The shock, disgust and fear that the incident triggered in me was followed by a resolve. A resolve to not only to educate my pre-teen daughter (yes, she was foremost in my thoughts) on her personal safety, but also to do my part to not contribute to the ‘toxic masculinity’. Working on the cure is one thing, but we also need to work on prevention so that the future generations are able to eradicate such incidents completely. It is clearly the boys we need to educate.
When Our Heads Hang in Shame
When the news of the Bengaluru mass molestation poured in, my daughter was at school. After the initial wave of shock and disgust, my next emotion was fear. I am the mother of a tween girl, you see. I am in that phase when everything reminds me of the fact that she will fly the nest in a few years. I am worried for her safety and the newspaper does nothing to put my mind at rest. I immediately resolved to go through all the safety tips and good touch-bad touch routine with her when she came back in the evening adding a mental note to myself to hand her a bottle of pepper spray whenever the day arrived for her to go out alone.
Throughout the day, the TOI app on my phone continued to bring in fresh reports of the molestation that made me feel nauseated. Who does that? Feeling violated physically or mentally is one of the worst things to hurt the female ego. What kind of a sick man would find this to be an ego-booster? What did they witness when growing up, that makes them think it is okay (even fun) to grope a girl without her permission and interest. How could someone find pleasure in any kind of relation or contact (physical, sexual or emotional) when the other person simply does not reciprocate! Is there no boundary, no respect or even a spine left in these people? I cannot even begin to imagine what my reaction would be if any of my children is found behaving in such a manner. How is it that their parents do not feel the same way? They are also somebody’s children, right?
And then it struck me. I had been thinking of the wrong type of education. Not wrong actually because I want my daughter to be safe and will teach her everything for her self defense. But perhaps I need to make a different resolve. It is my son I need to further educate on respecting women. And it is not something that can be done in a preach session after school. I discussed it immediately with my husband and he agreed whole-heartedly. The only way to achieve this would be to set an example of mutual respect between opposite sexes before him. To give him a first hand experience of how a man (and a woman too, for that matter) should treat the opposite sex.
Easier said than done, I agree. Although I am a hundred percent sure that my son will find a role model in his parents when it comes to mutual respect, but he is still going to grow up in our male-centric society. He will see many people and instances around him which will teach him otherwise but that will be my test. I need to teach and insist upon nothing short of the most appropriate behavior with girls. The kind of behavior he would expect for his own mother and sisters. It is called ‘Feminist Parenting’ and there are some very good kind of ‘Feminist’ men out there to look up to.
The media is still arguing about whether or not the Bengaluru mass molestation took place. As a woman who was born and brought up in India, it is easier for me to believe it did. And we all know why. We have all been there, at some point in some or the other way. It is high time all Indian parents focus on creating a positive male mentality starting with their own sons. How often do we bury many of their behavioral problems under the pretext of “Boys will be Boys” and “Ladke aise hi hote hain“. We pride ourselves in teaching our children how to walk, but we often forget to teach them where to walk. They end up leaving us with our heads hanging in shame. Let us please create a better world for the next generation by doing our bit and raising good men – men who are friendly and trustworthy. Let us take a vow to do our best to not add to the toxic masculinity contaminating the society. It is the need of the hour.
Teaching Boys the Meaning and Importance of ‘Consent’
Right from early childhood, we need to teach boys to respect when someone says ‘No’. I am trying to find easy ways to instill this in my son. At this age, it can be as simple as not flying into a rage if his sister does not want to play the game he wants to. As he grows up, I plan to continue to teach him about ‘consent’ and ‘respect’ in different situations and eventually where sexual activity is concerned. If I don’t teach him, he will seek the answers elsewhere and our male-centric society cannot be trusted to guide him.
This is our ONLY hope for the future generations and we need to start now. We need to educate our girls to stay safe but more importantly, we need to educate our boys to never put them in such danger in the first place. And until that happens, do arm your daughters (and yourself) with a can of pepper spray. It is the only thing that would work, in my opinion, and is a must-have for all women in every age group!