This morning I woke up to many of my friends sharing stories of something called Bois Locker Room. It was an extremely disturbing thing to see how hundreds of school-going boys had made a private group on Instagram, explicitly to share photos of girls, and passing sleazy comments on them. This is one of the many incidents that show what is wrong with us as a society, we who call ourselves ‘well-educated’.
In a chat transcript that was almost a hundred pages long, the boys are seen making comments about girls’ breasts, their figures, body shaming. Words like gang rape and gangbang were used like it was commonplace. While users on Twitter and Instagram were in no mood to forgive or let go any of this, we have a bigger question to address. Are we really well-educated? Or are we just a society that is just well-schooled, but lacks a fundamental moral compass? Who is to blame? What can be done about this?
As a nation, we have a very limited discourse on rape culture and casual sexism. On top of that, media representation, movies, culture at home, and a highly patriarchal environment breeds attitudes such as these where boys exercise control and feel entitled to talk about women and their bodies, and shamelessly pass rape threats like an everyday occurrence. So before this topic goes away like all others and we go back to living our lives and forgetting about this incident, let’s try to objectively look at some of the factors that either directly or indirectly contribute to normalising rape culture in India.
It is no news that Indian journalism has recently turned out to be highly problematic. However, reporting of rapes in India has been a problem since long. The way you read your news shapes the way you think about the particular topic to a large extent. It has been very evident that the media focuses a lot of victim-blaming or putting the news in a different way. For example, “Woman brutally raped in Delhi” would have a different impact than the headline “38-year old man brutally rapes woman in Delhi”. Although it might seem like a very minor change, it subconsciously frames your thoughts that later breed into something more dangerous.
It is not very difficult to spot the bias of media. Just type “news coverage of rapes in India” and see how in every rape case that is reported, the headline often talks about the woman who is raped.
It was very shocking when I first read about how Indian politicians, lawmakers look at death penalty and rape, and how they casually blame the victim as well. The problem here is that it reflects the perception of Indian society in a nutshell. ‘Boys will be boys!’ – how this phrase is used to justify the points of the highly immoral act and how we as a society have legitimised boys being entitled to do whatever they wish to do.
The birth of a boy is still celebrated more than that of a girl. There are stark differences between how boys and girls are offered different opportunities while growing up. When I was in Uttarakhand in 2019, I saw how both boys and girls had equal access to formal schooling. However, after delving deeper, I realised that there was discrimination based on gender. Boys had access to private schools while girls went to public schools. This comes from the society’s perception that public schools are not as good as private schools and hence even though there is no evident problem in accessing formal schooling, there were clear discriminations in the way these opportunities were divided between girls and boys.
‘Boys have it easy’ is true in a lot of families. A girl is not allowed to go out at night but a boy can. Drinking and partying can issue a character certificate to a girl almost instantly but not to a boy, only goes on to reinforce the already existing differences. The same social rules are also replicated in schools. In government schools of Bangalore, boys and girls are delegated work in classrooms that highly complement the society’s expectations from a girl and a boy after their schooling lives. For example, cleaning the classroom is often a girl student’s job whereas lifting something heavy or leading a class is often a boy student’s work. Although we may not do all these deliberately, it does have a direct effect on the way a child imagines a society and the role of a boy and a girl in it.
I have had serious problems with the current media and its influence of the Indian youth. Songs that objectify women in all the wrong ways are becoming hit and rappers use them very opportunistically to gain fame, not realising the impact it can have on the youth.
How casually does a singer talk about the woman’s body, comparing it with other women, and how common have songs like these become? They become hit, viral on social media platforms, millions of Tik Tok videos are made, and finally, this reaches our youth, our children, in all its glory.
Looking at just two or three problems will not help us come to a solution about an issue of casual sexism, patriarchy, and gender discrimination. As individuals, we can do out bit and stop it at the minimum possible level that we can. Engage in discourses around not normalising commenting on female bodies and making sleazy comments, and not to be afraid to call out idiots who engage in such practices.
Whatever happened that caused a roar, was just one group on Instagram. There may be more, hundreds or thousands. One maybe well-schooled but it does not make them well-educated. Someone who is well-educated has a strong moral compass, someone who is educated understands that you are not entitled to share someone else’s pictures and comment on them.
Strive to be well-educated, not well-schooled. And this will not happen by going to expensive private schools, but to have a conducive environment outside schools as well.