TVM Press Club election: Misogyny and patriarchy out in the open, say women journalists
The results of Thiruvananthapuram Press Club election pose some pertinent questions. M Radhakrishnan’s re-entry into the Thiruvananthapuram Press Club as its president has been a matter of discussion for many if not for the ‘majority’. He had been expelled from his previous post as the secretary of the Press Club following the unjustified act of barging into the house of his co-worker and female journalist Remya Mukundan with a group of men and traumatizing her and her children with the spikes of moral policing. Remya talked to Mathrubhumi.com in an exclusive phone interview about the involvement of power politics in the matter and the ordeals that she had to endure following the incident.
Radhakrishnan has been elected as the president with a whopping majority. What could be the reason for such leniency towards him?
“It is to be noted that the memberships of many members of the Press Club haven’t been renewed yet, for many reasons that are unknown to us. M Radhakrishnan has added many members by misusing his influence. He has been claiming that he brought about many positive changes during his time serving as the secretary of the Thiruvananthapuram Press Club. The thing that is often repeated is about the kits that were distributed during that time. The distribution of kits is not a new thing and is something that was being done several times before he came to serve the position. The people who enjoyed the favors from him while he was in power, could be the people who backed him strongly in the election. Many women journalists had come forward voicing unwavering support and protesting against the inclusion of the harasser in the Press Club. Maybe the ones who helped him win the election did not like the idea of backing a panel that supports the interests of these women. It is painful and shocking at the same time that he won with the support of the majority. But I’m grateful for the support that I received and continue to receive from people who have been with me through these difficult times. The 206 votes againt Radhakrishnan in the election is not a mere number, but an undeniable source of solidarity that is enough to drive us forward.”
Why do you think there was no major intervention by the Press Club in reprimanding Radhakrishnan over his actions? Was the expulsion just a dummy move to subdue the protests?
“There are many elements involved in this. The history is long and meticulous. The panel during that time was one that strongly supported him. This also included many prominent members. Even when the general body meeting was called, a group of people demanded his resignation. He did not come to the Club for a while after that. He then filed a complaint about his expulsion stating that the right procedure was not followed. Around the time of April this year, the court directed to maintain the status quo until the time of the election. But he and his supporters came back into the Club. There is no right or wrong in this, but the reflection of power politics.”
The recovery process after going through something that you went through is not easy. Where do you stand on that road?
“Mentally, I feel that sometimes I am where I was on the day of the unexpected moral policing attack. It was a numbing experience. I never expected such a thing to happen to me, let inside my house while I was surrounded by my kids. I have read about many such incidents of moral policing, but never even imagined it happening to me until it did one day. We read reports on such incidents, maybe feel a slight tinge of pain somewhere in our hearts, and let go of it after a few days. I worry about the plight of harassed women in a society like this. In my case, I had the support of many people around me. What about the ones who have no one to back them and are crushed under the feet of dirty power politics? What gave the harasser the power to barge into my house that day was the title that he held, as the secretary of the Press Club. He will go to any extent to protect that sort of unquestioned power.”
Saritha S Balan, Kerala Bureau Head at The News Minute and member of Network of Women in Media India pointed out the sickening misogyny involved in the entire matter.
“The reclamation of position in the Press Club by Radhakrishnan is ultimately the success of misogyny. The distribution of kits that were carried out during his time is being glorified as the reason for his win. But that is only a secondary reason. The gaping problem here is the anti-feminist approach taken by many. Radhakrishnan was the harasser, but he pretended to be the victim. Many others who competed from his panel have upheld their misogynistic views on several occasions before this. There is a section amongst his supporters who do not completely refute the fact that he barged into a journalist’s house and harassed her, but there are also people amongst them who question the protests that arose over it. The question that they pose is- ‘Why should Radhakrishnan be reproached over this?’ The journalists in Kerala, including both men and women, who voted for him and granted him the position on a platter, have not had the realization that whatever the harasser did cannot be erased or overseen by certain other ‘good’ deeds that he might have done in the past.”
“The patriarchal stronghold is so gigantic that they are able to sideline the protestors. There are people who wept for the harasser, but at the same time refused to acknowledge the ordeal that the woman had to face. There are many who even secretly applaud him for being the one who took matters into his own hands and decided to act like the ‘hero’. The questions including how a man who harassed his colleague became the president of the Press Club or even how a man who lost his job from the media company he was working for competed in the election have no relevance here.”
“The female journalists who supported Remya will continue to support her until she gets the justice that she deserves. We are not planning to put our guards down just because of his win.”