Actress Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, who believes that the #MeToo movement has been “as eye-opening and devastating as it has been exhilarating”, will galvanise people into action and into a redemption of rights long awaited for the disempowered. This, she believes, may seem complex, but can be achieved in a simple way.
As guest editor for Thrive Global India’s online portal, Sonam has penned a forthright note on how people must learn to deal with the #MeToo wave in which people in powerful positions are being called out for sexually harassing, exploiting or violating others.
“I am privileged that I did not grow up with relatives for whom off-handed sexist remarks were the dinner table norm. Or where women were asked to shut up and look down. That safety net, this spotlight and a stage for my opinion has always encouraged me to have a voice,” said Sonam, the eldest of veteran actor Anil Kapoor’s three children.
Using that very voice, the Neerja actress took this chance to pen down suggestions that can help everyone — be it men or women — to be a part of this sweeping change.
Sonam has urged people to believe the survivors. “Yes, a person is innocent until proven guilty but must it come at the cost of rejecting a survivor’s account?” she asked, and added: “While people must be treated as innocent until proven guilty, we need to remember that women are taking on incredible personal risk and trauma to tell their stories. We owe them, at the least, our trust and support.”
She reached out to the people to go in for a near total mental reboot as she feels people need a “shift in mindset which acknowledges that sons and daughters should not be treated differently”.
“Mothers must stop treating their sons like they’re precious gifts from God. We have powerful people in our country who are women but our mentality continues to be that menstruating women – or women at large – shouldn’t enter temples.
Sonam’s third point stresses on ‘Ditch the entitlement. Understand consent’. She reiterates what the film Pink promoted: “If it’s a no, then it’s an unequivocal no.”
The National Award-winning actress has also said people need to call out all the men and women in their lives who they know have erred.
“We shouldn’t be quiet because we fear hurting someone,” she said in a point about taking sides.
“If you are silent and don’t take sides then you are, I am afraid, on the side of the person who is wrong. Always take sides,” added Sonam, who has pledged to never endorse or work with individuals proven to be predatory and guilty.
She hopes sexist jokes stop. “It’s not okay to make sexist, homophobic, racist jokes in an environment which is rife with sexism and discrimination,” she said.
Labelling too must not be practiced. “A friend of mine didn’t want to speak about her experience because she was concerned about how people would label her. ‘I’ll be labelled a victim or a survivor for the rest of my life,’ she told me,” Sonam said, and averred that calling sexy songs “item numbers” is all a part of “sexual propaganda”.
She feels a solution to tackle sexual harassment cases is to “empower and hire more women”.
“If you don’t have women running a company but you employ mostly women, how is it going to work? Women shouldn’t be hired for tokenism but be empowered to take up key roles where they make decisions,” Sonam said.
Lastly, Sonam believes that the #MeToo movement is about “survivors and perpetrators, about making the society less misogynist, entitled and changing how we think”.
“It’s time to transform the naysayers into supporters, to join the movement in full force and oppose every act – even a suggestion – of abuse and discrimination.”