The ‘loathsome frogs’ in Indian workplaces. Twinkle Khanna has a message for them
“In a corner office with a view sits a loathsome frog, his tongue intermittently darting at all the little file-toting flies. This frog is not interested in turning into a prince — he already believes he is one — and stares bug-eyed at the flies, his toys or his employees whatever moniker fits them best in his mind.”
So begins Mrs Funnybones, Twinkle Khanna’s column in the Times of India. The article is titled “Hey, corner office frog, keep that sticky tongue to yourself.”
No prizes for guessing this is Twinkle Khanna’s take on the recent episode of sexual harassment in the workplace, brought to you by The Viral Fever (TVF) CEO Arunabh Kumar.
The ‘frog’ undoubtedly played by Arunabh Kumar is counted as one of those men who believe they own the world and that however badly they behave with women(fly), they will go scot free.
Twinkle has a lot to say about Arunabh’s defence in the matter as well. TVF CEO had this to say for himself when accused of sexual molestation by a former employee: “I am a heterosexual, single man and when I find a woman sexy, I tell her she's sexy. I compliment women. Is that wrong? Having said that, I am very particular about my behaviour - I will approach a woman, but never force myself.”
Twinkle objects to this reply outright when she writes as her concluding lines:
“Telling a woman she is sexy in the bedroom is fine, telling her the same thing in the boardroom simply deplorable. So think before you croak or it may just be your turn to be doused in formaldehyde and dissected next.”
The frog metaphor works best to describe workplace perverts who think that by using power, authority and money they can cow down any woman into submission. With the frog’s sticky tongue it traps its hapless preys; in the case of the office pervert, he uses rumours, power and cunning to intimidate the victim.
In the Indian Fowler’s case, she first complained to the higher authorities, waited it out, tried to rebel but still came out of the whole thing burnt. Her ego and self-respect bruised and battered and not to mention her dignity.
The point to note, however, is that while people may say working women who have some sort of financial burden to carry or are poor or have no other job prospects are easy targets, Twinkle Khanna recounts one incident where she herself “a fairly assertive woman, and married to a man who onscreen punches holes in walls with his bare fists and yet I haven’t been spared”.
She talks of an incident where a wealthy client had been sending her suggesting messages via the phone. They reduced her to tears and why didn’t Twinkle speak out then? She says, she wanted to complete the work in professional manner and so she ignored it as much as possible.
The heart of the matter is, if Twinkle Khanna who has a certain status in society cannot escape such harassment, if a popular actress in the Malayalam film industry cannot escape the barbs of assault, how can a normal Indian woman ever call herself safe? Abuse, assault or rape is not subject to class or status – it happens because of the ‘privileged’ feeling of the male gender.