One week ago, Sheena Dabholkar tweeted about witnessing sexual harassment at one of Pune’s most popular restaurants. The writer called out the owner of High Spirits Café, Khodu Irani, and also spoke out about bullying at the venue and on Facebook. When she called out their misogyny a year ago, she was harassed by their army of trolls and shamed for speaking about it.
Last week, she had had enough and she tweeted this:
Soon after, the internet being the internet, went into a frenzy. Women of Pune and other cities who had been to the bar, raised their voices in support of Dabholkar. Her tweet was received by many women as an opportunity to speak of their own experiences regarding misogyny at High Spirits, and so they did. They gave personal accounts of incidents where they had been felt up, groped and sexually harassed.
Joining the 10-year-old awareness movement started by Tarana Burke, women have begun speaking out about situations where they faced sexual harassment and assault. The floodgates opened and in a matter of hours, numerous women came forward with their own experiences, on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #MeToo to spread the word.
The number of posts that filled up social media timelines resulted in the allegations against High Spirits becoming national news! Faye D’Souza who hosts The Urban Debate on Mirror Now moderated the debate about the allegations and the #MeToo movement.
Recently, a Medium blog written by an ex-employee Divya — who has only mentioned her first name — gives what seems to be an inside view into this issue. As per the post, she worked at the club for three years until 2013 in the capacity of a PA, social media manager, front desk employee and artist manager. She writes about how she was groped and bullied by her boss, and how she spoke to his spouse about this.
“…and so he (my boss) then poured a pint of beer on my head during my shift, and told me told that if I went home to change, or ever brought this up to her (his spouse) again, I would lose my job.”
He also allegedly fat-shamed her and groped her in the process.
It also came to light that the bar gives out awards for best boobs, once a year on their anniversary. This is affirms not only that the environment at High Spirits Cafe is misogynistic and but also that they encourage it for entertainment!
Famous personalities that have performed at the venue also gave their opinion:
When approached for comment, the bar denied all allegations and has not addressed the issue in any of their social media pages. In a statement released to BuzzFeed, a High Spirits Cafe spokesperson denied all the allegations, and claimed that someone “with an agenda” was out to tarnish their reputation.
Moreover, Zomato has been controlling the negative reviews put up by users regarding High Spirits. It says that since the venue has received a lot of “media attention” and so they are “closely monitoring” all reviews and some may be removed. The moderation alert says the reviews that were removed weren’t about food, service or “ambience”. This could be Zomato protecting their relationship with the bar (or the bar itself) or just them turning a blind eye to all the blatant testimonies of customers that have been actually been there!
How is encouraging and maintaining an uncomfortable and unsafe environment for women not an issue worth reviewing? These reviews are regarding ambience and concealing this kind of truth from the users of the app is basically lying to them. All reviews must be allowed, if they are monitored in this way, doesn’t it defeat the initial purpose of reviewing? Would you knowingly allow your users to go to this place without them having any knowledge of what goes on inside?
Looking at the number of women participating, one can easily gauge the magnitude of the problem that is faced by women of all ages, color, caste and creed irregardless of what they wear. The severity of the issue was always at an all time high but now, there is solidarity and potential.
Author’s note – This is the beginning, this is how change will come. All those years of posting and tweeting, we’ve finally come together to fight and they’ve heard us! This time let us not go back to sleep; for the force of injustice will drive us to equality.
Featured Image Credit: LiveInStyle