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All That Was Wrong With The ‘Walk For Gender Equality’ In IIT Roorkee

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By Abhishek Jha:

My institute is blatantly sexist in at least one way. The girls on campus are compulsorily required to return to their hostels by 11 PM. This deadline was earlier 10 PM and was extended only after the Student Affairs Council – an elected students’ body, made irrefutable arguments against any such curfew earlier this year.

As the curfew, albeit rescheduled, still exists, it made sense to me when I saw that a walk for gender equality was being organised. However, I became sceptical when I saw that a notice had been issued requiring all students enrolled in N.C.C. to be necessarily present as their attendance would count towards their grades. Another aspect that kept me away from the walk was its association with Farhan Akthar’s MARD campaign. I will exclude its specific criticism here because the walk itself manifested the problems with that particular campaign as well.

iit r1
Source: Photography Section IIT Roorkee

 

After the walk was over, I came to know of a few other things which were wrong with it and I discuss them here.

What were Members of Administration doing in the Walk?
What I find scarier than an institute clamping down on campaigns against sexism is an institute that appropriates it to continue practising sexism. They are the people who have power to ensure that gender equality exists on campus. And for 150 glorious years, they have kept girls locked up in their hostels. By participating in such walks, they allow the false notion to take root among students that they work towards gender equality. This adversely affects campaigns against sexism; a common student will come to excuse the institute for doing its bit. I even have had a practical experience with this. When we tried to get a public apology from a professor for making sexist remarks in class, a majority of students who refused to support us made the argument that the professor was benevolent and, therefore, should be excused.

This benevolence is to be rejected precisely because it stands as a major obstacle in the form of pretence in the fight against sexism. This is true of struggles against oppression in general. One sees that universities – including my own, are very eager on organising women empowerment workshops, to celebrate papers published on the same, or on organising walks. Do not misunderstand me. All these can be done by those oppressed to demonstrate, to mobilise, to understand their struggle, and so on. But when the institute administration does it, it is nothing more than facade building to save them from the progress of such struggles, for reasons I just discussed. Do all this and whatever you want as long as you do not change anything, they seem to say.

iit r
Source: Photography Section IIT Roorkee

The Placard at the Walk
Men are the ones who are given strength by God to protect women. So if you hurt a woman, you are not a man“, said a placard at the walk. That such statements have popular appeal can be guessed by the amount of troll comments received by those criticising Shenaz Treasurywala’s open letter. It appeals to the masses because it fits the bill of masculinity, panders to the age old custom of men protecting women. But that is exactly how patriarchy functions. It enforces the idea that woman can do anything only as long as a man is there to protect her, thereby robbing her of her agency and freedom. The more fashionable of those patriarchs make such placards in walks for equality: “women can do everything as long as a man is there to protect her“. When this gets to its horrifying extreme conclusion, men are executing women because her “honour” could not be “protected” when she married outside her caste or religion. Those who fight against patriarchy, therefore, should reject these ideas coming to us, disguised in such walks for equality.

Enforced Solidarity
The students enrolled in N.C.C. being made to compulsorily attend this so called “solidarity” campaign was both comical and offensive at the same time. Comical – because apparently whoever made this decision seems to have no idea about solidarity, is part of the administration, and has already misguided those present at the walk about how solidarity campaigns work. Comical – only because it’s a tragic extreme. Instead of talking to people, making people understand what patriarchy is and how it works, they were immediately chained in an order of command which they could not disobey because of grades- that most invoked of all Gods.

But I also find this rather offensive (no, I am not one of those who will ban bad people from having their little circus and exposing themselves). What are they offering women here? Pity? Sympathy? This is also a problematic thing, for it allows you to have a moment of emotional excess after which you think you have done your duty and need not do any more. But you having your little penitential moment, doing your sympathy bit will not give women their rights until you also work for their rights.

Unfortunately for us, those members of administration that participated in the walk seem to think that sexism exists somewhere outside, in some dark corner of the world; and by walking, they will spread light. On returning to their leather chairs and air-conditioned rooms, with regular strokes of their pens, they will continue to push women inside their hostels when the clock strikes eleven.

You must be to comment.
  1. Ra’s al Ghul

    Even Lady Shri Ram College for Women, which is for girls only, has the same rules, so feminists would be better off taking their propaganda somewhere else.

