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When we look past seemingly harmless and normalised teenage toxic masculinity, we do more than dismiss it. We cause more harm by being silent bystanders.
I woke up on Monday morning and read an Instagram story about a group chat on Instagram called ‘Boys’ Locker Room.’ And I remember feeling a surge of anger as I read about the incident. Reading the testimonies and comments chilled me to the bone and I was at a complete loss of words to even begin to restate them.
In an era where the very notion of data privacy is highly questionable, this incident casts an even sinister picture of far more complex things. Violence and harassment in online spheres have become another weapon for misogyny. I was even painfully reminded of Donald Trump’s 2005 Access Hollywood Tape statement, which was also reduced and trivialised to ‘locker room talk.’
The Instagram group chat, outed on Sunday, consisted of a group of boys from affluent South Delhi schools between the ages of 17 and 18. They would share and circulate pictures of girls without their consent. Worse still, they would laugh and gloat about the many heinous sexual acts they would inflict upon them if they were given the chance. And often made monstrous and appalling rape jokes and threats.
The sharing of these photos of underage girls is child porn which indeed, is a crime under IPC Section 292-293. And the victims who called out their behaviour were threatened and humiliated further by the boys.
The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) alerted Instagram as well as the police. This has now escalated into a legal battle as the Delhi police are involved and are initiating a probe into the situation.
Yet, does this truly shed light on the pressing issue at hand?
Swati Maliwal, DWC chief, rightly said in her tweet that the incident was “the reflection of a perverse, criminal and rapist mentality.”
This not only casts a shadow yet again on the toxic rape culture and violence, it also sheds light on how toxic masculinity continues to thrive in the society. Yet we wonder why our country still remains one of the most dangerous places in the world for women.
The idea of ‘toxic masculinity’ is reinforced as young men believe that they have to resort to dominance and violence to prove their self-worth. This has more do with society-dictated norms and socialisation than the gender itself.
When young boys are put in spaces where they are free to make these atrocious remarks without fear of consequence or accountability, they take it as a birth-right. They make these remarks and perpetuate the cycle. We often grossly essentalise and deem sexual aggression or hyper-masculinity as inherent biologically defining traits of men.
These are enforced from the time they are young and impressionable. As they grow older, this merely debilitates the vicious cycle of gender violence and exploitation. Boys as young as 15 have become the centre of the incident.
The incident highlights the privilege of caste, class and education. It shows how the deeply-rooted sense of entitlement is a smokescreen for misogyny and toxic masculinity. This, especially when we realise that a majority of these boys involved were from affluent backgrounds.
Society in a way normalises and conditions men to believe that this kind of behaviour is acceptable. We continuously internalise the cavalier yet toxic ‘boys will be boys’ norm and, allow this warped and distorted idea to take root. This only further catapults toxic masculinity and serves to undermine and silence women who call out this behaviour and speak against it.
I stumbled upon what was called a ‘boys locker room’ meme compilation that spread the notion that girls often ‘gossip’ in locker rooms. But guys engage in vague ‘surreal group activities.’ This doesn’t just reaffirm gender binaries but makes fun of what is a haunting and chilling reality that only reinforces toxic masculinity.
I managed to have a conversation about the incident with some of my friends who made some important points when I shared the post with them. One of them believed that it breeds a toxic culture that goes even beyond the boys’ locker room. And another voiced his opinions about correcting every-day misogyny through social pressure and alter the way in which we educate and raise children in the future.
Will we have more conversations with the men and boys around us in the future and will they do their part in calling this out?
It took the unravelling of this incident for us to see that these problems are not rooted in short skirts, cocktail dresses or red lipsticks. They are systematic and entrenched problems of misogyny. And the modern-day primitive notions of masculinity that we are overlooking and failing to rectify.
How many more victims will it take?
Picture credits: Pexels
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Shivani is currently an undergraduate political science student who is passionate about human rights and
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