By Supriya Pudasainy
Misogyny, an ingrained prejudice against women and girls, can be witnessed and experienced in almost every aspect of our society.
Be it home or academic environment, instances of casual and deep-rooted misogyny have been normalized to the extent that many people don’t even bother pointing it out.
For many of us, normalization of misogyny begins at home and is further solidified at schools, where moral and gender policing is welcomed with open arms under the guise of discipline.
MISOGYNY IN SCHOOLS
In Nepali schools, students’ dress codes are a ruse to hide systemic patriarchy.
Schools portray that an ideal female student is submissive to all forms of passive sexism, oils her hair and ribbons two pigtails, wears knee-length skirts, and puts on white camisoles to hide the outlines of her ‘outrageous’ bra.
Schools go to extreme lengths to check if girls are wearing slacks by lifting their skirts and anyone refusing to conform to such codes is publicly called out for being indecent, or worse — distracting the boys.
It’s remorseful that often female teachers are in the frontline dictating girl students to dress modestly.
Schools not only instill that a girl’s outfit is equivalent to her moral character, but they also subsequently force girls to be embarrassed about their sexuality and reproductive health.
Girls are often separated from the boys and taught about menstruation as if it’s a taboo subject to be brought up in front of boys. Chapters regarding menstruation are dismissed using excuses like “girls already know about it and boys do not need to know”.
Teachers are hesitant to conduct sex education classes – leaving impressionable children to fend for themselves.
GENDER DISPARITY IN SOCIETY
Shopkeepers in Nepal usually hand out sanitary pads in carefully gift-like wrapped bundles and in colored polythene bags. The several layers of packaging is supposed to hide the shame of menstruation.
Period-shaming follows many of us to the temples and kitchens as we are banned for the 4-7 days that we bleed. Many “open-minded” people today try to argue that confinement is meant for menstruators to take some rest.
This excuse, however, cannot possibly hide the fact that our society shuns menstruators for their bodily functions. Deep-rooted misogyny plays its part when other female members of the family are determined in implementing such archaic rules established by the patriarchy.
On October 16, 2020, Nepal Police arrested a 19-year-old man, who was the group leader of a Facebook group called “Rapist Association”, on the charges of encouraging rape, online harassment of women, and posting explicit abusive content through the group.
The fact that young boys feel confident enough to publicly spew toxicities/hatred against women proves how ignorant and incompetent we have been as a society in promoting gender equity.
What can we expect from a society that teaches young kids that it is okay to judge someone’s moral character on the basis of their outfit, or that the male gaze can be averted if bra straps are hidden, and it is solely a woman’s fault if boys “react”?
Statistics from the National Women Commission demonstrate how women are trapped in their marriages under the pretext of protecting social status and traditions despite being subjected to daily abuse at the hand of their partners.
Hundreds of married women overlook their partners’ abuses and oppression, and try to make it work because society preaches that women must compromise, albeit their basic human rights are violated.
Our schools’ redundant rules and shaming of girls with regards to their sexuality and reproductive health becomes a part of society’s venomous practice of victim-blaming. Rape victims are blamed for their choice of clothes and lifestyle while rapists are given the benefit of the doubt.
Mothers ask their daughters to dress “decently” in front of male relatives instead of questioning the intentions of the said relatives whose presence wouldn’t allow children to dress as they please.
Gatekeeping how girls and women dress, talk, or live their life just because persons of another gender cannot be decent human beings is not ok.
It shouldn’t be normal for female students to be taught from a young age that they need to put more effort into their appearance to be treated decently.
Misogyny and patriarchy are ingrained in Nepali society. But it’s time to break free of these doctrines and realize that women being controlled for their appearance, bodily functions, and sexuality is not okay in any society. We must speak up.
Pudasainy is a BBA-Hons student at the Kathmandu University School of Management.