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The many moods, shades, and sides of harassment

  • Published at 01:04 am July 18th, 2018
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Sexual harassment is not a problem that will fix itself Photo: BIGSTOCK

Treat others as you would have them treat you

I’ve always been a staunch follower of the Golden Rule.

I try and maintain a good demeanour with others in my day-to-day interactions, and I try and remain calm while debating my friends and peers over any given subject -- all in my (mostly) futile quest to gather some sort of reciprocity from other parties.

Now, unless you’re some sort of sadomasochistic psycho killer with a penchant for snooping into other people’s texts and emails when they aren’t noticing, I’m certain that you, like most, want to be treated with some level of decency.

Which is, unfortunately, something of an alien notion to most anyone living in the city of Dhaka, where a man on a motorcycle doesn’t even think twice before plying his two-wheeled death-trap over a heavily occupied sidewalk -- of course, having a law enforcer set the precedent for such behaviour all but encourages citizens to follow suit.

So, yes, the average citizen has a fundamental problem with respecting the wishes of anyone that is not him. Or “her,” for that matter -- the ladies don’t get a pass.

An assault on common sense

One of the ugliest, and sadly, most common manifestations of this flagrant disregard for the Golden Rule is sexual harassment. It’s everywhere in our society. From the remote villages in the fringes of Bangladesh to a cocktail party in Gulshan, it feels almost as if there’s something fundamentally wrong with how boys are being brought up in our society.

Of course I’m being facetious.

The level of entitlement crammed into the heads of Bangladeshi men during their formative years, mostly by their mothers, all but ensures that their first experience with romantic rejection almost always ends up with the obvious outcome.

While sexual assault and rape are disgustingly common in our society, we witnessed something of a breakthrough with the Raintree case last year, the details of which I have no intention of repeating. Needless to say, the incident really opened the floodgates to discussions over rape being taken seriously and then … nothing.

What happened to all that outrage and discourse?

Domestic rape is still a time-honoured tradition in Bangladesh, and most women are still hesitant to report their experiences to the authorities in fear of the associated stigma. This is not a problem which is going to fix itself.

Kingdom of Bawdy Arabia

In the distant land of our spiritually kindred brothers and sisters, Saudi Arabia, a woman was recently arrested because of her abrupt act of endearment towards a male singer on-stage -- where she broke free from the crowd and unexpectedly hugged the performer.

The most incredible bit was that the woman was charged with harassment.

Not by the singer, mind you, but the state, as her act is considered harassment by default due to the nation’s laws against women mixing in public with men they are not related to.

Now, I understand just how much of a bubble Saudi Arabia is -- it is one of the greatest inadvertent social experiments in our history -- and it’s definitely not the best example when talking about issues related to women (the entire country is basically a women’s rights issue). 

But I can’t help but be curious just how justified the harassment claims are in this case, even going by the country’s rather myopic views towards women and sexuality.

I mean, she did grab the guy out of the clear blue without his apparent consent.

Knock on Hollywood

Moving from one bubble to another, thespian extraordinaire Henry Cavill recently lit something of a fire under the posteriors of culture commentators all across Hollywood with his recent statement regarding what it’s like being an A-list actor in the dating scene.

While his use of the word “rape” perhaps errs a bit too much on the side of misinformed conflation, I believe his apprehensions beg for some genuine discourse.

Hollywood is in an uncomfortable period right now -- its grossly exploitative and just plain gross innards now lay exposed in the aftermath of the Weinstein revelations. And while it’s great to know that the industry is finally acknowledging its problems when it comes to exploitation, there is also fear that all the progress from movements such as #metoo and #timesup are on the cusp of falling under their own weight.

No matter how many times you polish a turd it will still remain just that, unfortunately.

As an industry that is almost exclusively run by opportunists, it perhaps won’t be long before Hollywood sees an influx of enterprising young men and women trying to coast in on these movements to try and get their 15 minutes of fame.

And we’ve witnessed instances of this already, with the misplaced accusations towards comedian Aziz Ansari earlier this year by someone who experienced a bad date with him signalling something close to that. Not to mention the sordid affair which led to Anthony Bourdain committing suicide (for more information, please refer to Leah McSweeney’s Penthouse article “Can we talk about toxic femininity?”).

Harassment is never one-size-fits-all, it depends on the prevailing culture, and -- given the already murky nature of human interaction -- depends upon innumerable other factors.

But, at the end of the day, it all boils down to one thing: Don’t be a jerk.

Treat others as you would have them treat you -- with decency and a modicum of respect for their rights as individuals.

Unless, of course, you are someone who wants to be treated like garbage, in which case, please refrain from doing so. 

Rubaiyat Kabir is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune. He can be followed on Twitter @moreanik.