Will Terminating Valedictory Tradition End Campus Sexism?
The decades-old valedictory tradition at IIT-B, where students roast each other every year, has been put to sleep.
According to Mumbai Mirror, graduating students at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, used to spend an evening roasting batchmates and roommates every year. This function used to be held in hostels, complete with a throne perched on a stage, for whoever wanted to take the mic and diss out some burns.
However, these jokes were often sexist and vulgar, which enraged female students. Casual sexism and indecent remarks made against girls are inevitable realities of college campuses in India, and IIT-B isn’t immune to it. With increased awareness, the administration has been under immense pressure to end casual sexism on campus. Hence, the first to meet the axe in order to curb the menace of increasing male toxicity on college campus was the valedictory tradition.
But what does drawing curtains on a college tradition actually solve? Will it rid IIT-B campus of casual sexism and inappropriate comments against girls? Or does it only put the problem out of public eye?
Just a symptom of a deeper problem
What this ceremony used to do was to give young men a platform to showcase their inherent sexism. It isn’t as if men believing in gender equality got possessed by the ghost of misogyny the minute they sat on that throne. The belief that women are inferior and sub-human, undeserving of respect gets ingrained in boys’ minds long before they step into college. Which means that sexism is a result of a certain kind of social upbringing which most boys get since childhood. How then, can merely snatching the mic out of their hands kill that mindset?
- IIT-B has put an end to the annual valedictorian function due to complaints of the event being used to make sexist and vulgar remarks against women.
- But will putting an end to a college tradition oust casual sexism from the institute’s campus once and for all?
- For a healthy and progressive college campus, we need a healthy and constructive conversation on the issue of casual sexism.
- Boys need to understand that sexist remarks aren’t roasting, they are toxic.
I understand the administration’s perspective here. Sexism only becomes more flamboyant when young men get access to an unchecked platform. Also, the unchecked opportunity and rooting from fellow students emboldens those with on borderline sexist mentality to opt for a polar stance on this issue. They crack vulgar jokes just for the sake of being cool, popular, funny and eventually manly. Hence, the valedictorian function, if unchecked, was only magnifying the problem at hand.
It would not be wise to expect sexism to vanish from IIT-B’s campus forever now
It will find another way to show itself. Through vulgar comments engraved on wooden desks or on bathroom doors. Through hooting and leering and sniggering among a group of like minded peers. And more such ways which will be beyond anyone’s control because this sexism won’t have a distinct face or a voice the authorities could monitor or check.
What college campuses across the country need is sensitisation of young minds. Boys mustn’t be forced into silence because it only makes them more rebellious. It makes them defensive about their ideologies. Challenge their views instead and make them see how harmful their mindset is, not just to girls but themselves too. Every office and corporate around the world is now opting for a no-nonsense policy, when it comes to sexism or vulgar comments against women.
It could lead to great financial and career setbacks if boys take this attitude into their jobs now
For a healthy and progressive college campus, we need a healthy and constructive conversation on the issue of casual sexism. As for boys, they need to understand that roasting and vulgar banter are two different things. Trying to mask the latter as former can’t go unnoticed in times like today.
They may oppose this move, and say it restricts their right to speak freely and have a fun-filled college life. That it is a mere ritual which is essential to their bonding with peers. But cracking vulgar jokes about women is not funny. It is uncouth. Sexist remarks aren’t roasting, they are sexually offensive and toxic. Please get your definitions right and give this issue some thought.
Picture Credit: newsworldindia.in
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.