In one of the Harry Potter books, Dumbledore tells Ron, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” The disturbing details that emerged from the Bois Locker Room Instagram group reeked of toxic masculinity and an overbearing sense of male privilege. A group of young adults, from well-to-do families and some of the best schools casually talking about gangraping their female peers shook the moral fabric of Indian society and as a woman, it, honestly, scared me.
But while I read the news and scrolled through the many outraged posts, a question, a thought came into my mind. These screenshots were shared by an inactive member who seemingly didn’t agree or participate in these horrific conversations. Which brings me to the question, as horrific as all of this is for women and young girls, how does it impact the lives of men and boys who don’t identify with these thoughts but are forced to participate in fear of being shunned, bullied or ostracized? Peer pressure is very very real.
The young man from this group possibly developed a conscience or maybe the conversation simply crossed his threshold of tolerance and he did what he could best: make his female friend aware of what was being shared and said about her. The fight from then on was hers and of many like her. The silence of the ‘inactive’ members and this discreet distribution of the screenshot sheds light on another pressing concern, the plight of the ‘few good men’. Those who know and see the wrong but feel unable to act, primarily because popularity precedes morality.
The ‘inactive members’ or as we rightfully call them, ‘silent spectators’ to the filth that was shared, were not included in a new group formed once the boys had realized there was a leak among them. They are complicit in their silence and perhaps as much to blame in encouraging, not definitely calling out their friends, not stopping the trash. And here is misogyny’s other victim, the boys who can’t say No.
While women are subjected to this pervasiveness on a regular, almost daily basis, misogyny claims male victims too. Young boys believe they need to act a certain way to establish that they are in fact boys. Standing up to their friends could mean incessant name-calling, ‘sissy, pansy, scaredy-cat, weak’, constant bullying and systematic exclusion from a peer circle. While some boys might come out of this unscathed, quite a few of them will succumb to the pressure, unable to handle the mental anguish that it will bring. A few among the ‘few’ good men will participate, more to safeguard their own fledgeling egos than because they really want to until eventually, they do. This needs to be nipped in the bud.
Boys need to be told that it’s okay to cry, to love, to fight. Boys need to be told, at home, from as early as possible, that women are their equals. They need to be reminded that constructs like ‘the fairer sex’ are a regressive outdated mindset, something they should update as regularly as they do phones. They need to understand sexuality and embrace it as a cognitive natural process and most importantly they need to be told about consent. Masculinity needs to be defined as much as Feminism does and in a way that drives home the point that more important and bigger than both are Humanity and Sensitivity.