What is it about Padma Lakshmi’s story that rang home?
“There was no language for date rape in the 1980s” she said in her story for The New York Times.
When the vocabulary doesn’t exist, what happened to you doesn’t need to be defined – it needs no name. It hovers somewhere between guilt and self-blame, pain and fear.
Padma Lakshmi was reporting a date rape that happened more than 30 years ago. It took her this long to speak. Women stuff these experiences deep into the bedside drawer of their memory, in a place where things hide...for a while but not for ever.
Tanushree Datta’s story of sexual harassment at the hands of a veteran actor happened ten years ago.
“The entire industry saw what happened but there was not one word of condemnation from anybody,” she says in an interview. “Everyone gossiped about this but they never spoke out.”
Gossip without speaking…
Can you really do that? Yes….
When the language doesn’t exist for what is actually going on. When it is acceptable to gossip but not acceptable to call it out. Just like date rape wasn’t a word in the 1980s, sexual harassment in the workplace was not part of the conversation ten years ago. When Tanushree herself attempted to speak out back then, she was harassed and found her car vandalised.
While in Hollywood today, perpetrators of abuse are being prosecuted, their roles cancelled, in India ten years ago Tanushree Dutta was the one replaced on the sets.
So the “code of silence” that Padma Lakshmi spoke about is perpetuated. But by speaking out now, Padma Laksmi and Tanushree have broken that code.
They have come out, as rape survivors, workplace sexual abuse survivors and have emboldened a new generation that has the vocabulary to call out what happens to them. And no one, no one can tell them what their deadline should be…