Dia Mirza on Harvey Weinstein scandal: Nothing worse than empowered men using their power to get sexual favours – “Before we judge condemn and convict Harvey Weinstein in the media, we must examine the circumstances that encourage such people to misuse their power,” says the actress.
Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein has been accused by several for sexual misconduct and the question is how much longer before the Weinsteins of Bollywood are uncovered? Actress Dia Mirza, who has been involved and vocal about issues concerning women and gender biases has grave concerns when it comes to the casting couch.
“Before we judge condemn and convict Harvey Weinstein in the media, we must examine the circumstances that encourage such people to misuse their power. I think there is almost nothing worse than empowered men using their power to get sexual favours out of upcoming aspirants, both women …and men too. Let’s not forget men are as susceptible to being sexually exploited as women,” Dia Mirza said.
Further explaining the matter of people succumbing to sexual favours to climb up the ladder, Dia said, “I’ve been a part of this entertainment industry for 20 years. I’ve seen how ambitious youngsters avail of sexual favours to make their way up the ladder, not realizing that the short cuts are never a dependable route to success. Why should the onus of such youngsters’ moral compromise only be on the exploitative elements in the entertainment industry? If you are old enough to seek job opportunities you are old enough to know when you are being told to compromise for the sake of the opportunities. After that the choice is entirely yours. I never took that route of seeking favours by being ‘nice’ to people who matter. For this I’ve been called boring. I refuse to see that epithet as an insult. I wear it as a badge of honour.”
Dia pointed out that a woman’s silence cannot be taken to mean compliance, “Disclosure is easier when you are more established. When you are starting out, and you speak out or point out to harassment–you become the attention-seeker, the trouble-maker. People’s attention spans are limited. Speaking out then means you are not known for your work, instead are known for having spoken out. People often ask, why not name these men, expose them? It’s important of course but sometimes these men are related to the women we adore. Sometimes the silence is to protect our friends and not out of any misplaced sympathy for these abusers. Also, I am ashamed to say this, but any fight, calling out, naming-shaming, takes time and energy. As artists, we don’t always have the luxury of time. There’s a constant clock ticking away–and that reminds people that they can only choose some battles, not all. We must therefore respect women’s silence too.”
Further talking about Harvey Weinstein, Dia believes that it comes from society’s deep-rooted patriarchal mindset.
“We must also remember that many of these women who are coming forward to accuse Weinstein go back with their horror tales to 20 years and more. Back then the social construct was different in America as it was in our country. What was considered an acceptable masculine behaviour is today rejected as being completely unacceptable,” Dia added.
“Career women take years to speak out against sexual exploitation because they need to make a name for themselves. Otherwise they run the risk of not being taken seriously. There is also the question of self-definition. We are where we are because of what we have endured, fought against and emerged triumphant. We are what we’ve become. We are not what once we were reduced into being. We refuse to allow abuse to pack us away into victimhood,” the actress concluded.