Known for her witty remarks and fearless writing, Twinkle Khanna is back with another column in a famous daily. This time, her area of concern is women facing workplace harassment. Former actress and now a writer, Khanna calls the harassers — corner office frogs and workplace harassment survivors — little file-toting flies.
“Sexy is an acceptable compliment within a work environment only if she is a stripper and you are her pimp trying to boost her confidence before she takes the stage.”
The recent TVF fiasco where an ex-employee accused its founder, Arunabh Kumar, of molestation has left the world in a tizzy about how to tackle workplace harassment that women face. After an anonymous blog was published by a certain @Indian_Fowler against the CEO claiming that she was molested and traumatized for nearly two years of her tenure at TVF, 50 more women came up with similar incidents of undignified behaviour by Kumar.
That and the handling of matters by TVF by trying to align with Kumar and threatening the girl with severe action have not gone down well with the public. This has forced many celebrities to take a stand and Twinkle Khanna’s straight-forward column calling out all the big ‘frogs’ like Phaneesh Murthy, Tarun Tejpal, RK Pachauri and Kumar is the one that deserves separate focus.
Khanna writes, “Some of the big frogs caught in a net in recent times are Phaneesh Murthy who had to resign from Infosys after his secretary Reka Maximovitch accused him of sexual harassment, Tarun Tejpal who created a Tehelka with his elevator antics and a man whose picture I had framed and displayed when my son shared a stage with him, RK Pachauri, then director general of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), who was later accused of sexually harassing a researcher at the organisation.”
“A few days ago another big frog was added to the list and came in for some virtual dissection — The Viral Fever CEO Arunabh Kumar who is now making people’s temperatures rise in a way he probably never expected.”
“Have any frogs tried to catch me between their webbed feet? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.”
Not just that, she also talked about how she is also a survivor and that women have to constantly be polite and ignore the sexist behaviour just to do their work silently. “Have any frogs tried to catch me between their webbed feet? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. A few years ago, a message on my phone reduced me to tears in the car. I had reached breaking point after months of suggestive messages from a wealthy, powerful client that I had been pretending not to understand because all I wanted to do was to complete the project in a professional manner,” Khanna explains.
With that, Khanna established that it is not just regular women at the workplace who face the turmoil of being constantly letched upon but also famous women like her married to a man “who on-screen punches holes in walls with his bare fists”, who go through similar treatment.
She also incorporated an example from literature of ‘Sultana’s Dream’, written by Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain in 1905. Khanna’s references and idea of a fed-up woman actually resonates with the women who are coming out about their cases and tells us that it is high-time that men ponder their ways at the workplace. Women are now tired of going through the agony of constantly fighting instincts and continuing to work as if nothing is happening around them. All this pain, just so they could make a mark in the professional world.
Khanna finished her article with a word of advice for the letcher-employers and colleagues and she says, “Do not stalk her, touch her, send her lewd messages and emails. And as far as compliments go, try telling her about her great presentation skills, her way with numbers, her astute negotiations. ‘Sexy’ is an acceptable compliment within a work environment only if she is a stripper and you are her pimp trying to boost her confidence before she takes the stage.”
In this, she cited Arunabh’s argument where he said, “I am a heterosexual single man and when I find a woman sexy, I tell her she is sexy. I compliment women, is that wrong?” Author of Mrs. Funnybones has rightly admonished Kumar for this casual statement.