Young men and women are marking territories, taking control, and unleashing power in the classroom.
Everybody knows young adults are attracted towards the opposite gender. Girls as much as boys. It’s the hormones, right?
But hormones are not the only reason why many young men and women treat each other the way they do, especially on college campuses.
“I feel insecure in class whenever the Professor is not around,” said Tanvi. “Every minute. Even though there are more girls in class than boys.”
“When I talk to a boy, he looks all over me and never in my eye. It is disgusting,” said Clara. “About half the boys in my class have this way of looking at you.”
The proportion of boys who have this way of “looking” varies from college to college. Somewhere it is above the halfway mark, in other places it is fewer.
But women agree that most men consider it their right to comment on women who come within their range of vision. And the comments are invariably physical. “The worst of them are explicit in the way they look at us and vulgar in their comments,” said Sarika. “But even with others, we can almost imagine the comments running in their heads. They just don’t mouth them.”
Ask the men and most say the women are just asking for it. Talk of women and the topic quickly turns to dress. “She was asking for it. Look at the way she dresses. Also the way she walks, backslaps boys, and all,” said Tariq.“So you think they spare the girls in salwar sets and dupatta?” asked Meera. “Those who comment have something to say about everyone. The salwar-dressed girls are called ‘mama’s babies’ and ‘dal roti.’ And you know, the dupatta covers only the front of the body.”
Relationships are the buzzword on campuses. For most of those seeking ‘relationships,’ it is just an exciting new sensation: to be seen with someone, to feel ‘committed’ to someone. Often it is a status symbol. The sense of belonging to someone, of being identified as someone’s pair gives both that special identity. For many young men and women, the partner is a ‘prized catch.’ For the ‘modern’ women, it is maybe just fun and dalliance. For the more conservative ones, it buys ‘security.’
So hormones are not the only factors determining the attitude, conduct and relationship of men and women. The patriarchal view of women as freely accessible objects to be possessed and disposed of at will is a few millennia old and still alive. The sense of belonging and the desire to acquire are two other primitive instincts at work here.
The desire to possess degenerates into the desire to control. The desire for power. In classrooms where increasingly there are near equal or equal numbers of men and women, men are no longer the majority they were. Not everyone can cope with the change in power structures that naturally follow. So, they try to establish their control in class by directing humiliating and base comments at women.
Words and looks can convey as much violence and physical assault. A remark about women or on her looks is also a violation of her private space.
Gone are the days when mild flirting was exciting and fun. Today young men and women are marking territories, establishing control, and unleashing power in the classroom.
For their part, women must realise that as the struggle for assertion of individuality reaches a climax, the age-old tool of sexuality is best discarded. Academic accomplishment, intellectual and skill development have armed women in their fight against patriarchy. Today, when due acknowledgement and respect are waiting in the wings, a wrong move can set back the movement.
Never forget that you are representing one half of the population, who after millennia of repression are finally on the verge of finding their rightful status in society. Everything you say and do will reflect on the entire population of women.
Respecting oneself as an individual is a prerequisite to being respected by the other half of the population. Your sense of dignity and decorum show how much you respect yourself. And that will determine how you will be treated by others.
In these modern times where men and women strive equally in all fields of activity, demonstrate identical skills and talents, share equal responsibility, decide the future of institutions and the fate of nations, both sexes are deserving of the same respect and standing in society.
Both sexes need to shake off their primitive instincts and work towards establishing a truly egalitarian society, the keystone for which is respect for the other.