A Woman’s Prayer

Is a simple one. That the men she must encounter every day in the course of her living not be creeps. Right from the food delivery guy ringing your doorbell, the water filter guy sent by a company to change the filter of your water purifier, the courier who has to give you your study material, the guy idling on his motorcycle just outside your gym, the gym trainer, the fellow panting on the treadmill just next to yours, the male relatives who feel entitled to stay at your place when they visit, the ticket checker on a bus, the beggar who you turned away.

You can see that list isn’t exhaustive and it will probably never end.

Every time we sit down to analyse ways in which we can make ourselves safer, we discount the involvement of the abuser as being primary to the situation. Slowly, we shift into victim-blaming and shaming. “I should get home before it gets too dark and deserted” may be your precaution but very often, the accusation of another: why did you not get home before it got too dark and deserted?

I was recently part of a conversation where somebody narrated how a female colleague who works with a very large multinational tech company, known for putting its employees first and for being among the best places to work around the world. She handled an important client for this company and was responsible for them meeting their quarterly targets. Her work brought her in close contact with the client’s internal team, and the manager of that team, who sanctioned spends, would send her lewd texts every day. If she did not respond, he would stop sanctioning additional budgets. She did not want to bring it up with her own company because if she did, they would take action but they would also remove her from that role to protect her, effectively resetting her career path within that vertical. If she complained to the client’s senior management, she had no way of predicting if they would take action or just ask her to keep it quiet. So she did what she thought was best: shut up and move on.

Recently, she quit this tech giant and joined its competitor. New work place, new people and a huge relief from having to deal with the old client. By the end of the story, the narrator tells me this: I never thought how tough it must be in sales for women, it seems particularly susceptible. I gaped quietly for a while before quipping: how is this any different from any other industry? It doesn’t matter what your job or career path is. If you are a woman and if you happen to be in a situation where a creep like that holds the keys to your career, promotion, letter of recommendation, transfer, anything at all that will help you get what you deserve, then that’s it, game over. You either speak up and invite a shit-storm of judgement and victim shaming or you shut up and succumb to humiliation, PTSD, shock, abuse.

The role or the vertical has nothing to do with what women face in the work place, or even at home for that matter. This comes from the same place where people believe that people who know you will never assault, rape, molest, abuse you but statistics prove otherwise.

There are no triggers, no worst case scenario here. We have to stop, as men and women, shifting the blame from the men onto various external and irrelevant factors like what the woman was wearing, which city she is in, what time of day, if she drinks, smokes, parties, wear clothes she likes, what vertical she works in, has tattoos, smokes up, wear boots, has nostrils, has a vagina, has organs, breathes. The excuses have to stop. We don’t do any of this when somebody gets murdered or robbed or mugged, then why are harassment, rape, molestation and abuse exceptions?