Bois Locker Room Photograph:( Zee News Network )
Instead of imposing more restrictions on girls, we need to focus on creating an environment where everyone can feel safe and comfortable.
Most of us believe that to fix the wrongs of our society, we need to raise the younger generations with more responsibility.
It is while we hold this optimism in our hearts that we are encountered with the ground reality of our teenagers and how we are still far away from bridging the gap of inequality between genders.
Purported screenshots from a group chat under the name of ‘Bois Locker Room’ have overwhelmed social media since Saturday night. The group is said to be formed on Instagram in the last week of March by hundreds of young high school and college-going boys.
The purpose of the formation of the group is claimed to be sharing pictures of mostly underage girls as young as 14 years old, while passing pervertedly sexually explicit comments, expressing their intentions with these girls including threats of sexual violence.
The pictures in question have different sources, while some are taken from Instagram accounts of the girls, others are reportedly morphed or had been sent in confidence.
Some of us might not even be surprised by the content of these chats for we have lived under the same environment and experienced the same things back in our school days.
Yes, we’ve managed to move a step forward from how things were 5-7 years ago, now we’re at least starting to hold our boys accountable, moving away from the long-lived narrative of “boys will be boys” but how does that alone fix the issue?
All the group members in question belong to well-reputed South Delhi and Noida schools, if this is how toxic the situation is in some of the best schools in the country, then are we even ready to address the gravity of the situation that might be looming in the bigger picture?
Most of us can relate to how normal the objectification and violation of privacy used to feel back in school and that we had to unlearn that normalisation once we were able to think for ourselves if we ever did manage to unlearn it.
The important question that needs to be addressed is how did we or these children even manage to learn it in the first place? That too at an age when we are still starting in the world and most of our opinions and behaviours are just an enactment of what we have observed around us.
If we look at things this way, holding these boys accountable in isolation seems to be an unfair way to go about it. Schools, parents, media, and everyone else responsible for the bringing up of this generation need to be called out for their role in the failure of prevention if not the promotion of the cycle of patriarchy.
One of the schools in question is my alma mater and I, from personal experience, can affirm that the school itself implicitly promotes patriarchal norms.
It used to seem that the school’s response to incidents of harassment was to put its girls in more ‘modest’ clothing. The school changed its uniform for girls, mandating suits and dupattas for them as soon as they start developing their bodies in an attempt to ‘protect them’ and not ‘distract the boys’.
I can recall how our juniors were disallowed to wear sarees on their farewell due to complaints of catcalling from my batch and the authorities' problems with the blouse designs.
The topic of menstruation was discussed in a closed auditorium only in the presence of girls and we were even given an excuse that we could tell the boys as to where we had to go.
Sex education was never included in the curriculum, neither were we made aware of cyberbullying and how to deal with it. '
I can also recall teachers being aware of the circulation of some photographs back in my time and not taking any stance on the issue in an official capacity.
The school never felt approachable if any personal experiences had to be discussed and even the presence of counsellors was never emphasised, students were made to go visit them if they continued to display “problematic behaviour” like having persistently low grades or flouting classes, thus attaching a stigma around visiting these counsellors.
Our schools need to realise the importance of sex education and the role it can play in establishing a more gender-sensitive ground. These are adolescents who are starting to discover and develop their sexuality, repressing their curiosity might lead to violent and toxic outbursts.
It is very important to guide them through this process and to ensure a healthy outlet for it, more importantly, to inculcate values of respect towards the other gender.
It should become an essential part of the curriculum rather than a forced duty which is brushed off in the form of one or two workshops that are held at the school’s convenience.
The lack of presence of sex education in schools and at home leads to kids trying to satiate their curiosity on the internet and we are all aware of the downright sexual objectification of women that exists there. It is important to remember that teenagers have impressionable minds and they will emulate the things they pick on from their environment, role models, and peers. Parents as well need to let go off the taboo around sex education and create a judgment-free zone with their children.
Therefore, it’s not just schools and parents who need to champion the cause of raising a more responsible generation, it's the media too. Content created in the form of songs and movies is deeply entrenched in toxic masculinity and on most occasions normalises objectification of women.
There is a dire need for the industry to discontinue its promotion of misogynistic and patriarchal practices. It's time the media realises that it's not merely a reflection of social values of the society but that it plays a pivotal role in setting the social norm and the impact that has on the impressionable youth.
How is this generation expected to be better than the ones before them if there were no active changes in the way they are brought up?
Instead of imposing more restrictions on girls, we need to focus on creating an environment where everyone can feel safe and comfortable. Values of gender sensitivity, empowerment, and empathy need to be inculcated and promoted as the new “cool” if we are to reach gender equality in our lifetime.
It’s time we start holding accountable everyone that is involved in bringing up this generation and ensure that active measures are being taken to instill values of gender equality in the generation that we have such high hopes from.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)