Everybody has faced indecent proposals at work; let’s celebrate those who refused to oblige at the expense of their careers
The case of Sandeep Rehal against film producer Harvey Weinstein is only the latest in the series of the unraveling of the entertainment industry’s worst kept secret, referred to often as the casting couch. While the story about the tinsel towns beginning with Hollywood threw some light upon several other dark kinds of wood across the world via Twitter, the wolves in sheep’s clothing were not confined to the profession of cinema. The scenario has economic and legal aspects. First, the less the number and lesser the quality of employment opportunities in a city or a segment or sector of an industry, the higher are the chances of juniors getting exploited. Second, the International Labour Organisation has found that exploitations are less under regimes that guarantee sure and fast trials and convictions of the accused. But one’s poor financial condition and inadequacy of legal recourses notwithstanding, every piece of statistic will prove that failed people far outnumber those who made it to the top. Thus, it is very likely that most people, even in an age when being a “careerist” has turned from an invective to an adulation, say “no” at the nick of time. Soon after the Twitter trend, hence, even as the vocal women were speaking up, narrating their awful subjection to sexual predators at workplaces, many not-so-famous women who had little access to conventional media took to Facebook to register their reservations about the victimhood campaign. No one can deny that the exploitative boss is commonplace, neither did these contrarians. They made this point though that one always had the choice of staying dignified in one’s own reckoning by fighting internally the temptation of becoming successful in professional pursuits. Some of these alternative anecdotes explained the pain of being violated, which begins the moment the indecent proposal is made; an unwanted touch, molestation or rape, they said, was a far cry. They had rushed out of the unbearable environment, they narrated, cried in solitude, screamed their angst out and settled for a low-risk, low-profile existence finally. And they said exercising this option was quite feasible if only the desire to fly high could be suppressed in time.
More often than not, seniors in office expect submission, if not surrender, from the junior executives even as they loathe the term “obedience” both in the appointment letters they issue to recruits and in the interviews they have with business journals. Juniors among men (as well as women) do it happily when the expectation is corruption of other moralities: lying about a product or service to be sold, manipulating customers, taking clients for a ride, attacking rivals unfairly, rewarding the unscrupulous and punishing the ethical in an office, etc are part of the corporate deal. Few leave jobs in protest unless confronted with the idea of doing away with the ‘ultimate’ shame: that of one’s body, too personal an entity to be dispersed among its seekers, as it can be denied even to the one whom law wouldn’t normally hold guilty (the spouse).
From the engineer who refused to reduce to a butler of the chief engineer’s wife to the PhD seeker who did not agree to turn into a plumber to fix his professor’s leaky bathroom and kitchen taps to the actress who chose to remain an actor on stage rather than prance before the movie camera for a commercial flick, they say “me too” with a difference. It means, “I said ‘no’, too.” For once, let’s bow to ‘failures’ in life ― if this was how the individual earned his or her failure (obscurity).