Book Review | She Said : Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey | A Feminist Triumph

Bite-sized review:

After months of anticipation, I finally read "She Said" by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, driven by my feminist perspective. It's a compelling and eye-opening exploration of the challenges women face when confronting harassment, even if they're prominent figures. This book is a must-read for all, prompting reflection on the urgent need for systemic change, particularly in the context of sexual harassment. It also sparked my interest in Indian sexual harassment laws, potentially leading to a future blog post.

Full book review:

I have been wanting to read the book “She Said” by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey for a long time now. It had been on my list for about 6 months. But it was only recently that I picked it up and finished it pretty quickly. Being a feminist, I knew I had to be in the right frame of mind to be able to read the book, hence the delay.

The book is a riveting read from the very first page. It kept me engrossed throughout. Hence the “I finished it pretty quickly”. At least the 2/3rd of the book is literally a page-turner. You will hardly be able to keep the book down. There was never a dull moment. The first 2/3rd of the book is where the two journalists start their investigations into Harvey Weinstein. The authors take us through their laborious journey to find his victims, create a safe space for them to be able to speak out about their ordeals and get them to speak up against him on the record, all while abiding by the ethics of journalism. They also let us know that even though Weinstein’s behaviour toward women was a badly kept secret in the industry, they needed to be very careful about reporting it properly. They highlight the importance of proper and sensitive reporting, especially when talking about sensitive issues such as sexual harassment. We really get a sense of how laborious and painstaking investigative journalism is especially with sensitive issues such as this and going against powerful men with a fortune at their disposal.

Through the course of their journey, we also realise the flaws in the system and the laws that actually end up working in the favour of the perpetrator rather than the victim. With underhanded and out-of-court deals padded with rigorous NDAs tied together neatly with threats and intimidation of power, we make sure that people like Weinstein rarely get punished. This just gave them a so-called “clean slate” to keep harassing more women, empowered every time they get away.

It also raises an interesting question pertaining to the legitimacy of these out-of-court settlements that tend to only shush and harm the victims and let the abuser buy their way out of crimes. With laws that do not offer enough retribution to the victims and society that is quick to come to the defence of powerful white men, women are often not left with a choice, but to move on with their lives. A few that dain to speak up are not able to make a significant enough impact.

I also loved the commentary on how difficult it is for women to speak up about sexual harassment and abuse. You could be a coveted and famous actress and still need the support/ veil of a group to openly speak up about it. Speaks volumes about the current dysfunctional power dynamic. It goes to say that money fame and a dedicated fan following are still not enough to speak up against sexual harassment. You read about famous women such as Gwyneth Paltrow who still keep checking with the journalists if there are other women they are talking about to give her the sense of security of a group.

All in all, it is an excellent read, one I believe should be read by most women and definitely all men to understand what women have to go through just to be able to earn a livelihood in apparently the “greatest country on earth”. So much for progress people. You can take all your “metrics” and keep them safe because if a single man is able to assault 80 women over the course of decades unpunished, something really needs to change.  

On a side note, this made me look up the law on sexual harassment in India. We all dread the annual training we have to do for POSH. But it is interesting to note that “The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act” was passed in 2013. That was just a decade ago. There is nothing but something called the Vishaka Guidelines that the Supreme Court established in 1997 to refer to in cases of workplace sexual harassment. I am thinking of doing a more elaborate blog on this hopefully soon.


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