Education, Indian style: Teaching little boys to be pricks & little girls to keep their mouth shut

As always on a weekday at about 2.30 pm this Monday I received a call from O, my 12-year-old. It’s a routine, we talk about school and homework and the latest gossip from her friends. This Monday however, she sounded embarrassed.

She whispered into the phone: “I want to tell you something…”

And at a decibel level so low I had to strain to hear her, she recounted how during music class she heard two boys sitting behind her discussing whether they should ‘touch her ass’ and who should. She didn’t realise who the ‘her’ was till she felt a hand graze her bottom.

She left the class of 40 students and 1 male music teacher, crying, seeking out a female teacher she was comfortable speaking to. She found two who were extremely supportive, consoled her, and made it very clear to her that this was nothing she needs to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. They then escalated it to the Assistant Principal (Mr J), which is when, this story gets really sickening.

What follows is reported from meetings with Mr J the following day, and from what O what O told us.

The teacher called the 3 boys in, all of whom ‘testified’ (sic) that one of their elbows brushed against her ‘by mistake’. So Mr J told O, that ‘these things don’t happen in school’ and it was all just a mistake and she should forget about it.

What upset O, more than the incident, was that she was told she should not complain and fuss. Both by the Assistant Principal and by the other boys in her class.

The two teachers and the girls in her class were all supportive. Twelve-year-old girls standing by each other, because they are so aware of personal space, and so aware of the discomfort when someone violates it.

While I was emotional, and losing my cool, R kept a sane head on his shoulder, and firmly (and angrily) put Mr J in place. Mr J apologised for not handling this better.

But that’s not good enough. O hasn’t received an apology. Which we will insist on. Just as we have insisted that the parents of the boys be informed of this.

Against my better judgement, I am generalising and putting this down as an ‘Indian’ thing. More Indian than anything else. Where little pricks are kings, and girls are expected to shut up. Where girls shouldn’t fuss. Shouldn’t complain. Where something like this is dismissed off as a ‘mistake’. Where the girl’s word counts to naught, and all that the boys had to say was ‘by mistake’.

Today, at 2.30 pm she called again. We chatted about school. I didn’t go into the details of the morning meeting. And as she said bye, she asked me: “Amma, did I do the right thing by complaining? Should I have kept quiet?”

It broke my heart. And my resolve not to blog about this broke too… No, not keeping quiet.

PS: We have a follow-up meeting tomorrow to see what action was taken. Expect more angry rants.

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18 thoughts on “Education, Indian style: Teaching little boys to be pricks & little girls to keep their mouth shut

  1. Mahas says:

    Way to go Vani. Glad R kept a level head too; not too sure I wouldn’t have manhandled the pricks and the Asst. Principal…

  2. Peter Draper says:

    we HAVE to teach boys and men to respect women. Quite honestly a few years ago this might have legitimately been dealt with as “high Jinks” but NOT NOW!!!!!! Not with the rape cases and rampant misogyny that appears to be escalating. Parents have to stand up for their daughters, and yours is VERY brave and you all did exactly the right thing in my opinion…… well done

  3. Praveena says:

    Absolutely way to go oviya…you did the right thing.. This kind of behaviour is so no no not acceptable…and schools need to be supportive of the parents and the girls who raise such issues…

  4. shyam says:

    The little SHITS! If the parents have ANY sense, they will make their sons apologise… but I suspect and fear that they are going to be BIG SHITS 😦 Good on Ovi for complaining, and how utterly horrible that she’s having to deal with this sort of thing so young…

  5. Sunita says:

    And this is how the tormentors/predators of women are created and keep getting bolder.. How cud a person as senior as the VP adopt an attitude like this… Sick….hope Ovi gets the apology from the boys and their parents soon….

