Ogilvy’s Managing Partner Chandana Agarwal Calls Sexual Harassment at Work a Part of ‘Growing Up’
While the 'Me Too' campaign is starting a much-needed conversation and bringing to attention how toxic our culture is, we are reminded yet again how difficult a battle this is. A Facebook user has shared the status message of international advertising giant Ogilvy and Mather's Managing Director in Delhi, Chandana Agarwal, that is both disturbing and alarming. In her status, Chandana invalidated the entire 'Me Too' campaign and the experience of survivors who are sharing their stories by calling abuse 'part of growing up'.
A screenshot of the status was sent to Harnidh Kaur by her friend who is a current employee at Ogilvy and Mather. While sharing Chandana's status, Harnidh points out how her friend requested anonymity and feared for her safety.
You can read the post here:
"Lmao what’s the point of blaming people who work in advertising and media when the Managing Director of Ogilvy India has such amaze views. Please keep in mind that Ogilvy works with Dove on their ‘inclusive’ advertising that exploits important ideologies and beliefs. Keep in mind that this woman boss heads an office and might turn around and say ‘that’s not abuse’ if someone violates Vishakha guidelines at work. She managed to normalise abuse in Indian childhoods AND minimise workplace harassment as ‘growing up’ at the same time.
This is the SAME line of minimising so many survivors face. ‘Well did you get raped? You’re lucky. So many have it so much worse.’ And she’s a woman I’m supposed to look up to as a young woman entering the workforce? She’s one of the very few leaders I have? Screw that. She’s a woman who actively makes slight of the trauma other women face. She’s worse than many men I know. Disgusting.
This screenshot was sent to me by a current employee who chose to stay anonymous (for obvious reasons), who very rightly pointed out that this made her feel actively unsafe at work. Calling out women who propagate a toxic ability when they have the power to change things for the better is as important as calling men out (Sic)."
Here is the original status put up by Ogilvy and Mather MD Chandana Agarwal:
In her status, Chandana makes it clear that hypocrisy and bigotry are deep-rooted in our culture. Being the Managing Partner of one of India's biggest advertising agencies puts her in a position of considerable power. Ogilvy and Mather are known for their 'inclusive' campaigns like Dove. The fact that someone who gets to influence a huge chunk of the Indian population has this mindset is horrifying.
She writes off many survivors and their experiences as not being important enough to talk about. She argues that unless you were pushed into the worst possible condition, it's not abuse or harassment. There are so many different things that are incredibly toxic and disgusting in this statement.
This argument is the same as when people say "at least he didn't rape/beat you." It is what encourages rape culture. The fact that she thinks some forms of abuse are abuse and some are just a part of life is horrible, especially coming from someone who is in such a position of power.
To Chandana, someone 'pinching you,' or 'grabbing at you,' is not abuse. Because it happens so much. That is exactly the point of the 'Me Too' campaign, to point out how harassment happens so much that we almost don't see it. We are conditioned to unsee it, to ignore it, to not report to, to not fight against it.
But all forms of abuse are abuse. All trauma is trauma. It is extremely unfair and derogatory to anyone who has suffered to say their abuse or trauma wasn't enough to be taken seriously. Millions of women do not report sexual harassment, and even rape, due to this very reason. Chandana says by calling attention to everyday harassment that women face, it is unfair to those who have been 'scarred.' But what about the scars left by the grabbing, and pinching? The acting 'fresh' by teachers, bosses and other people in power? The fact that she herself is one of those people in power today is alarming. It is also a warning. That we must do something now. Today.