MJ Akbar not only denies the allegations but also refuses to atone for his misdeeds.
As former journalist and member of parliament MJ Akbar continues to aggressively shame survivors of his unwelcome sexual advances, experts decode the psyche of men like him.
Defamation suits, counterclaims and outright denial of accusations have flooded the Internet in a failed attempt to quell the #MeToo movement. But the hour for redemption has come after a long stoic silence, even when the perpetrators continue to hide behind the façade of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. The most common anomaly since time immemorial is that men in power look at their gender as a privilege and therefore form a huge sense of entitlement.
The latest and the most jarring example is of Union Minister MJ Akbar who resigned from his post as the Minister of State for External Affairs on Wednesday amid sexual harassment allegations. The former journalist has been accused by as many as 20 women from the journalism cohort for his sexual overtures and has explicitly narrated their ordeals on social media. MJ Akbar not only denies the allegations but also refuses to atone for his misdeeds. This was also seen in the cases of Vikas Bhal, Alok Nath and Nana Patekar who have tried to gag their survivors in more ways than one.
Clinical psychologist Devanshi Jalan tries to decode the psyche of these men and helps us understand what forms their behavioral patterns. She says, “these acts resemble the behavioral pattern of a bully. They (perpetrators) particularly select soft targets where they can wield their power and often female employees become a viable option for them. They often sense that these young women are either in need of money or are ambitious and will be scared to jeopardize their career and will not take action for the fear of being misunderstood. Often women minimize what happened or go into denial because they feel shame,” she says.
Devanshi also adds that the urge to bully mostly stems from their own insecurities and while their backgrounds and past experiences might also be at play as it is considered a norm for men in power. “When women at the workplace are motivated and driven, they show confidence and men feel threatened. This comes from the unrealistic image set in men’s minds by the society for so many years. So, while men believe women should be collectivists and dependent in certain ways, women are breaking out of this mould and demanding individual status. This makes men more dominating and controlling,” says psychotherapist Shreemant Yadav, who is also the founder of Faculty Minds in Mumbai.
The experts also feel that a lot of women are yet to speak up because, quite often, they are tricked into believing it was their fault, or that they led their male colleagues and bosses on. “Often the perpetrator makes the woman believe it is her fault or that she was ok with it. But times are changing and, when one woman speaks up, the other gets the courage to speak since the same has happened with her. She then realizes it’s not her fault but his. These megalomaniac bosses tend to wield their positions of power in these cases and suppress their survivors further,” she says.
It might also be attributed to the basic upbringing in India where we harbour patriarchy in obscene proportions, says Shreemant.“The basic upbringing of men is they have to protect women or women are the weaker sex. This gives men a feeling of superiority over women. When women are not in need of help or patronage, men feel challenged,” he says, adding that the need to deal with their inferior feeling makes them push women down through various reasons or tactics. He follows this with another eye-opening explanation that highlights the fetid intentions of these sex pests, he says, “Usually or most of the time sexual harassment is not about sex in the initial stages. It’s a way of maintaining superiority. Sexual harassment, rape or any kind of molestation is always about the need for power on the man’s part. These kinds of acts are not about physical needs; it’s a strong urge to attack a woman’s self-esteem. To maintain one’s own self-esteem, these people have to attack others,” he explains.
Shefali Batra, a psychiatrist and cognitive therapist and the founder of MINDFRAMES and co-founder of InnerHour, seconds Shreemant when she says that this desire to have a control comes from the fact that they (perpetrators) do not have self-control or self-esteem, she says “it comes from a sense of hollowness and emptiness and a feeling of not being man enough. This is really the rooting thought and emotion behind wanting that sense of control that they don’t have. And therefore, the sexual impetus or the energy through the power of sexual control is what really comes into play. It allows the men to feel one up.” She says.
The first step in weeding out these perpetrators is deterrence. They must be made to feel ashamed and guilty of their offences by stripping them off positions of power, says Devanshi, “this step is important because, only when something is taken away from them for the first time will they realize the gravity of the situation and reflect over what they have done, if at all. It’s a fundamental problem because often they don’t see their wrongdoings even after. Some even report feeling like victims themselves with no remorse.”
As the #MeToo movement gains ground, 20 women journalists who have worked with The Asian Age newspaper, came out in support of their colleague Priya Ramani who has accused Union minister MJ Akbar of sexual harassment, said a joint statement issued by them.
The journalists have urged the court to hear their testimonies against Akbar, claiming that some of them suffered sexual harassment by the minister and others have been a witness to it.
The following women have signed the petition
1. Meenal Baghel (The Asian Age 1993-1996)
2. Manisha Pande (The Asian Age 1993-1998)
3. Tushita Patel (The Asian Age 1993-2000)
4. Kanika Gahlaut (The Asian Age 1995-1998)
5. Suparna Sharma (The Asian Age 1993-1996)
6. Ramola Talwar Badam (The Asian Age 1994-1995)
7. Kaniza Gazari (The Asian Age 1995-1997)
8. Malavika Banerjee (The Asian Age 1995-1998)
9. A.T. Jayanti (The Asian Age 1995-1996)
10. Hamida Parkar (The Asian Age 1996-1999)
11. Jonali Buragohain (The Asian Age)
12. Sanjari Chatterjee (The Asian Age)
13. Meenakshi Kumar (The Asian Age 1996-2000)
14. Sujata Dutta Sachdeva (Asian Age 1999-2000)
15. Hoihnu Hauzel (The Asian Age 1999-2000)
16. Reshmi Chakraborty (The Asian Age Mumbai staff 1996-1998)
17. Kushalrani Gulab (The Asian age 1993-1997)
18. Aisha khan (The Asian Age 1995-1998)
19. Kiran Manral (The Asian Age 1993-1996)
20. Christina Francis (Deccan Chronicle 2004-2011).