  6. Roushelle says:

    Way to go ‘O’ you my girl make us proud – shame on you ‘J’ you for sure need to learn from a 12yr old girl – you did the right thing ‘O’ – you are correct in everyway for not keeping quiet – next time just include a tight slap in public – better to get called into the principles office for slapping the boy for his so called mistake than to be told otherwise 😡 ahhhhh I would bring the bloody roof down – kudos to Vani n R you as parents rock!! Keep us posted on the follow up meeting – those boys need to learn that they cannot get away with behaviour like that ever

  7. hooriya13 says:

    Absolutely. If that was me, 9 to 8 years ago – I wouldn’t have the courage to tell a teacher or a parent about it. I’d rather be embarrassed alone. So, bravo to you and bravo to O.

  8. mahabore says:

    First of all, you have to congratulate your daughter for being brave enough to go complain to the teacher and the Asst Principal about what happened.

    Next, congratulate yourself and your husband for pursuing the matter so far with the Asst Principal and ensuring that enough ruckus is created in the school to prevent other boys from even dreaming of doing such a thing.

  9. Sujata says:

    Apology from the VP not accepted, sorry. He SHOULD have known better, not be forced into an apology. Best that he says he will take steps to ensure such an incident does NOT happen again, by a good, long talk with the boys. No, we shouldn’t keep quiet. I am guilty of having kept quiet many times, my bad. Not again. And our girls must never have the thought they they should keep quiet. The boys’ parents HAVE to be told. No two ways about it, please. Indian thing or no, we should break free and that’s that.

  10. Sue says:

    It’s not an “Indian thing”. At my daughter’s British school I’ve twice had a senior staff member tell me “oh, well, you know, raging hormones…” not to excuse sexual harassment specifically but to explain teenage behaviour generally. And it’s not good enough.

  11. Divya says:

    Good for O! It’s wonderful that she complained to the teachers and that she spoke to you. This story really struck home for me, because a friend of mine and I had a similar issue at school at around the same age.

    When we walked past the desk of one of the boys in our class his hand would brush our bottoms. It happened more than once, often enough that it became harder and harder to dismiss it as a ‘mistake’. But I never heard him talk about it or discuss it with others, and I could never be SURE that he did it intentionally, just as a woman whose doctor’s arm brushes her breasts ‘accidentally’ is never ‘sure’, but knows with that sickly, almost dirty feeling that it’s not right.

    My friend and I discussed it, because god knows, even at 12 or 13, it was far from our first experience of eve teasing — budding boobs grabbed, asses pinched on the streets, the man who exposed himself to us while we played in our building. How horrible, when I think back to the fact that it was ‘just the way it was’. But here’s the thing… we never DID anything about the boy in our class. We never complained, and I don’t think I ever told my mom. I just stopped going past his desk, ever. Or if I did, I kept my arms or books down as a shield. Because that’s how we’ve all dealt with this nonsense, right, all our lives? Keep quiet, and find a way to cope. Never mind if you feel violated or unsafe. But it’s got to stop. So, again, good for you O and for you, O’s mom. Make a fuss, and don’t let those boys get away with it.

  12. aparajita mukherjee says:

    Even your brave first born got a doubt… that is what the system does. Since we cannot change the system single-handedly, let’s at least teach our girls to NOT put up with these violations. And the boys’ parents should have been called for the first meeting itself with you and R. Why were they not informed??? Closure will take time, if at all.

  13. George B says:

    Kudos to ‘O’, ‘U’ & ‘R’…I wish I could ask every kid to stand up to themselves and never let the shadow of teasing/bullying upon them.

    When eve-teasing persists even inside educational institutions, one can obviously infer that even the educated youth don’t necessarily desist from indulging in this uncouth behavior. If one types `eve-teasing’ in any search engine, I was surprised that page after page of results are almost entirely Indian web pages. Maybe, other countries refer to this more subtly under `sexual harassment,’; `eve-teasing’ in its form of hooting-ogling-loud commenting-whistling, touching etc., does tend to be more prevalent in India. Not something to be proud about.

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