Kamal Haasan, the actor and politician, is facing criticism for tweeting on Saturday that “dignity and equipoise” could protect women from domestic violence and sexual harassment. Haasan, who heads the political outfit Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM), also wrote that “confidence can do more damage [to criminals] than pepper spray”.
Haasan was responding to a video posted by Twitter user Sneha Mohandoss, the founder of FoodBank India. In the video, she shows viewers a series of self-defence moves using a nunchaku (a metal weapon). Along with the video, Mohandoss had also tweeted that “the ability to protect oneself empowers you to live with less fear and more freedom”.
While many users congratulated her for the skilful display, Haasan shared the video and said:
Dignity and equipoise are important to your protection and empowerment. With the above qualities, your self-defence can become non-violent. When non-violence meets violence, there is no combat; clearly the criminal is exposed. Your confidence can do more damage than pepper spray https://t.co/0frfUtciWZ
— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) January 2, 2021
Following this, several Twitter users criticised Haasan for putting the onus of staying safe on women.
One user wrote, “Do you even listen to yourself talk? As long as men like you talk like this, women have to defend ourselves in our own ways. As long as men like you talk like this, women have to defend ourselves in our own ways.”
Another wrote, “IMO [in my opinion] I don’t think men should even open their mouth and give unsolicited advice or opinions on matters completely pertaining to women. Men shouldn’t be a part of those discussions at all.”
Journalist Rituparna Chatterjee tweeted that Kamal Haasan should stop absolving men by spreading this false narrative:
Excuse me? You are followed by millions. Please stop spreading the false narrative that a woman’s confidence is enough to counter brutal sexual violence. Stop absolving men of aggressive behaviour. Stop putting the onus of their protection on women. https://t.co/0Z1jmCMM5M
— Rituparna Chatterjee (@MasalaBai) January 3, 2021
Singer Chinmayi Sripaada shared an interview of Haasan from 2014, in which she said Haasan was perpetuating “textbook Victim Blaming” with lines like “without letting go of your dignity, if you just mind your business then they themselves will feel ashamed”.
Even Considering this is an interview from November 2014 – this ‘manasu sutthama irundha yaarum varamaatanga’ is textbook Victim Blaming 101. https://t.co/PWBlWHzvvB
— Chinmayi Sripaada (@Chinmayi) January 1, 2021
In the interview, Haasan is heard admitting that he has made women feel uncomfortable in the past by whistling and staring at them. He goes on to say, “…if the girl is truly good when the guys come near her, they will feel sorry for her and let her go. If a girl makes a face and spits on the ground, then they will chase her relentlessly. These are all signals.” And further, “You cannot carry weapons because of this. Your education and your confidence will reflect in your faces and that will scare them away.”
Haasan, who is currently actively campaigning for the 2021 elections, has thus far made no comment in response to the criticism. However, while interacting with coffee estate workers at Yercaud, he said that his party would follow the policy of giving women equal rights and equal remuneration.
He also said that if he won the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly elections this year, he would enforce payment and benefits to homemakers for their work at home.