When I rolled out of bed on Monday morning, while scrolling through stories on my phone, I came across a set of posts about the Instagram group ‘Bois Locker Room’.
Minor boys had formed an Instagram group that objectified women where made derogatory statements about their classmates and other underage girls they knew. Screenshots of the chat were leaked, leading to much outrage. A case had been registered several of the boys involved.
Just a few days before this incident, another Instagram page, ‘Humans of Patriarchy’, had been called out for posting first person stories of women who have, or are still facing, sexual harassment in law schools.
It’s disappointing that these incidents don’t evoke surprise for women anymore. For most women, being sexualised is the norm and not the exception. “Ignore the men and just keep walking,” is something I was taught as a child.
For 25 years, I have tried to be the “good girl”. I have tried so hard to be “safe”. Not going for parties, not staying out late, being careful not to “encourage” men by talking and acting carefully, posting only “decent” pictures on social media.
Hell, I was gifted my first sleeveless top in my final year of college – two years ago!
It was not until three years ago that I decided that I had had enough of trying to be “safe”. I’ve been objectified and sexualised by men while walking on the roads in broad daylight on crowded streets, all while wearing traditional clothes that covered my body.
What was the point of trying to stay safe?
Getting home by 9 pm was something that my family could never imagine. Frantic calls would begin by 7 pm.
“Where are you?”
“When are you coming back?”
“Why are you so late?”
What are you doing?”
Who is with you now?”
Many arguments later, I managed to get my family to reluctantly agree that this was going to be the new normal.
I do understand that my family’s intentions are good – because no matter how “safe” I try to act, men will be men is something they understand; something all of us have been taught to understand by our patriarchal society.
But for how long do we live with this excuse? Sometimes I cannot help but wonder if I would have gotten the same reaction had I been a boy. With two daughters to take care of, it’s impossible to ascertain how my parents would have reacted. I’m pretty sure this isn’t a novel thought though. Many a women may be wondering this themselves.
Sometimes I find myself thinking – what’s the point of this rant? I’m going to be met with generic statements of “that’s not what I meant” or “please take your feminism elsewhere” or even a “well, then do something about it!”
Charity begins at home. And so does change. Calling out the stereotypical beliefs that have been ingrained in you is a start. I once had a heated argument with my mother who made a comment about a woman who wore a crop top. “Why not let her wear what she wants and maybe make a comment about the men who stare at her?”
For the men uncomfortably shuffling or angrily retorting “not all men”, unfortunately yes. Yes, all men. Be it by actively passing sexist comments or being a passive spectator to this, you have and will continue to be a part of it unless you’re willing to challenge the system.
Every day, women are victims and warriors in this constant battle of sexism, patriarchy and misogyny. From protesting against campus dress codes to fighting for a place to breathe in our workspaces and homes, everyday is a fight.
Call them out. Call out college administrations and workspaces that encourage sexist jokes. Call out people who laugh it off or are silent spectators. Call them out. It’s the simplest thing you can do as a man.
Sarada Mahesh is a lawyer from Bangalore.