It is only human to jump from one breaking story to another. The curiosity of the audience and the responsibility of the media to follow up on a story have been gradually washed off and buried under the barrage of factory-made news reports. However, let us not mistake it for the lack of public interest or decline in the news relevance.
Relevance is not intrinsic but ascribed to news now, its degree determined by political propaganda and/or how much money and ballyhoo it can stimulate. It is also dependant on the subjects involved with the story- the underprivileged accused of rape can propel the country into applauding and normalizing police encounter but the privileged deserves fair trial upholding the innocent until the proven guilty flag. Privilege is both the spear and the shield.
The Bois locker room news angered many- the social media was glutted with leaked screenshots primarily of a private Instagram group comprising boys aged 15-18 sharing pictures of underage girls and expressing their lust in a detestable language. The netizens promptly discovered that the accused boys study in elite schools of South Delhi and Gurugram and the incident, which otherwise would have died prematurely, became news for the mainstream media only when their Instagram usernames were prominently shared.
An investigation was carried out and the students along with their parents were interrogated and taken into custody, according to the police. Some handsets were seized and warnings were issued. Meanwhile, the pandemic widened its gloom and the attention was diverted, naturally so, to the bigger enemy with visible victims.
However, the news reignited, albeit temporarily, the conversation around rape culture indwelling within the elite bourgeoisie class. Those startled by the language of sixteen-year-olds demanded stringent actions against them while recognising the usual incompetence of both police and the media when the offenders come from money and upper caste.
Shaming strangers on social media, asking for believing in the survivors’ stories, and calling for systemic reforms in the judiciary and the police are a liberal pat on the backs we give ourselves as long as there is no trail connecting us with the accused strangers. In the world of performative activism, it is easier to condemn locker room talks that we were not part of than accepting our own engagement in the million locker room talks either as an active speaker or a mute and ignorant spectator.
Those who have been woke on social media for a few years now find it most difficult to take responsibility for their past, call out friends and family who propagate rape culture through one or more ways- from forwarding ‘funny’ sexist humour to gaslighting victims, from ‘dark’ rape jokes to ‘harmless’ locker room banter.
The privileged class advocating for calling out sexual predators in either academia or entertainment industry has a virtual image to protect which is usually built around championing for various feminist campaigns.
Some benefit regularly from this image intentionally or not, capitalizing on the traction which comes with the activist badge. When their peers are called out for misconduct or sexual harassment, the image is compromised and their commitment to the cause is tested. They now begin to address the flaws in social media trials, question the inconsistencies in the survivors’ accounts and save face by jumping on the #NotAllMen wagon. The fear of accountability for one’s own misogyny and turning a blind eye to the rape culture turns us into an apologist for the actions of our privileged peers.
The spectacle of activism collapses.
The #BoisLockerRoom Instagram group is a dead story now. Hopefully, the police probe will reach its rightful conclusion in spite of the expected resistance from the families and the school administrations of the accused in the case. However let us make no bones about the larger problem of internalized sexism, male entitlement and unchecked rape culture at schools and workplaces.
The privileged class needs to address the multi-layered systemic oppression of women and dismantle the refuge for sexual predators around us.
Foremost ,an acknowledgement must be made that such refuge exists and we are guilty of building it in the first place. Living in denial implies endorsing the perpetrators. The everyday locker room talks are birthed at dining tables and classrooms where parents and teachers are often inconsiderate and fail to check their own sexism.
The amalgamation of lack of sex education and gender sensitization furthers the rape culture and the young children, in this case from affluent backgrounds, participate and propagate it unabashedly. By the time they are exposed to the conversations around intersectional feminism, identities outside the gender binary and the subjugation of marginalized classes, unlearning privilege and admitting to one’s ignorance in the past become a herculean task. Reluctance and denial supersede acceptance and remorse.
Tokenism is glorified for preserving our self-complacency. Therefore, the privileged peers must check their performative liberalism, and begin anew- fight rape culture at home, call out friends and employers for propagating the same, and understand that unlearning is a process and we shall no longer be entitled to brownie points for doing the bare minimum. For the purge to take place, the pedestal must be abandoned and not for anyone else but yourself.