Kamal Haasan says ‘dignity’ can protect women from violence, gets slammed

With his statement, Kamal Haasan effectively propagated a misogynistic take, which blames a woman's 'behaviour' for the domestic violence and sexual harassment she faces.
Kamal Haasan says ‘dignity’ can protect women from violence, gets slammed
Kamal Haasan says ‘dignity’ can protect women from violence, gets slammed

Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan, on Saturday, displayed a shocking lack of understanding of violence against women in a tweet, which insisted that 'dignity and equipoise' were sufficient to deter domestic violence and sexual harassment. The Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) founder unwittingly placed the onus of prevention of violence on the victims (women) by claiming that 'confidence' can do more damage to the perpetrators, than 'pepper spray'.

The actor gave the ill-begotten advice, which borders on victim-blaming, in response to a video posted by a Twitter user with the handle @snehamohandoss. In the video from January 1, she had displayed her skills with a nunchanku (a metal weapon) and said that the ability to protect oneself empowers you to live with less fear and more freedom. She had used the hashtags #Free_From_DomesticViolence and #Learn_SelfDefence in the post.

While many had praised the skill and confidence she showcased, Kamal chose to discount the self-defence as a method to fight violence.

"Dignity and equipoise are important to your protection and empowerment. With the above qualities, your self-defence can become non-violent. When non-violence meets violence, there is no combat; clearly, the criminal is exposed. Your confidence can do more damage than pepper spray," he tweeted.

With this statement, the actor effectively propagated the misogynistic take on domestic violence and sexual harassment that maintains that 'men will remain men' and that women will have to prevent offending the egos of males to avoid becoming victims.

Miffed at the actor-politician's statement, several Twitter users called out his sexist remarks.

"Never meet your heroes or follow them on social media. They'll suddenly say absolute shit like this and expose their male privilege," a social media user wrote.

Congress leader Lakshmi Ramachandran, too, rubbished the 'dignity' argument offered by the male politician. "What are you saying, Sir? I will do anything to save myself and loved ones from getting harmed by a criminal/murderer/rapist. Dignity my foot!" she tweeted.

Social activist and feminist Dhivya Marunthiah stated, "IMO (in my opinion) I don’t think men should even open their mouth and give unsolicited advice or opinions on matters completely pertaining to women. Men shouldn’t be a part of those discussions at all."

Another user named Lakshmi said, "Girls could learn self-defence or just scare sexual predators by being confident, or even better do both. This is as good as saying, in the least hurtful tone as boys will be boys, the most hurtful tone you brought this on yourself."

Radhika Santhanam, a journalist, asked, "Seriously, how hard is it to tweet: 'Men, in 2021, please understand the meaning of 'no'?' The world may be burning but women will still be told to maintain their "dignity". So disappointing."

Several other Twitter users also pointed out that Kamal's regressive take on the matter implied that victims of abuse were not dignified. 

Many demanded an apology from the actor.

Earlier, singer and MeToo activist Chinmayi Sripaada had shared an interview of Kamal Haasan from 2014, where he shared what a 'rogue man' would think. In the video, the actor claims that he, too, has made women feel uncomfortable in the past by whistling and staring at them.

"If an actual good girl is walking and these men go too close, they themselves will choose to let her go. But if a girl reacts and spits at them, they will definitely chase her because those are signals," he claimed. "If you make faces, they will choose you and if you threaten to hit them with stones, they will grab your hand. Do you understand? They see it as a signal. If your dignity doesn't falter, they will feel bad and leave it. You can't take weapons for that. If your heart is pure, nobody will come close," he added.

The politician, who claims to practice equality, has repeatedly resorted to victim-blaming and has maintained the stance even six years after this regressive interview, and two years after the MeToo movement shook the world awake to why the onus must be on the perpetrator. By constantly espousing the idea that a woman's dignity can save her from physical and sexual assault, he has effectively removed any responsibility or blame from the men involved in the attack.  

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