A few days ago, I was in a conversation with one of my friends who was suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD). She told me about the medications, irregular periods, untimely body aches, mood swings and a whole lot of distress that came with the disease. The conversation shifted to how she could discuss this with me but not her male friends and how that needs to change; how many men around her are misinformed or totally unaware of women’s bodily functions and hence, it is important to raise awareness about these things.
Recently, I came across a news report quoting the principal of Government Polytechnic Mumbai (GPM). She said, “I have heard theories on why girls suffer from PCODs at an early age when they dress like men, they start thinking or behaving like them. There is a gender role reversal in their head. Due to this, the natural urge to reproduce diminishes right from a young age and therefore they suffer from problems like PCODs.”
This isn’t the first time I have heard something like this. I went for a trip recently, wherein my teacher, a woman, felt the need to separately address all female students asking them not to ‘cross their boundaries’. According to her, if they did ‘cross boundaries’ with a boy, there would be a chance of things going wrong because ‘boys are boys’.
When you see men making such regressive and silly statements, you talk about sexism, but you also keep in mind that there is a lethal and patriarchal combination of misinformation, lack of awareness and ignorance. But I don’t know how to react when a female educator says such a thing.
This reflects how much our society has internalised sexism and misogyny. Given the patriarchal society we belong to, we, as women, have to struggle daily to build our confidence and not let the society’s idea of a ‘perfect’ woman with a ‘good’ character bring us down. As a feminist student, instances of female educators strengthening patriarchy and not imbibing feminist values, shatter my confidence.
As children, we only knew of extreme forms of gender discrimination – child marriage, domestic violence, trafficking, etc. Somehow, I believed that the people are around me were safe from discrimination. But as I grew up and heard similar statements from people close to me, I realised how patriarchal my own world was. Even when you try to call them out for making sexist remarks, you are ignored or you get to hear that you are ‘over reacting’ or that you need to ‘learn to take a joke’ or that you have it so much easier than your ancestors, so you shouldn’t complain.
What really scares me is that more often than not, misogyny is accepted in our society as it hides behind the veil of tradition, safety and code of conduct. In another incident in Mumbai University recently, girls were barred from entering their university’s 24×7 library after 11 p.m. The reason given for this restriction was the safety and protection of women. Such rules play a big role in designing a specific, patriarchal, role that women play in our society.
If authorities make such statements and rules, it makes a huge impact on the youth. The duty of an educator is to develop the correctness of thoughts in young adults so as to prepare them to be better citizens. I tried to convince myself that maybe these are isolated statements, but I know they aren’t. All I can hope is that every sexist statement and rule gets the amount of attention and rage that the statement by the principal of GPM received.