Category Archives: Feminism

Former Tehelka journalist speaks out

This is the full text of the statement issued today to the media by the gutsy woman journalist who refused to take sexual harassment as routine. More power to her and others like her!

I am heartened by the broad support I have received over the past fortnight. However, I am deeply concerned and very disturbed by insinuations that my complaint is part of a pre-election political conspiracy.

I categorically refute such insinuations and put forward the following arguments:

The struggle for women to assert control over their lives and their bodies is most certainly a political one, but feminist politics and its concerns are wider than the narrow universe of our political parties. Thus, I call upon our political parties to resist the temptation to turn a very important discussion about gender, power and violence into a conversation about themselves.

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Feminist interventions and the agency of the survivor: A Statement

We write as feminists and activists in the women’s movement, disturbed by imputations of motive to some fellow activists who have spoken out publicly in the Tehelka sexual assault case. These allegations of pandering to the Tehelka management’s attempts to cover up the serious charges against Tarun Tejpal, have come expectedly from the Right, but also disturbingly, from sections of the Left, who interpret the insistence on respecting the decisions of the complainant, as disrespect of the law on sexual assault.

Many of us have been in the position of being confidantes to women who come to us with complaints of sexual harassment and assault. In such situations, we see our prime responsibility as that of offering unconditional support to the complainant, making available to her the largest possible range of options, helping her to take difficult decisions. Among these options is always the recourse to the police and criminal prosecution. But we believe it would be entirely counterproductive to insist that the complainant report to the police if she is not prepared to do so immediately. And until she expresses her readiness to move forward on that path, we try to build her courage to take that step, while remaining quietly supportive of whatever steps she does wish to take in the interim.

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The Tangled “Tonalities” of Mr. Tejpal

By now the details are well known: a young journalist describes a harrowing encounter with Tarun Tejpal, owner and editor of Tehelka, in an elevator during Tehelka’s Think fest in Goa. The description of the incident alleges gross sexual misconduct and bodily violation of an aggravated nature.  Her description does not make for easy reading: it clearly demonstrates the incredibly vulnerable position in which young women are placed when confronted with the sexual misdemeanors of powerful men in positions of managerial authority. Indeed Mr. Tejpal says as much, that to cooperate with him is the best way for her to keep her job. She writes to Ms. Shoma Chaudhury the managing editor describing the incident and asks that she be tendered an official apology, and that Tehelka’s senior management constitute an enquiry and anti-sexual harassment committee as per the Vishaka guidelines. Instead what she is offered is a pathos-laden tale of fall and redemption: directed by and starring Mr. Tejpal, producer Ms. Shoma Chaudhury. There has been near continuous discussion across the web and the news and it can get difficult to keep track of all the various versions being produced on an hourly basis by Tehelka’s bullshit factories. So at this stage it might be useful to simply collate and compare various accounts. Continue reading The Tangled “Tonalities” of Mr. Tejpal

Protect the Privacy of the Tehelka Journalist: Report Responsibly

GUEST POST BY ‘REPORT RESPONSIBLY’
To all editors, journalists, bloggers, users of social media, and the public:

Some websites and blogs are posting the Tehelka journalist’s complaint to the magazine’s management or reproducing parts of it, perhaps with intent to expose a grave act of sexual assault by a man occupying a powerful position. However, in doing so, they are violating basic ethical and legal injunctions on the way cases of sexual assault must be reported.

The journalist’s complaint to her company is a private document and not a public one. While private documents can be leaked in the ‘public interest’, this principle is applicable to the emails of Tarun Tejpal and Shoma Chaudhury sent to Tehelka staffers, not to the journalist’s emailed complaint. In cases of sexual assault, it is a well established principle that the media can name the perpetrator, but not the victim. The identity and privacy of a victim must be protected at all costs.We are distressed that many people are circulating the journalist’s emails, and other journalists, bloggers and users of social media are publishing it in parts or whole.

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Sexualized workplaces, predatory men and the rage of women

Listen. Can you hear it? That low growl on the horizon, coming closer, growing louder? It’s the dam bursting its bounds. It’s the quiet shriek of convivial silence being ripped apart.

The silence around the normalizing of a range of behaviour from the apparently casual to the outrightly violent. The laughing sexual innuendo; the misogynist jokes; the well-known ‘displaced squeeze’ of the upper arm, the shoulders; the repeated, relentless expression of romantic or sexual interest despite clear NO’s; the grabbing of the breast, the unwanted kiss, the out-of-town work trip ending in physical assault, presented as flattering interest; and through it all, the clear invocation of the power relationship.

You look great, Sir, retirement suits you, says a younger female colleague to a Professor visiting his former institution. Really, he smirks. Two other people told me this, and they are both women. What do you think it means? She smiles uncomfortably and hurries out of the office of the male head of the institution in whose presence this comment is made.

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Ka Tvam Baale? Kaanchana Maatha! Or, the University of Calicut experiments with the Grotesque!

Now let me confess, it is high-time in life that I got an award — I am 46, nearly. It isn’t really a question of whether I desire it or not. If you are in the business of reading and writing in Kerala then you MUST receive some award by mid-career — it’s a bit like experiencing nausea and tiredness in early pregnancy. You MUST have it, it is the surest sign of being pregnant, and sometimes to enjoy people’s kindness towards a pregnant woman, you need to get vomiting soonest possible. You can’t get into a conversation about pregnancy with other women without being able to recount your experience of being nauseous and tired. Continue reading Ka Tvam Baale? Kaanchana Maatha! Or, the University of Calicut experiments with the Grotesque!