While our society may have ‘progressed’ and ‘allowed’ its daughters to receive education decades ago, the way young girls are treated at school, straight from primary to high school has always made us feel secondary, to say the least. It only gets worse with time. As our bodies change with teenage, school becomes just another venue for us to be policed for merely growing up. The divide based on gender deepens and young women are repeatedly reminded what is expected of them if they want to be seen as “good girls”. School life can thus be dreary if becoming a “good girl” is not your goal. But if it indeed is, then here is every Indian teen girl’s survival guide to stereotypes they encounter at school.

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Survival Tip No. 1: Wear a uniform at least six times bigger than you are. The dress code for girls in schools is mostly in place to contain their sexuality and hide their growing bodies, rather than comfort. You uniform shouldn’t give any hint to the fact that you have breasts. Wearing an ill-fitting uniform solves this issue, besides if you’re wearing a bra that isn’t black, white, or beeeayjjj, it won’t show through the fabric and no one will be able to frown at you for the grave crime of being girl, and (gasp) having breasts.

Survival Tip No.2: Don’t ever talk. Don’t. Girls who give their opinion, even when asked to, are ill-bred, na. If you want to avoid being labelled as bossy, ill-mannered or dominating, literally never open your mouth, unless it’s to pray during morning assembly, and even then, your voice cannot be deep but as high as the stage in the assembly hall.

Survival Tip No.3: Only sign up for extracurriculars and optionals that are ‘suitable’ for young women of the future. Computer Applications? No way. All you’re advised to do is needlework, home science and cookery. Do not even set foot near fields or courts and aspire to become an athlete. Good girls don’t wish to pursue “manly” hobbies likes playing cricket or football, let alone wish to make a professional career in these fields. You say you are talented? Your cover-drive can make any boy in the field turn green with envy? When was that ever a criteria?

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Survival Tip No.4: Never have a single male friend. Want to just chill and play football? You like your lab partner? Don’t even think about it. Unless, of course, you want your parents to be called to the school, a suspension, and a perpetual unspoken ‘SL*T’ label placed on your back. Even if you engage in some form of mutual…um…courtship, always remember that when this “incident” comes to light, the chances are that the guy will get off much easier than you will.

It genuinely sucks that I’ve had to use sarcasm to put across the fact that instead of thriving, growing, and being encouraged at school, teen girls have to fight and literally compromise on every aspect of individuality or basic respect to survive. For every co-educational school that views ‘all students equally’ and every girls’ school dedicated to the emancipation of women, there’s a whole other set of stereotypes and unspoken rules students must abide by to avoid being ridiculed or insulted for life. If we really want anyone to learn anything, if we really want to bridge the gender divide in our society, then this stereotyping and policing has to stop in our schools and homes. Now.

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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