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Lessons We Can All Learn From John Oliver

John Oliver used his position and privilege to bring focus to the issue of sexual harassment. He is a true ally to survivors.

We live in an amazing time where men face consequences of decades-old lechery and women are finally being believed. Of course, this culture is yet to spread to fields other than entertainment and films, but one can hope.

In spite of the massive support and positive feedback that these survivors are getting, there are those who are constantly trying to dismiss, undermine, and normalize this behaviour. In our own country, Raya Sarkar’s list of sexual predators in the academic circle was met with drastic reactions.

In a move of great discouragement, leading feminists like Kavitha Krishnan, Vrinda Grover and Nivedita Menon stood up as protectors of the gender and caste-based power structure. They did not take into consideration the lack of space for women to make complaints and have them taken seriously, in academics or other spheres.

“Over-investment in transforming statutory law while disregarding the process of accessing justice on the ground has cost us dear. It is here that we need to invest and strengthen the mechanisms of accessing justice to induce faith in the “due process”. Until such time, we lack the moral authority to state the “only” or “correct” path to bring redressal”, wrote activist lawyer Flavia Agnes.

no one tells you how to deal with these predators.

There will always be apologists, here as well as the West. They will speak of how ‘things were different back in the day’, or try to blame survivors after so many years. They know fully well that there were no safe spaces ‘back in the day’ for women who were forced to see perverts in their bathrobes, flashing them, or thinking their masturbation was a sight that every female must watch.

“We’re (men) the No. 1 threat to women! Globally and historically, we’re the No. 1 cause of injury and mayhem to women. We’re the worst thing that ever happens to them”, said Louis CK once. Ironically, he is now one of the fallen heroes, as we have all discovered he was being a threat to women himself.

Also Read: The Fall Of An Idol: Louis CK And Betrayal

Everyone will tell you about sexual predators. They will warn you that unless you dress, speak, act, control yourself and cage yourself during ungodly hours, you are always prone to be a victim. But no one tells you how to deal with these predators. Especially if they’re powerful well-connected men, who will not only deny your truth but make you question your own facts.

This is one area where we can take lessons from one man. British comedian John Oliver is known for bringing up issues of great importance via the medium of humour in his show Last Week Tonight. Recently, he decided to tackle Dustin Hoffman, another legendary actor who has been accused of sexually harassing a 17-year-old intern recently.

At a Tribeca Film Panel, John Oliver brought up these allegations to Dustin Hoffman. A few days ago, Dustin Hoffman had issued a watery apology, in which he said he was sorry for anything he “might have done”.

“From a few things you’ve read you’ve made an incredible assumption about me”, said Hoffman. After bragging about how he has the utmost respect for women, he used the line that seems to have become the motto of famous perverts: “It is not reflective of who I am”.

“It’s not reflective of who I am – It’s that kind of response to this stuff that pisses me off”, Oliver said. “It is reflective of who you were. If it happened and you’ve given no evidence to show that it didn’t [happen] then there was a period of time for a while when you were a creep around women. So, it feels like a cop-out to say ‘well this isn’t me.’ Do you understand how that feels like a dismissal?”

No, Dustin didn’t understand.

After saying he had never met her, he then went on to say to Oliver, “It’s difficult to answer that question. You weren’t there. Do you believe the stuff that you read?” Not falling for his gaslighting attempts, Oliver said that he believed her because there was no point in her lying.

the motto of famous perverts: “It is not reflective of who I am”.

“Well, there’s a point in her not bringing this up for 40 years”, tries Dustin again. John Oliver is literally all of us when he puts his head in his hand and says, “Oh, Dustin”.

Dustin tried to explain how the film crew is like a family, but sometimes jokes of a sexual nature are taken the wrong way. He also goes back on his own narrative of never having met the woman and says that he touched her to comfort her, but she overreacted. And then apologized to him, for overreacting.

“It doesn’t feel self-reflective in the way that it seems the incident demands. I get no pleasure from having this conversation because you and I are not the victims here”, says Oliver.

John Oliver didn’t accept Hoffman’s dismissals; neither did he let his truth be challenged. He stayed right on point and insisted that the senior Hollywood star be reflective about his own actions. He was an ally for survivors of harassment.

He used his position and privilege to bring focus to this issue. He behaved like a true feminist. Many have criticized John Oliver for grilling Hoffman at an event that had nothing to do with it. But, as Oliver puts it, “this is something we’re going to have to talk about because it’s hanging in the air”.

Also Read: Open Secrets And Power: Harvey Weinstein And Dileep

Featured Image Credit: The Atlantic

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