The Royal tweet from the Presidential scion about Anarkali Akarsha is nothing less than sexual harassment. A young woman is sexualized as an object and reduced to her body parts; the arrogant young man in question shrugs off shocked comments by claiming it was all a joke. But is the joker laughing alone? Apparently not, since the objectified lady has joined the joker in assuring those concerned about her that she too, is laughing.
Since both the joker and the object of his joke have joined sides why cannot we walk away from such a situation? By drawing attention to an issue which the young lady in question has closed, would we be violating her privacy by directing our gaze once more into the situation? It is in the background of this apprehension that I write.
We cannot walk away from this situation because of the power this young man possesses. As the scion of the ruling house he is honor bound to uphold norms of decency, especially when it comes to the privacy of a young woman. Reducing a young woman in public to her body parts is sexual harassment; it is demeaning behavior which contains at its core, a misogynistic arrogance passed off as a harmless joke. A joke that seeks to reduce and demean is not a joke, but an act of violence. The inability of those at the highest echelons of power to see this as an inappropriate act, to condemn it and push the young man to withdraw the offensive tweet speaks to the powerlessness of these advisors, and to a growing impunity at the center of power; an impunity that lacks even the minute grace of decency. What respect can women in the nation expect we wonder when such vulgarity is condoned and treated as a laughing matter.
And what of the objectified young woman who requests the shocked to back off and chill out? For her, it is a situation of double jeopardy. Not only is she objectified once, she is objectified over and over again by those who point at her lack of outrage as lack of virtue and dignity. She is caught in a fast paced game of politics in which power is concentrated into a tight central core of a handful of individuals. A game in which hierarchical patron client relationships trump horizontal networks in which power is distributed with more equality. Does not her survival within this structure require her to downplay friction, and play homage to the center of power? We should not forget that it is her dignity that has been compromised. Let us consider the obvious alternate. What indeed would have become of Anarkali had she had made this tweet an issue?
The Sri Lankan woman has always possessed the courage to rise up for her rights. We witness this on a daily basis with the women around us. Our tiny county was the first to boast of a woman Head of State way back in 1960. Numerous women’s rights groups have sprung up on fertile soil. Yet, this act of vulgarity is an insult to this grand legacy, originating as it does from the center of power. It sets, indeed, a dangerous precedent for the future.