Tisca Chopra's comments on sexual harassment reveal that Bollywood's women obfuscate consent too

Karishma Upadhyay

Oct 22, 2017 12:37:37 IST

Tisca Chopra believes that "women are just as much to blame, because they put themselves in those vulnerable positions". The actress was weighing in on sexual harassment in the film industry, in response to the viral #metoo campaign that served as a clarion call for women across the world to come forward on social media and share their personal stories of sexual assault.

In an article published by The Print on 17 October, six individuals from the entertainment industry were asked for their views on sexual predators within Bollywood. Here’s what the Taare Zameen Par actress had to say:

“Why do these women go to hotel rooms? Do they not fear for their personal safety? Have they not heard of people’s reputations, and why do they engage with those men?”

Tisca went on to say, "The more women start saying flat-out ‘no’s’, the more these men will understand that this is not the way, this is not going to work." She then went on to articulate her idea of consent. “Unless somebody says ‘no’, and the kind of ‘no’ you say, and the manner in which you say it should convey that it is completely unacceptable to even ask this question,” she said.

To give some context, ever since the Harvey Weinstein scandal came to light about a fortnight ago, sexual harassment has been a big topic of conversation. These conversations aren’t limited to Hollywood. In the past week, there has been an attempt by many to lift the veil of secrecy around Bollywood’s sexual predators. While most voices have added their harrowing #metoo stories to the conversation, there has also been talk about complicity and consent, and the tone has been mostly supportive.

And then came the Tisca Chopra piece. In a little more than 300 words written in first person, it’s Victim Shaming 101, masquerading as cautionary, motherly advice.

I can’t decide if Tisca is ignorant or just insensitive. Her problematic views are no different from designer Donna Karan, who said sexually harassed women may be ‘asking for it’ by dressing seductively, or The Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik, who implied that she hasn’t been harassed or assaulted because of her plain looks and modest values. Like Tisca, Mayim placed the onus on women to be aware of predatory men and not act in any way that would potentially invoke the ‘culture we live in’.

Also read on Firstpost: Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment row lays bare how powerful men get away with abuse

The implications that the way women dress, where they go or how they say ‘no’ are the reasons they can’t escape the clutches of sexual predators like Weinstein, is dangerous. Whether intended or not, these women believe that those who get harassed or assaulted ‘asked for it’ and it’s this kind of shaming that leads too many victims staying silent. Anyone with past trauma will tell you that recurring thoughts of “Could I have done anything different?” and “Was it my fault?” plague almost all victims. This kind of shaming only aids and abets the doubt and self-blame that victims are already experiencing.

Tisca Chopras comments on sexual harassment reveal that Bollywoods women obfuscate consent too

Tisca Chopra. Image from facebook/@TiscaOfficial

Tisca wondered “why women go into hotel rooms”. As a journalist, I have interviewed men from Bollywood in their hotel rooms, offices, drawing rooms and cars. At all hours of day and night. No matter how informal or unorthodox the space, for the time that I am conducting that interview, it is my place of work. Should I not do an interview because the interviewee has a reputation for flashing or is known to ‘chance maro’ as she wrote? I understand the importance to personal safety, but to blame me for doing my job when it’s the man who can’t keep it in his pants is troubling.

If we were to go by Tisca’s views, women who have been sexually harassed in Bollywood could have avoided their fate by not engaging with men who have that reputation. Again, the actress is telling women to stop doing their jobs – edit a movie, assist a director, design a set, sing or compose for a movie, because someone on that team is sure to have a reputation. Why not advocate for the man with the reputation to be taken out of the equation?

Tisca’s thoughts on consent and how to say ‘no’ are just as potentially dangerous. A Twitter user asked the actress what are the kinds of no’s she’s mentioned in The Print article, to which she replied, “A tentative ‘no’, a polite ‘no’, a ‘no’ that means ‘maybe’ and worst of all, a ‘no’ that means yes… just push me more and I will relent’’.

This only further reinforces the misogynistic Bollywood trope that ‘ladki ki naa mein haan hai’. Someone needs to organise a screening of Pink for Tisca to remind her that ‘no means no’, whether it’s said politely, tentatively, whispered or shouted.

Also read on Firstpost: The Harvey Weinsteins of Bollywood — Why women in the film industry don’t speak out

If we want to make this world a safer place for women, it’s important to place the responsibility, wholly and solely, on the perpetrators. Even implying that the victim could have done something differently is not just morally inexcusable, but also the wrong way of addressing the problem. Sexual predators prey, regardless of how a woman dresses or where she goes. A woman’s existence should be enough to be respected by a man. We should not have to dress modestly, not have to be afraid to do our jobs, or learn the different classifications of ‘no’ for our bodies not be violated.

Updated Date: Oct 22, 2017 12:49:16 IST