A recent tweet, about a nine-year-old boy applying lipstick and getting bullied for his choice, is getting a lot of attention on Twitter. The boy's cousin shared his picture and stated how he was called a chakka for applying lip colour.
She wrote, "My cousin, 9, is the most “effeminate” in the house. Let’s call him Little Cuz. Loves to paint nails, wear lipcolour, learn home science! But in this stereotypical alpha male-centric household he’s often the pivot of jokes. Today he applied lipcolour & got called a “chakka”.
In an ideal world, this would have been a liberating post, where a woman is backing her cousin's "feminine" choices. However, it has given rise to a conversation on the need for fluidity in gender identity, breaking gender binary norms of the society, toxic male upbringing and how we must all make an effort to understand and accept the gender spectrum.
On the surface, this is a glorious post, timed rightly around the culmination of pride month. There is nothing wrong with what the tweeter endorses. However, we don't live in a perfect world. Which is why this tweet is problematic because it puts a nine-year-old at the risk of bullying and predatory behaviour.
The boy is too young and naive to be revealed to Twitteratti
We all have the right to endorse what we think is a deserving cause on social media. Be it feminism, disruption of gender binary system or LGBT rights. They are all worthy causes which call for relentless endorsement. But this activism, no matter how necessary or rightful, cannot come at the cost of a child's safety. The cousin who shared the nine-year old's picture on a social media platform is an adult, but this is not her story to share.
Much as our hearts go out to him, the boy is very vulnerable right now. He is yet to fully grasp his own thoughts and the matter of identity will take more than applying lip colour or nail paint to sort out. He needs the support of members of the family and society on this difficult journey.
Social media or the real world outside of it is cruel, predatory and heartless. While many have extended their support to the kid, there will be a significantly large number of people who will bully him for his choices. It doesn't take much time for a picture to cross from one social media platform to another and before we know it, this picture will find its place on WhatsApp groups with nasty captions. He is at risk of being bullied at school, on the playground by children or adults who won't buy the woman's compassionate appeal.
Moreover, social media is also a hunting ground for sexual predators. Hence it seems a bit careless to publicly share a vulnerable boy's photographs. That too on a platform where anyone can download or share them without much accountability. Our world is too mean towards people who dare to stand up and endorse their varying identity. While adults may have the maturity to battle this nastiness, it is too much to expect for a child.
The woman shouldn't have shared the pictures so hurriedly. She should have instead focused on confronting the parents of the child and make them understand what he is going through.
Hopefully, a day will come when the world would be more accommodating and less harsh to boys and girls who refuse to follow stereotypical societal norms. Till then let's try to protect the identities of these vulnerable children. Let's refrain from unmasking their identities in the name of activism.
Also Read : Is India Ready To Raise Gender Neutral Kids Yet?
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.