Why Did My Classmate Say, “Women Are Inferior To Men”?

The shelter of my classroom was where I had yet to feel the sting of misogyny so visibly. I was shocked when my classmate expressed in an extempore with an outrageous audacity, “Women are inferior to men.”

Misogyny is a poison given to girls at a startlingly young age. It begins with small comments and jokes, or certain boundaries and rules that boys don’t have to face. It begins with the little differences in how they’re addressed and treated.

Furthermore, it begins almost imperceptibly, as if misogyny is just another gear in the complex clockwork of our society and not a horrific fault of our system that prevents us from truly moving ahead and evolving with time.

This poison is not new to me, or to any of the women on this esteemed web. We face it everywhere we go every single day.

My peers proved me wrong

But the shelter of my classroom was where I had yet to feel the sting of misogyny so visibly. I was naive in thinking so, and gullible in believing that as a school prefect— as a leader— the peers that I aim to lead will uphold the morals of equality with the same intensity that I do.

Hence, I was shocked and left in utter disbelief when my classmate expressed in an extempore in class with an outrageous audacity, “Women are inferior to men.”

It was an unprovoked judgement and an outdated belief, which he revealed abruptly with malice so severe that every student in the class was left astonished.

“I am a man, and I’m superior. I do not need to follow the rules— women do.”

I remember how the classroom erupted in uproar at his remark, and how he looked so proud and unbelievably smug at his own views of prejudice. Everyone felt the potency of his words, but their lasting impact was vastly different on every student in the room that day.

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Most of my male friends were aggrieved, while the boy’s own mates were chuckling at his words, some even lamenting that he could have said something even worse, could have done something even worse.

Is this how they see us?

The girls in the class were disgusted, and that sentiment of exasperation could be seen in their tightly clenched fists, in their angrily locked jaws, and in their anxious, fearful eyes. The same thoughts passed through our minds, “Is this how they see us?”

As inferior? As incapable? As not worthy of respect? As no less than an animal?

The feeling was unbearable. The classroom felt like a gas chamber, and the whiffs of toxicity and bigotry burned our lungs, our bodies, and our minds.

Such a description might seem like an exaggeration, but in those moments of helplessness, no other words could describe that feeling of insufferable rage. How could a classmate who has studied beside us for so many years, a peer who has grown up in the same school as me, hold such sexist thoughts and beliefs?

His freedom of speech did not mean freedom from consequence.

If someone in the safe space of our classroom holds such dangerous and destructive views on women, what could we expect from anyone else? Despite our efforts and complaints to do something, to not let him get away with his cruel words, the boy’s actions were chalked up as nothing but “freedom of speech.”

We were disappointed and frustrated and utterly perplexed by seeing the smirk of so-called superiority on his face. His corrosive words had hurt so many people, and he deserved to face the repercussions of his misdeed; his freedom of speech did not mean freedom from consequence.

It did not mean that such baleful words berating women in the distinguished motherland of India can be uttered without having to face the consequences. If no one else would do something in retaliation for his words, we would.

With a remarkable passion, the girls— rather the capable, young women— in my class responded with their own freedom of expression.

Simply a woman

Extempore and speeches were given with a graceful and calm demeanour on the power and importance of women. Not only as a mother, or as a daughter or a sister, but as an individual. Not through her relation to a man or our patriarchal society, but as her unabashed, true self. As a woman.

The look on the boy’s face at the round of applause and ovation at their speeches was truly a sight.

One must not revel in someone else’s misery, but the look on his face when he realized the effect of his
words after listening to the heart-touching speeches by the girls was an achievement in itself.

I still do not know if he will change for the better.

I do not know if he will reflect and look inwards to recognize his bigoted actions or apologize for his behaviour. Likewise, I am not that naive leader, looking for the best and the positives in everyone, waiting for him to understand what he did wrong.

Superiority complex harms everyone

However, I am a leader who knows that unless one views other human beings as equals and treats them with mutual respect and collaboration, one will never be able to move forward. An individual who sees themselves as a superior entity will be void of respect for anyone but themselves— they will be left unaccomplished, alone, and empty.

There is no remainder of the malignity and bitterness that he had filled us all with; gone is that anger, gone is that naive and idyllic picture of the world that I believed in. What remains, is the unfiltered appearance of the world, filled with the cruel reality of prejudice.

But it will not hinder me, or any of the brilliant young women I know. It will not leave us broken and lost.

The only evidence of this encounter that will stay with us is greater strength and courage to fight
back than before, and a scorching desire to create a better, more equal world.

Image source: Still from Amazon MinitTv Series Crush, edited on CanvaPro

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