Harvey Weinstein, a Hollywood Mogul has been in the news lately; many high-profile actresses and women who have worked with him have accused him of having sexually assaulted them. In the midst of the controversy, came a suggestion to women to share their various sexual harassment/ assault experiences on social media. This took the hashtag #MeToo and till today more than 12 million people across the world have shared their experiences of sexual abuse and harassment. In India too, a lot of women shared their frightening experiences on Facebook. But what happened a day later, was something that made many of these women feel taken for a ride.
HINDU GODS UNDER ATTACK ONCE MORE: Independent Journalist Neha Dixit put up this picture which was then picked up by feminists around India – https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DMUhaUcUIAEw0_9.jpg
Soon it became obvious that what is a world-wide phenomenon, is being used in India to shame Hindu religion and gods once again. All those women who were brave enough to share their horrifying experience were aghast to see this happening.
BASIC FLAW IN THE CAMPAIGN: As it is, the campaign had one major flaw – it only showed one side of the picture. The woman who had faced the harassment was exposing herself, but the man/men who had harassed her remained nameless. This meant that though the women thought that they were making men feel ashamed of the widespread misbehaviour, the men got away scot-free. The agony and shame still remained that of the woman.
CHANGING MINDSETS: What is really needed is to make men aware that this deviant behaviour of the men is wrong. Men easily understand a ‘NO’ when someone of their own sex says it, as is evident when they tell their friends that they do not want them using their cars, or that they will not have another drink. But when it comes to women, they do not want to understand the word ‘NO’. This is because somewhere in their mind rests the feeling that women are really not their equal. This mindset has to change.
DISPLAY BOLDLY THE NAME OF THE SEXUAL OFFENDER IN THE WORKPLACE: While it may not be possible to find out the names of the predators in the public areas, in the workplace, such people can be shamed easily. The moment the names of a few sexual offenders are displayed, it will make people take notice & the perpetrator will be automatically shamed. Similarly, in the newspapers, the names of the perpetrators should be mentioned in bold letters along with their residential address. It is time to make these people visible so that women are on guard when they are around.
*** A note of caution though – Let the act be proved before such visibility, lest an innocent is shamed.
COMING TO SRI KRISHNA – What Neha Dixit missed completely was that firstly, Sri Krishna’s age at the time of the incident was less than 7 years. There was no way that He could have indulged in a sexual act, leave alone sexual offence, with the Gopikas.
In all of Maha Vishnu’s Avataras, it is Sri Krishna Avatar which is the most colourful. Sri Krishna is naughty, playful, flirty, a fine statesman, a warrior and is eventually the wisest teacher there ever could be. In fact, He believed in women empowerment. But we are continuously made to believe that He had amorous relationships with the Gopikas, with Radha, and that He had more than 16,000 wives? In His childhood itself He is reported to have killed a Rakshasi (Putana). Then how is it that one can say that He believed in women empowerment? According to the Bhagvatam, the Gopikas were actually sages in their previous lives. They had chosen to take birth as Gopikas to be close with this Avatar of Vishnu. I used to wonder what made the sages take a female form. Could they not have loved Sri Krishna just as much if they were men? Remember that it is widely believed that it was a male dominated society. If that were true, these sages should have in fact taken birth as men, so that they could bond better with another male.
It is my view that Sri Krishna wanted to make a point. He wanted to prove to the world that it was not necessary to mouth mantras and shlokas, do strict meditation, to get closer to the Supreme One. Women, who are thought to be the weaker sex, could attain bliss doing all their housework, despite being unlettered, whether they were married or not, whether they were of a particular class or caste; in short, there were no shortcomings whatsoever in their search for bliss. In His birth, He chose to be the child of Devaki (not any male relative of Kamsa); to show that the whole universe was just a part of Him, He chose Yashoda (not Nanda); to grant His first Moksha, He chose Putana (it is not known as Putana-Vadha … it is Putana Moksha), a Rakshasi; to grant their desires, He chose the Gopikas (through the Katyayani Puja and subsequent Raas-Lila) not the Gopalakas who were His friends.
Even when He became the King, He kept women emancipation in mind. It is well known that His marriage to Rukmani took place only after she sent word to Sri Krishna that she did not want to marry the groom chosen by her brother. Rukmani had set her heart upon marrying Sri Krishna. And Sri Krishna obliged. Similarly when His sister Subadhra told Him of her desire to marry Arjuna and not Duryodhana (as arranged by Balabhadra), He encouraged Arjuna and Subadhra to elope. In fact, He told Arjuna specifically to see to it that Subadhra should ride the chariot. In both the above marriages, the disappointed grooms were those who did not follow Dharma correctly. When we hear about young girls being married off to lusty men old enough to be their fathers, we wish that we had a Sri Krishna in our midst. What about the 16,000 wives that He is said to have had? They were the women rescued by Him after his victory of Narakasura. It was the only way He could have given them a dignified life, free of taunts and worries of dependence on their earlier families.
Kunti, who was Sri Krishna’s aunt, had a child out of the wedlock (Karna). But by accepting her true remorse for her actions, He set a path for those who have tried to turn their life around, despite having committed one of the biggest blunders of their life. He had the greatest respect for Kunti. When He went to meet Dhritharashtra with the proposal for peace, He accepted the hospitality of Vidura and his wife Sulabha. Sulabha was a low caste Suta woman (it is believed that she was Shabari in her previous life). In doing so, He spurned the royal hospitality of Dhritharashtra and Duryodhana. Shikhandi, another female character in the Mahabharata, is given her place of importance on the battle field. When no other man would be ready to have Shikhandi in his army or to fight Shikhandi in a face-to-face battle, Sri Krishna pits her against Bhishma. She has her moment of glory and her victory by being instrumental in the killing of the great warrior who had belittled her respect in her previous life. I feel that in all the above cases, Sri Krishna makes a strong case for acceptance of the soft strength of women.
Draupadi, the woman held responsible for the Mahabharata war, is Sri Krishna’s friend. She calls Him ‘Sakha’ – friend. Time and again, her honor is upheld by Sri Krishna, whether it was during the ‘Vastra Haran’ – disrobing in the open court, or when Sage Durvasa had to be fed after the Pandavas and she had finished their meal. Even while going to talk about peace, He promises Draupadi that she would have her revenge against the Kauravas. He never forgets the shame heaped on her just because she was a woman in a man’s world. By promising her that she would be avenged, by encouraging her to never forget the shame, he actually paves the way for women’s empowerment.
We have indeed chosen to misinterpret everything that our scriptures conveyed and thus we are invariably confused as to whether our ancients actually had a society where all were respected or whether they sought to enslave the so-called weaker sections (the uneducated, the ‘low’ caste, the women, etc.). I feel that this thinking has come about because in the last 1000 years or so it was continuously proved that ‘Might is Right’ – thanks to the various invasions (Mongols, Greeks, Turks, Europeans, etc.) and invariably in all these invasions, the losers were taken as slaves & ill-treated. When we are taught glories of these invaders in our History books, we start thinking in this way too. And slowly we start looking for the same characteristics in our ancient scriptures too. We then forget that our society was different, our religion was different. We start thinking with our present ideas and then start criticizing our texts and religion. We need to start thinking with a renewed vision.