Stand-up comedian and YouTuber Utsav Chakraborty, who frequently appears in comedy group AIB’s videos, has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women, including many underage girls. A Twitter thread started by a female comic and poet condemning the actions of the stand-up comedian paved the way for several other women to come out with their stories as well. He has been accused of sending unsolicited pictures of his genitals to and asking for nudes from fans.
Although staying silent initially, AIB went on to put out a statement in respone to the allegations, and removed videos featuring Utsav Chakraborty from their YouTube channel.
Utsav Chakraborty has since responded to the allegations. It is difficult to ascertain what his response exactly is, but there is one thing that it certainly isn’t – an apology. The 23-tweet-long thread, which was deleted within a day, does not mention the word ‘sorry’ once, but he uses the words ‘illness’, ‘pain’, and ‘disease’ six times. He spends more time talking about his own health condition than addressing the hurt he has caused to various women, which should have been the whole point of the response.
The thread is 1215 words aimed at just explaining away his behaviour, interspersed with a few admissions of guilt, which are immediately followed by a defence. He says, “….to use my illness as a crutch is stupid. But it’s not like it’s not relevant to this whole debacle”, when in fact, it isn’t. No amount of personal trauma can be used to justify the harm caused to someone else.
It is difficult to ascertain what his response exactly is, but the one thing that it certainly isn’t – an apology.
The components of a genuine apology are as follows – admission of guilt, expression of regret, and a promise to be better. It is meant for the victim. It belongs to the victim. It gains value only when it helps validate the experience of the victim and provides them closure. It is an act of compensation, not one done in self-interest. Justifications or explanations have no place in one. Thus any apology prompted by public shaming is a bad one ab initio. The fact that the response consists of 71 ‘I’s and talks about the harm caused to the victims only thrice, does not help his case either.
Utsav Chakraborty’s ‘apology’ is a trainwreck and there are multiple instances where he has manipulated the narrative and tried to gaslight the public by using his personal problems as a reason to exonerate himself. Being “angry at the world” or the claim that the genitals he sent pictures of to the women weren’t his own, are entirely irrelevant.
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To say that a lot of the people speaking out against him now are the same ones holding grudges against him for his meanness to them a few years ago, is a dangerous implication. It again reels in the narrative which people like Dr. Ford, Tanushree Dutta and several other survivors of sexual assault are fighting hard to dismantle – the narrative of women lying for attention or out of vengeance. As a self-proclaimed ‘woke boy’, Ustav Chakraborty should know the magnitude of the harm that such a claim does to the movement.
But this is a problem bigger than this one YouTuber’s terrible apology. It is a problem involving toxic power dynamics. Male celebrities abuse their power to harass unassuming fans or women on a lower rung in the fame ladder. The belief that these men have – of their celebrity status affording them a free pass to cross any boundaries whatsoever, is incredibly noxious and colossally prevalent.
What’s even worse is a lot of these men touted feminism around and earned brownie points by pretending to be good, self-aware men.
This is further proven by the slew of allegations that have come up against the journalist Mayank Jain, comedian Anurag Verma and a bunch of other influential men, following the ones against Utsav Chakraborty.
Not to forget the ones against TVF’s Arunabh Kumar and the poet Shamir Reuben, about a year ago. It’s an unmissable pattern. These are all men who were powerful and highly regarded in their respective circuits and outside. To use that power to harass women, instead of building them up, is shameful, vile, and tragic. But it is not surprising to women anywhere. We have all experienced the vulnerable positions that having even simple interactions with powerful men put us in. Sheena has helpfully compiled all the horrifying accusations that have been made since only yesterday against men belonging to different industries .
What’s even worse is that a lot of these men touted feminism around and earned brownie points by pretending to be good, self-aware men in a sea of bad, misogynistic ones. They essentially built a brand out of feminism while simultaneously disregarding everything it stands for in the worst way possible. It is sickening.
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Men need to start actively recognising the power they have by virtue of simply being men in a patriarchal society. Popular men have greater power and thus greater responsibility to make sure they don’t even unintentionally use it to their advantage, especially when interacting with younger girls. Because in that case, it is an intersection of three power dynamics – gender, social status, and age.
Men need to do better.
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