  2. Ranveer

    NCC having compulsory attendance for a protest? While I won’t argue the “solidarity”, I will question the intention.
    On the other hand, my sympathies with the author. One could argue this “slow but sure path” of slowly relaxing curfew times and such is not just unhelpful but insulting; seeing it is a Fundamental Right – no discriminations based on gender.

  3. Monistaf

    This article is very similar to the one recently written about the engineering college in Trivandrum. I do not think we should infantilize girls in college. They are adult women, and as such should take responsibility for their own safety and well being. The curfew does not make any sense. I believe the reason it is there is because the university is afraid of the backlash if something happens to a girl on their campus or hostel. A lot of people, including the parents of the girl will complain that there are not enough safety measures for women, and the university will somehow be held responsible for the incident. This is typically not true when it comes to boys or their hostels. If the college or the hostel is not going to be held responsible for the safety of these students, the curfew should be removed. Equal treatment, equal rules!!

    1. Ativ Mohan

      Probably it is there because administration realizes the sort of people who live outside the campus and acknowledges certain pertinent facts.

  4. Manish

    The feminism/anti-sexism agenda of this site is becoming tiresome now. Article after article tells you of the “underlying problems” that the general reader is already aware of.
    Aware of more in the sense of “Ohh my God, This is so outrageous, Why does this happen”.

    Devoid of any pragmatism, most articles here speak of the perceived inequalities of the author..Girls/Guys waxing. eloquent about “bleeding women, bra straps, college timings nd such”..
    There is lot of finger pointing but no solutions…
    I mean seriosuly, your average reader is already aware of these issues..Simply giving vent to these feelings in front of people. who already have the same viewpoint has little utility than. mutual back-patting.

    So kindly get real and stop the cliches after cliches of complaints over these perceives inequities which are mostly a product of our society and culture..You cant just wish them away..

    1. Bhanwar

      Agreed, not only they find ‘underlying problems’ everywhere, they also try to find an ‘oppressor’ in every man and ‘victim’ in every woman.

  5. Amit

    Amazing insights and a deep understanding of issues. Would like to communicate with you.
    E-mail : amittewari.iit@gmail.com
    2013 passout

  6. What

    Manish, that’s again a cliche reply. I accept cliches. They help in counting the number of cliches repeating. Generally it helps in prioritizing(not technically, generally!).

    Dear young Author, you seem lost. There are answers to your questions, that can be figured out by simply thinking (not even researching). What you are pointing at is the surface of the problem, the visible.
    For eg: NCC has a way of working, its not sad if the cadets are ordered or if its mandatory to attend ‘an organized event’, because that’s how NCC works irrespective of the nature of event. Now, NCC is not life, but its a training. It supposedly and visibly incurs discipline. And that at all doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t demonstrate their beliefs. Its like, you can definitely demonstrate your support of one language in your own.

    The words:
    Why extreme conclusions? Because mathematics? Its okay to consider extreme conclusions sometimes, I agree. I do so myself, specially when analyzing simple problems. But I hate it when my GF does it. Get it? Don’t do it all the time. Helps make you calm.

    The Photograph:
    Good Click! Nice Catch! Don’t share. Its a little hard to get (not brain-wise but experience-wise). I have seriously studied some fashion and know how trends work. Demonstration of hate is a factor. While one demonstrates bad stuff symbolically other copies it because it looks cool. That’s not all. There is a lot. Kindly take this advice seriously. Avoid sharing things(specially over internet) which you think shouldn’t ideally be spreading. I know you wrote an entire blog saying how you don’t support whats in the picture but it doesn’t work that way most of the time.

    And thanks a lot for taking your time to think about the problems underlying problems (hence critically examining and not simply looking for extreme conclusions) to see if you already have the answers, which most likely are the real problems. And working towards solutions that way.

  7. Bhanwar

    Girls are not allowed outside their hostels after 11 PM primarily to keep them safe. Men and women are biologically different. That is why their needs are different. Their is no problem with this safety measure which you called ‘curfew’ until there is enough safety infrastructure in place to protect all girl students. If this is curfew is removed and something goes wrong with a single girl student whole country will go mad after the institute.
    Moreover I am sure the same girls’ parents would have a time limit for their daughters after which they cannot go outside of their houses. Try to use common sense sometimes instead of finding ‘underlying problems’ everytime.

    1. Ativ Mohan

      What exactly do you think will happen to a female student inside the campus after 11 PM?

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