Dear Prithvi, don't let your pledge backfire on women

Prithviraj Sukumaran recently posted a powerful message on Facebook in support of the actress who was assaulted

Dear Prithvi,

I’ve just read about the horrifying experience your friend went through recently. I’m glad the creeps and low-life losers’ who did this will get the punishment they deserve. No words can be strong enough to express how I feel, as a woman. As a friend, I can’t imagine the ordeal you’re going through. It’s difficult standing there, witnessing the suffering of somebody you care about. You must feel so powerless. I suppose the pledge you took, the promise of standing against misogyny in your movies, is your way of showing support. A lot, a lot of people (including me) went gaga over such bravery. What a cool guy, we thought.

As a younger woman, I had my share of so called lame jokes, misplaced hands, and nasty experiences. I was lucky. I never had to go through the big stuff. Now, happily middle-aged, I hide behind the safety of my greying hair and the lines on my forehead. I’m at a point where I can make lame jokes with the men around. Do you know why it’s called middle age? Because it’s all about managing the middle. Nice, huh? Yet, despite all the laughing, I can never be off-guard, never completely. The last time I opened the newspaper, some creep raped an 80-year-old. So it seems, not even menopause makes you safe. Let’s call a spade a spade. Sexual assault is my worst fear. I’m scared I may be the next one on the list. Actually, I’m yet to meet a woman who doesn’t say so.

Enough about me, let’s get back to your friend. To me, the most shocking aspect of all this is that I never expected sexual assault to happen to one of you. You know, people like you. The rich and famous. I thought you people were out of this world, literally. So, it really seems nobody’s safe. I shivered again. Then, I read your pledge and sighed in relief. A real life hero is watching over us.

Last night, I put my sons to bed. I watched them sleep for a little while until I freaked out. What if they become one of those creeps? What if one day, they trip or worse, they slip? What if they serve me the “ we were all drunk, and she’s the local bitch. So, that’s OK.” What if they tell me “everybody did it, so what’s wrong?” They may even say she was wearing a skirt or too much makeup. Or even, it was dark and she was alone. Well, anything and everything to get away with it, because it’s just a woman’s story.

I shared my concern with my husband. After 13 years, you think you know your man. However, to my stupor, the sensible man he is, brushed away my worries, too lightly for my comfort. Worse, there was a hidden “boys will be boys” kind of attitude when we discussed our sons’ future social lives. Hormones, aka aging in hubby’s case, do have an effect on neurons. I had to remind him that boyhood ends where puberty starts. He’s convinced with the right guidance they’ll know what’s right from what’s wrong. I know something he doesn’t. Creeps can take various shapes and forms. Sometimes, they can be exquisite men with everything working in their favour. Sometimes, they can be cool guys like you. But you’re not one of them because you took that pledge.

Maybe your own parents had the conversation we had with my husband. So, it should be all right. After that night, I couldn’t help thinking that the same conversation may also have happened between all the creeps’ parents. So, what went wrong? Honestly. I think the other culprit is the world out there: with the wrong influences, the wrong people, the wrong TV, and the wrong movies. The world that sometimes nurtures people the wrong way. Talking about movies reminded me of your pledge. I relaxed again.

With much enthusiasm, I read more about it. I rejoiced at the ocean of praise that poured over your words, the clapping, and the cheers. What a cool guy! I looked for the wave of change rolling over the Kerala film industry, a wave that would expand and spread over the entire film industry. The beginning of a process that could bring about a big change. I searched for other cool guys who voiced similar promises, and I freaked out again. To this day, very few of your colleagues expressed their intention to support you in a concrete manner. So, I’m just wondering: how are you planning to act upon your words? Like I said, there’s the world around us, and I see you quite alone on this. Without a collective effort, your words may just remain words.

Unfortunately, you have taken a public pledge and you have no choice but to honor it. Otherwise, it’s going to backfire, not on you because you’re the cool guy. It will backfire on us, women. Forget that pledge and you’ll give more strength to the creeps and low-life losers I’ve mentioned earlier. After all, if you can think that sexual assault can be just a publicity gimmick or a joke, why should they worry? And, the next woman in the news may be another one close to you. Of course, there’s also a risk that it may be somebody like me.

You’re cool, but you must know that by now.



PS. Is your mother available for a quick chat on raising not too lousy guys?