Sunday, 8 November 2015
Who's going to deal with the problem of sexual harassment?
So then. Aritry Das has named Manik Katyal, editor of Emaho Magazine as a harasser and sexual predator on Facebook. And following her outing, many other photographers described their experiences on the blog below.
I don't know if having a blog focussed only on Katyal is a good thing - but I can understand the frustration, resentment and rage (that in India has been going on for years and years) that must be felt at seeing Katyal gladhanding it at places like Paris Photo, Fabrica, Kassel, ISSP, New York, Tokyo after being a serial harasser in India for so many years. He's not loved by many in India, and there is a sense of gobsmacked disbelief that he was so successful in other parts of the world. How come the Europeans are so dumb! Let's put it that way.
Katyal has been communicating with women in a similar way in Europe and other parts of Asia for many years. You're a woman, you're on Facebook. The proposition is likely to come. Very few people in Europe are at present willing to put their names forward publically, though many, many do so privately or in public gatherings.
The problem is while Katyal was known by many to be a sleazebag of the first order, in Europe, people (writers, editors, curators, festival directors etc) were promoting him and saying he was a great guy - including me. I apologise for that. Which only increased the reluctance of people in India, or South Korea, or Japan to come forward.
We're all connected in other words. We have a responsibility to who we like on Facebook, who we Share and all the rest of it. The problem is social media and photography culture is based on being positive. When things go bad, there's no easy way to take it back. And even if there is, if you have said this person's great and then it turns out they are not, the easy thing to do is pretend you didn't say it. The easiest thing is to ignore the problem.
This is not a problem that should be ignored. But at the moment, apart from a few organisations, this is something random individuals are trying to tackle on an isolated international basis.
But surely this is something the big photographic organisations and festivals should be dealing with. And this would help in people feeling the need to have social media witch-hunts - these are not good.
Photographic organisations need to take some responsibility for their actions and their influence (which they are always happy to proclaim in good times). They need to put policies in place that have some kind of strategy that can make it unacceptable for people to use portfolio reviews, workshops or lectures as opportunities to hit on the female (or male) participants.
And there should be an organisation that oversees this, something that has the ability to deal, on an globally institutional level, with the kind of opportunistic harassment and exploitation that the above case exemplifies.
At the weekend there was a really successful conference in London called Women in Photography. This wasn't about the issues mentioned above, it was about representation of women in photography and it sounds like it was brilliant. But there should be an organisation that does deal with and advocate on the issues mentioned above. It shouldn't be down to random individuals or random blogs. It needs something more.
So I'll throw this out there. Who's going to deal with this? I'm not. Who is?
Or, maybe it's not really a problem. And we can just ignore it.