The Tarun Tejpal sexual harassment case is just the tip of the iceberg. Within journalistic circles in New Delhi everyone knows which editor has slept with how many women.
It’s an open secret, but very few cases come to the light to the general public. Thanks to that, certain media houses talking non-stop on gender issues and sexual harassment cases become all the more farcical, seen in the way the whole world has blown up in editor Shoma Chaudhury’s face.
Everyone is as hypocritical as her—the only difference is that she has been exposed while all others remain hidden. But a boss who behaves like a sexual predator messes up the entire office in more ways than one…
1. Attempt at sexual liaison = Sexual harassment: This is the most important point of all. Say a boss has had five serious affairs in career. He can say that they have been consensual and that’s why nobody should have a problem. There are also many consensual affairs between employees anyway.
But the problem is that to get those five affairs, he would have probably approached say 25 women. That means he made advances towards 20 women who rebuffed him. That’s 20 cases of sexual harassment.
Tejpal unwittingly spilled the beans on a modus operandi when he said that he made an “attempt at sexual liaison”. There probably have been hundreds and hundreds of such attempts and they are nothing but sexual harassment cases.
That makes most editors merely criminals who haven’t been caught. The problem is that if a girl builds up courage and makes a complaint, she is put under the scanner. She is harassed and eventually forced to quit while the sexual predator continues as if nothing has happened all the while eyeing the next victim.
One hopes that the fall of Tejpal will prove to be the 9/11 moment for media and women will get the courage to fight sexual predators in a much more effective way.
2. Smart girls maintaining distance will be dismissed as prudes: Therefore, rightly a smart girl should be wary in the workplace and has to be hostile towards backslapping, punching on the shoulder and something like bottom slapping. But such a wise line of action is not appreciated by the team and such girls are seen as aloof and undesirable in the workplace!
3. Mediocre girls can sleep their way to the top: That’s a major problem and it gives all other women a bad name. We as it is live in a patriarchal society where women in the workplace are viewed with hostility. Such things only make matters worse.
4. It vitiates the office atmosphere: It’s not just about one boss. The entire department suffers. A section of girls live in fear and apprehension while the girl who sleeps with the boss keeps getting one favour after another.
Even the guys are divided into two camps. Those who appreciate the boss for his “scores” are in his good books and those who resent it drift away from him. Overall, one affair with the boss can vitiate the office atmosphere like nothing else.
5. One bogie can derail the whole train: Another silly argument given is that most of these editors are brilliant and great writer and bring a lot to the table. Like suddenly Tejpal is supposed to be the greatest editor cum crusader cum writer that India has ever produced and this indiscretion seems to be bringing him down. It doesn’t work like that.
If a brilliant editor becomes corrupt, then it will affect his each and every decision. Similarly if the most brilliant editor is a sexual predator, then it will vitiate the organization. Favouritism, fear and resentment will pervade the office. The boss will spend more time with the girl in particular, leaving much less time for the company and other employees.
It’s like a train. If it has 20 great bogies, but even if one of them derails, then the whole train falls down. Sexual predation is that derailed bogie. If Tejpal was a habitual offender, then he definitely wouldn’t have been a good boss to work with and that negates all his good qualities (if he has any).
All of this applies not just to journalism, but all industries in the world. The only difference is that in some industries predator bosses are less while in others they are far more.
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