It’s been repeated over and over again, by the women who have been victims as well as people who witnessed the entire case unfold- Shamir Reuben was looked up at by anyone in the country with a passion for poetry, whether established or just starting out. His frequent feminist tirades and condemnation of injustice appealed to everyone, saying hey, here is your poster woke desi boy- something still widely uncommon in the country.
Too often we reward mediocrity when it is put forward by males; any sort of acknowledgement by them is looked upon incredibly favourably. Shamir is a prime case of what happens when people are put up on pedestals— it made it easier for his actions to escape detection and remain unscrutinised. This ‘nice guy’ image resulted in people rallying around him, often quick to brush off stories by victims as misunderstandings or accidents. His defenders were not doing so out of loyalty, but because it was simply that hard to believe- making the entire thing much more dangerous. The entire situation is horrifying from start to finish, and the strength of the women who bandied together to relive their experiences is truly commendable. (Link to the facebook post: Accusations on Shamir by Sakina Bootwala and Multiple Women)
Amongst screenshots and statements posted by hoards of women in the aftermath of the first call-out post are two in which we see him defending himself. There’s a statement that’s particularly sickening, whereupon being asked if he needs to be told in advance that the girl not wanting to do something means he should not do it, he replies with a “frankly, yes.”
The man who aggressively promotes consent through his poetry needs to be told that no means no.
It has been a day and it is still hard to take in the magnitude of damage he has done, with seemingly no fear of being found out. Ask.fm, the website where he first rose to prominence years ago, is also the platform he used to prey on minors. Using his position of fame amongst young want-to-be poets to start conversations and quickly turn them into attempts at sexting, Shamir then capitalised on the guilt felt by the young girls after saying no. “He used to tell me he’ll be my first kiss as soon as I’m 18”, says one victim- it is repulsive, yet a pattern that is repeated throughout. The sheer volume of women who came forward compelled to make the original poster, Sakina Bootwala, to make another post containing more accusations. At some point we see him requesting a fourteen-year-old for nude pictures after she clearly told him to stop. Reuben was 19 at the time.
Shamir’s statement makes it clear that he hardly feels sorry for his actions. Perfectly in line with countless statements posted by more recognized Hollywood celebrities during 2017, his too denies knowledge of any wrongdoing and essentially apologizes for ‘if’ his actions inadvertently hurt anyone. A response cannot bring peace to anyone, but one that is more acceptive of mistakes hints of a path towards improvement. Reuben’s, on the other hand, is surprisingly tasteless- not because we expect more of him as a person, but simply because one expects a man in his position to be smarter. Calling it an apology is a fallacy, it is merely an expression of condescension towards the women he has wronged; he emphasises on their reports of events being inaccurate and completely negates their experiences.
It is baffling that harassment at this scale went unexposed for so long— or perhaps not, considering how masterfully he manipulated the girls he talked to. Shamir is masterful, and it is disgusting how much sympathy and real emotions he evoked over the course of his predatory behaviour. If a man can go far enough to use a death in the family as an opportunity to gain pity and coerce a minor into sending nudes, what benefit of the doubt does he deserve?