The “Bois Locker Room” incident should not be taken as an isolated case. It’s a culmination of misogynistic mechanisms that work in our society. Who should be blamed for such mentality of the young boys? The young boys themselves or the entire patriarchal setup that patronises the very idea behind the “Bois Locker Room”? What do you think?
As a teacher, I wrote “Seema plays football” on a blackboard in my Bengali to English translation class in my school. And all of my female students were stunned! They thought I made a mistake! They thought the name ‘Seema’ is an inadvertent mistake on my part. Because our in and out male-dominated society has already constructed in their minds the myth that ‘Seema’ can’t play football but ‘Ram’ or ‘Rahim’ can!
Every inch of our society, our culture, our country is a male chauvinist. I don’t want to know who has made this “Bois Locker Room” and who has thrown such slangs on women. I am not at all bothered about who has done this. I am bothered about the process behind the mentality that has constructed the ‘Bois Locker Room’. As a woman, I know it can be anyone, it can be my husband and even my own son!
Gender discrimination starts from the womb
India is obsessed with males! The obsession is so engrossed that Indian parents are so enthusiastic in murdering their girl children that the female child population in the age group of 0-6 years has declined from 78.83m in 2001 to 75.84m in 2011, and during this period, sex ratio declined from 945 to 914! Huge dowry and patriarchal mindset are fully responsible for this pathological hatred towards the girl child.
The tradition of dowry is rampant, and it has now become sophisticated, particularly in the economically middle class domain. Now the employed men are in search of “doodhwali gaai” (a milky cow), a derogatory term often used in Bengali for working women.
This calculative male progeny is very intelligent in calculation indeed! For them, taking dowry is a one-time phenomenon, but a working woman earns money (read dowry) every month. These shameless lot often boast for letting their wives work outside! As if they are the owners and wives are their property! This rotten chauvinistic mentality has made lives hell for the working women. For their husbands, they are maids who also bring money to the family’s coffer!
The androcentric educational system
In India, there is a huge difference between being ‘literate’ and being ‘educated’. Thanks to our male-centric textbooks, since childhood the “man is the boss” superiority complex is ingrained in the minds of the students, both male and female. They live with characters that eulogise men and portray women as an appendage to the “stronger sex”. In India, the male characters dominate the textbooks in all subjects and the number of female characters is very meagre.
According to the GEM report, only 6% of female characters are shown in textbooks. All the textbooks downplay women’s achievements. In West Bengal, three textbooks (one of English language and two of Bengali language) of standard eighth have 54 lessons of poems, stories and essays, and surprisingly, they only have three lessons written by female authors! This mere tokenism sums up the grim reality of our gender insensitive curriculum.
Our textbooks rightly have many stories based on the lives and achievements and roles of our freedom fighters. But if any gender sensitive eye flips through the syllabus, she/he will notice a striking absence of stories of our female freedom fighters.
Women are scarcely presented as role models. The male prejudice that “women are intelligent by chance” and “male are genius by norm” dictate the entire educational system that incarcerates the young minds in the shackles of “Bois Locker Room” syndrome. So, it’s not only the fault of the makers of “Bois Locker Room”, rather our entire society is guilty of creating that misogynistic outlook and turning children into misogynists.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, one of the prominent mass leaders of today’s politics, has to face character assassination and sexist slurs all-day-long. Even the stellar cast of big political parties are no exception. They have to face the same ordeal. The verbal obscenity of Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan and his son against Jaya Prada is an example of this.
The miserable number (12.6%) of female representation in the lower house of the parliament narrates the tale of women in power. The highest female (41%) candidates were fielded by Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Notably, the head of this party is also a woman. The two major national political parties – the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress party – have failed miserably in this matter.
The lawmakers, who are misogynists, naturally fail to make laws which will serve women’s interest. The wonderful part of this game is that all parties are almost on the same boat in treating women. Crime against women or allegations of crime against women doesn’t deter the political parties from giving tickets.
As per The Indian Express, from 2009 to 2019, a sharp rise of 231% has been seen in fielding those candidates who are accused of crimes against women. All political parties have done so. Only winnability matters, a crime against women doesn’t. In such a miserable male supremacist background how can one expect inculcation of respect in young minds for women?
Our misogynistic language
Language is not neutral. It bears the influence of the socio-economic conditions of the society where it’s used. In India, the languages – a plethora of them – have been mostly misogynistic and eulogises patriarchy. But then even foreign languages, like English, aren’t quite impressive as well, especially when it comes to gender. Why do we use gentleman and not gentlewoman? Why there is no feminine substitute for the Bengali word ‘Sabhapati‘ (a person who presides over a gathering or meeting)? Why there is a chairman and not a chairwoman?
It’s the language which is instrumental in injecting the male superiority ego in a child’s mind. The slurs, the jokes, the phrases, the idioms, they all are misogynistic. The most used slangs in India are all about women and either propagate normalisation of rape culture in India or depict sexual humiliation of women. Our language also stigmatises a healthy sexual relationship.
The Hindi word of the word orgasm is “kaamonmad” (crazy for sex). This word itself stigmatises a female’s longing for orgasm. No wonder women are afraid of revealing desire for orgasm to their partners, who, in the majority of the cases, don’t even know what a female orgasm is. And denounce female desires by shaming their sexual partners. The languages used in the films are largely responsible for this. The films with ample amounts of misogynistic dialogues become blockbusters and sexist politicians bad mouthing women are being elected as lawmakers with huge margins.
With all instruments of female suppression, humiliation and sexists present in our society – not only present but rule too – do we have moral rights to question the children who were in Instagram’s “Bois Locker Room”?
So, I was not surprised at the reactions of my female students on seeing the sentence “Seema plays football”. It was the conscious effort on my part to deconstruct the male supremacist notion reigning over their subconscious mind. Every single aspect of women’s lives is dictated by a complete misogynistic society that is itself a “Bois Locker Room”.
Now it’s up to the few women (a few because most of the women aren’t bothered about the issue of patriarchy due to their own subjugation) to rise and shatter the shackles of “Bois Locker Room” stereotypes to unshackle both men and women for a new rising female sun, that gives equal rights and respect to all. Come on girls, you can do it and let’s do it now.
Moumita Alam is a non-conformist. She writes about the exploitation of the marginalised. As a teacher and a poet, her pen flares up against all forms of oppression. She loves to read when not writing and she thinks critically about the socio-political aspects of life. Keen to change the society to an egalitarian one for the present have-nots.