suggest we all actively support these young women in their attempt to raise awareness about a massive institutional problem, and protect them from the institutional backlash that they may face. And let the men named in the list come out in support of all of us, if they are truly innocent – there is in fact no better way for them to prove it.
I myself have been a victim of child sexual abuse by my tutor. Then I was sexually abused within the theatre world and later, ironically enough, I even experienced abuse in the activist circle.
For me it was extremely difficult to share my experience within my activist friend circle as well; as my abuser was himself an extremely respected activist leader from the oppressed community and culture. He had political power over me. When I, a woman, from ‘the upper class’ refused him, he used his ‘political weapons’, saw to it that I was defamed and was asked by the community to leave the activist group I was working with. This is how he could take his revenge on me. I went through severer pain and was shattered for long. Hence I very much understand and empathize with the anguish that a woman experiences in sharing these difficult experiences related to such power dynamics and therefore she carries the risk of being easily misunderstood and denounced.
Nevertheless as a feminist I strongly feel that such a shaming movement (in social media) is problematic, irresponsible and counterproductive. We need to bring up such sensitive issues in a more responsible, transparent, democratic and ethical way where the accused also gets a chance to defend himself.
There is also need to un-entangle sexual harassment from the complexities of relational dynamics that may be existing between two consenting adults. People may enter into a relationship on the basis of mutual attraction even though they can be unequally situated vis-à-vis each other. There is a whole field requiring close examination between harassment and relationships which are consensual but have a power imbalance and which in retrospect are experienced as abusive. This is not to say that such relationships can ever be free of power dynamics within patriarchy. All that I am trying to say is that these are two different situations and so cannot be equated.
Moreover such an irresponsible “naming and shaming social media campaign” might lead to a denial of justice to the victims and may also bring defame to the feminist movement that stands on the paradigm of love, justice and ethics.
Years back a friend of mine was named as a sexual harasser as two women believed that they saw him looking at a third woman with a gaze that seemed to be sexual to them. The victim concerned was never brought in the picture. A kangaroo court was convened to publicly humiliate him labeling him as a ‘womanizer’. Strangely there was no woman to give her testimony, no woman claimed he had victimized her. The friend was given no chance to present his point of view. He was thrown out of the group he worked with. He was completely broken, went into severe depression and hence ended his life as an activist. Later he passed on, with this stigma on his shoulder. I am guilty and ashamed as I was then weak, scared to lose my ‘feminist’ identity, so did not fight for the right of my friend against my own friends. I have been carrying this painful burden on me since the past many years. Today is the first time I have shared this in any group.
His tragedy and victimization brings to the surface the discourse of othering based on prejudices. Therefore we need to be more responsible and discerning in the manner we want to seek justice and justice we must seek.
Dimple (Amreen) Oberoi Vahali
I’ve been reading this discussion and there’s much to consider on both sides of the debate. But a thought that is bothering me is this – what happens if by any chance those naming and shaming get named and shamed by someone else? Speaking from the context of the HIV epidemic in relation to marriage, nearly two decades ago, there was some debate about whether a prospective groom’s HIV status could be revealed by a doctor / counsellor to his would-be wife without the groom first being informed about his status and his consent being obtained. Many people argued that ‘due process’ was undesirable because it could well give the man a chance to play the system and suppress his HIV status from the woman. But thankfully the principle of consent was upheld, at least on paper, in terms of policy guidelines and judicial processes. Some of us had then argued that in a reverse possibility, things would have been worse if the HIV status of women were to be revealed without them even knowing about it to their prospective husbands and in-laws. Couldn’t the naming and shaming strategy be vulnerable to similar attacks?
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