Sonam K Ahuja has been one of the strongest voices that had helped #MeToo movement become what it is today. The actor had supported Tanushree Dutta in her allegations of sexual harassment against Nana Patekar by believing a journalist's version of the alleged incident that took place on the sets of a movie in 2008. The 'Neerja' star opened up on the movement in an article she wrote for Thrive Global.
She starts her piece by talking about how she grew up in a family of women who are 'trailblazers' and wrote how off-handed sexist remarks were not the ‘dinner table norm’ in the family. This gave her a ‘safety net’ to express a voice, but at the age of 17, Sonam was surprised by ‘crudeness of the real world’ when she did so for the first time. The actor speaks about the change, from people advising her against saying she was a feminist to the current trend where being a feminist is considered 'cool.' She speaks about how the ‘joy and misery‘ of the #MeToo movement have been 'limitless' to her and how it has been 'eye-opening' and 'devastating', and the same time 'exhilarating.' The 'Prem Ratan Dhan Payo' star feels the movement should propel us into action and offer a redemption of rights long overdue for the ‘disempowered.’
Explaining the complexities of the movement in simple words, Sonam lists down nine important points that needed to be followed in the wake of the movement.
1. Sonam mentions the need to believe survivors. She narrates an incident of how someone couldn’t believe the news of an actor being accused of sexual harassment because he was ‘handsome’. The actor says it was true that a person is innocent until proven guilty, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of rejecting a survivor’s account of sexual harassment as they were at a 'personal risk and trauma' to open up.
2. The 'Sanju' star spoke about the importance of a 'mental reboot'. The actor wrote that #MeToo was not just happening in the cities, but it was a movement across the country. She said there was a need for a shift in the mentality to not treat men and women differently, something that was created by mothers treating their sons as ‘precious gifts from god.' She also highlights how this was the reason behind menstruating women being stalled from entering temples, something even the women in top positions have not voiced against.
3. Sonam speaks about the importance of consent. She wrote how a person should seek pemission before touching another person and refrain from doing it if it’s a 'no' or ‘maybe’. The actor also asked the people with more power to be extra cautious.
4. The 'Aisha' star spoke about the need to take sides. She wrote how being silent was equivalent to being on the side of the perpetrator. Sonam also emphasized on the importance of speaking out for all, not just in Bollywood. The actor said how it was important for people in positions like hers to speak out as they can't wash their hands off the responsibility.
5. Sonam wrote it was important to bring an end to 'open secrets.' The actor admitted to being a part of films that were a problem and that she herself has been a part of the problem. She also lauded Tanushree Dutta for people to fear less about losing assignments. The 'Saawariya' star also pledged to not work with anyone who’s proven to be predatory or guilty.
6. The actor urged the need to stop sexist jokes, on which she said Indians laugh out of politeness and that it was never funny, giving the example of roasts. She wrote it was not cool to crack sexist, homophobic, racist jokes in an environment where sexism is prevalent.
7. Sonam also stressed on the need to end the labels. Giving the example of her favourite dance numbers like ‘Piya Tu...’ and ‘Chikni Chameli’, she wrote how there was nothing wrong in doing ‘sexy songs’, but labelling them as ‘item numbers’ was not fine as they propagate objectification of women and a sexist propaganda. She also reveals an instance of her friend who refused to open up on her experience as she was afraid to be labelled a ‘victim’ or ‘survivor’ throughout her life.
8. Sonam also noted how women were not promoted to top positions at companies or given the opportunity to work at the helm. She disagress with the system where despite having women leaders, women were discriminated against, denied equal opportunities and raped, mutilated, sexually harassed, raped and killed.
9. The actor said it was important to not just believe the survivors, but also try to ensure justice for them by refusing to work with men proven guilty and those who have sexually exploited someone and also to put pressure to ensure timely investigation of the cases.
Sonam concluded her post by saying how the #MeToo movement was not about men vs women as even women have played a part an equal role in perpetuating misogyny and that it was important to back the survivors irrespective of their gender.
The 'Veere Di Wedding' star also said it was important to have empathy, compassion, and a moral compass that was relevant and progressive. To convert the critics of the movement to back it, by taking action against any form of abuse of discrimination would be the true success of the movement.
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