There are many who are not surprised at the materialisation of the locker room controversies. It started when screenshots of a group on Instagram, called the Bois Locker Room, went viral. They revealed misogynistic attitudes among a group of South Delhi boys. An attitude where the opposite gender is judged on parameters of beauty, made fun of and belittled for flaws, came to light. Year after year we have encountered talk like this among even friends. Boys who humiliate girls behind their back, rate them, compare them with other girls.
The locker room controversies even threw light on a ‘locker room for girls’ where the same sort of thing was happening. Girls were getting together to body shame boys, and do pretty much exactly what the boys from the Bois Locker Room were doing. The girls were meanly objectifying the boys, and the conversation in the room encompassed lewd talk and sexual innuendos.
The Bois Locker Room group also went out of hand as the boys on the group shared pictures of girls and spoke about having access to nude pictures of them, and then went on to describe them in an explicitly sexual manner.
With the advent of social media, women and men-hating attitudes have time and again surfaced online, and are able to find greater expression. But is social media responsible for giving fillip to such attitudes, is something experts have mixed opinions on. Says Mrinil Mathur Rajwani, Managing Partner and Marketing Head at Social Samosa, (a company analysing the effect of social on businesses), “Social media is a boon and a bane at the same time depending upon the people behind the screen. As far as the expression of misogynistic ideas is concerned, while social media facilitates a medium for such conversations, the answer to whether they have risen because of social media, is quite subjective. It depends on the company young ones are keeping and the kind of content they consume online and offline.”
Beneath the so called demons of the online facebooking and snapchatting world, is the idea of how men and women, boy and girls really feel about each other. Says Tara Kaushal, author and journalist, who has researched male behaviour, particularly the behaviour of men who rape, extensively, and who will soon release a percipient book on the subject this June called Why Men Rape – An Indian Undercover Investigation, “When I researched the lives of nine such men, I found that they had no healthy relationships with women outside the house. In the instance of those who raped, there was both the humanizing and objectifying of women. When you humanize somebody you do it to harm them. The idea that someone is human means they can be hurt, physically or emotionally. Objectifying a woman means not looking at a woman as an equal. Also in a poor country like India, these men have a lot to be angry about, for example the victimization by the upper classes. Men who aren’t so angry, won’t hurt the other. These ideas of so called male superiority and entitlement also come from religion and upbringing. Moreover, because women were physically less powerful, and the man physically stronger, that idea of male authority set in. That was than maintained by manmade institutions and systems that favoured that idea. ”
Sometimes women are seen objectifying themselves on picture sharing sites like Instagram. Knowing full well that it is the male gaze they want. Such behaviour can often be seen as part of that culture that uses the internet to spew venom on the opposite sex. It’s seen as cool to diss someone for a ‘flaw’, a flaw once again labelled as one based on artificial standards created by humans themselves. That style of conversation is pushed by ideas that human beings are perhaps primarily to be judged on their physical appearance. “The distribution of free internet by companies has led to the explosion of sexual violence, porn. Children in main cities like Chandigarh, for example, are trying to get over of their addiction to porn. In my book, an important conclusion is that we must encourage love as opposed to consumerism. We need to become more culturally liberal to take a foot off the violence. Always trying to get ahead of the other person, being selfish are not attitudes to be encouraged. We need to become more socialistic,” continues Kaushal.
In Joker, the movie, one watches the protagonist played by Joaquin Phoenix, commit crime after crime, feeling compelled to do so, towards the end. Most characteristically, he is shown as someone who endures questionable parenting. Where the mother brings in a boyfriend who beats him up. He grows up to be the joker.
Aleeka Kumar, psychodynamic psychotherapist refers to the breakdown of families, and neglect at home as often being culprits. “There is a deeper underbelly to instances like the Bois Locker Room. It’s along the spectrum of neglect in childhood, the lack of a loving presence and engagement with the child, and loneliness. The effect is spiralling. Winnicott, the psychoanalyst, points to acute deprivation in childhood resulting in anti-social tendencies manifesting in childhood and in lesser recognisable ways in adulthood. He adds, in their own way, these children are crying out for help. We as a society have forgotten simple traditions of love and family and are growing lonelier and lonelier. The Bois Locker Room incident had a precursor almost six months ago in Bombay itself where similar chats among boys from a posh international school were exposed. The point is we need to have discussions about what is happening and not brush things under the carpet. One must be in touch with what is going on in their kids’ lives, spend time with them. There is no shortcut to that. But one must also remember that maybe the parents haven’t made their own parenting mistakes intentionally…”