Have you ever heard of a male student being suspended from a college for consuming alcohol at a party? However, a college in Tamil Nadu has expelled four female students after they came across a video of them drinking beer with some male friends. According to The News Minute, the party in question took place six weeks ago, and the students were celebrating the birthday of one of the girls at her residence which is some 10 kilometres away from the college. These women were not drinking beer on the college premises, and yet the college management chose to take such a drastic measure.
- A college in Tamil Nadu has expelled four female students after a video of them drinking beer surfaced on social media.
- The college circular says that the girls behaved “in a manner that would bring disrepute to college.”
- Would the college have taken such a drastic measure if these students were male?
- Doesn’t the blame also lie with social media moral policing?
These women were not drinking beer on the college premises, and yet the management chose to take such a drastic measure.
The circular issued by the management says that the four women students were being expelled for “behaving in a manner that would bring disrepute to college.” Perhaps the backlash to the video on social media got to the management and it gave in to the pressure of taking disciplinary action against the students. There may be thousands of videos on social media where college-going male students can be seen drinking beer openly. Where is the commentary on bringing “disrepute” to their colleges or society in that case?
This isn’t about whether alcohol consumption is right or wrong, but about selective moral policing. The society chooses to turn a blind eye towards acts like drinking and smoking, even if it disapproves of them, when it is men who carry them out. The entire burden of accountability and preserving the moral fabric of our society lies with women. It is they who must uphold the cultural values, by living according to the norms of the society. But if a thing is wrong or taboo for one gender, how can it be acceptable for another?
Excessive drinking or smoking is injurious to health, irrespective of the person’s gender. But the debate here isn’t centred around health. It is rooted in morality, which is interpreted differently for each gender, thanks to patriarchy. This is why male students drinking beer doesn’t generate outrage.
If the video hadn’t gone viral on social media, incurring a backlash, perhaps these girls would have gotten away with a reprimand. So is criticising the college management enough?
What is more demoralising is that people take these biases to their workplaces also. Management and administrations of educational institutes feel pressured or obligated to “discipline” female students to keep them from setting bad examples. Heavens forbid if all girls in college begin consuming alcohol. Had these students been drinking on the college premises, then it would be justified on the college’s part to expel them. In fact, the principal of the college in question told the Times of India, “Though it did not happen on the campus, anybody can make out that the girls are from our college from their uniform,” further adding that if students are let off without severe punishment, it could set a bad precedent for others in the college. But even then one wonders, if the management would have taken this drastic measure, had it been male students in the place of these women.
If the video hadn’t gone viral on social media, perhaps these girls would have gotten away with a reprimand. So is criticising the college management enough? What about the guardians of our culture who lurk across all social media platforms, berating women and alleging that their actions corrupt the society? Doesn’t a part of the blame for expulsion of these girls lie with men and women who raised a furore over the said video, which was allegedly put up on social media without the women students’ consent?
Drinking among underage students, excessive consumption of alcohol should never be endorsed, but similarly, bias against students on the basis of gender cannot be overlooked either. Every student who goes to college indulges in certain things which adults would frown upon. Pretending that this is a rare incident of students that brings “disrepute” to the college won’t change the reality. Wouldn’t it be better instead to have a frank conversation with students about responsible behaviour? But for that to happen we need to remove the morality-tinted glasses that we have been wearing for generations now.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.