The week’s edition of The Students’ Herald is taking a deeper look into the dangerous culture of silencing perpetuated within our educational system to eradicate any form of dissent and disagreement.
Last week, a series of allegations against teachers in a private institution came to light. First, the administration tried to suppress the issue by calling it a ‘misunderstanding.’ Yet, before it could scrub the evidence or force students to take down their statements from social media, many alumni came forward with more stories about assault, sexual favours and blackmail.
Incidents like these are neither new, nor unfamiliar. In fact, they are signifiers of a deeper, more sinister problem. As the MeToo movement strengthened, we saw a domino effect across globe; women and members of the queer community openly began sharing their stories of abuse, violence, torture and rape. These experiences created a sense of solidarity among the survivors, and gave them space to come forward and be heard. This feminist wave of women speaking up against capitalistic patriarchal form of oppression is not a contemporary phenomenon. At every turn in history, feminists have contributed to exposing the brutality of the patriarchal world. They have protested through marches, literature, poetry, art and theatre.
Even more impressive is how frequently and courageously women are speaking out against powerful men through any means available to them.
Unfortunately there are still many women who cannot share their stories because they are afraid of the backlash. Sharing stories of harassment and abuse is an act of courage. Those who risk their identity to unveil perpetrators of abuse are often left emotionally exhausted and vulnerable to the keyboard warrior’s scrutiny.
Our patriarchal society and its oppressive tenets foster a complicit and indifferent behaviour among women and men who alienated from the other. This alienation leads to cat-calling, slut-shaming, assault and abuse (physical, sexual, emotional).These oppressive norms are normalised at home and nurtured – even advocated – in institutions. Our campuses are proudly perpetuating this hyper-masculine militarized environment where dissent is considered taboo while silence is celebrated. This culture of silence has been strengthened through excessive scrutiny, moral policing, religious fanaticism and misogynistic traditions.
Our society does not like women taking space and speaking up for themselves. It gets uncomfortable for men to hear our stories as they are prime perpetrators in all of those horrifying experiences. Even if women gather the courage to share their stories, they face harsh consequences, like discrediting the story, slut-shaming, character assassination and even threats to their lives. Silence is celebrated as “ethical” and “virtuous.”
Most of this is also associated with the idea of shame. Women who have faced abuse tend to believe that it was their fault. They believe they were either too provocative, or naïve. Survivors live under the burden of shame constantly and they feel guilty about a crime they did not commit.
Educational institutions use this factor to further exploit female students and police them. Many public and private universities don’t have any sexual harassment committees. It speaks volumes about their commitment to ending a toxic and abusive environment on campuses.
We stand with those brave women who came forward to share their stories with the world. We hear you and we trust you. Your bravery is setting a precedent for upcoming generations and we believe that this is just a beginning of radical resistance to our misogynistic educational institutions.
For those men who consider themselves as allies of the feminist cause and are confused about their role in this struggle, we, the survivors, have only one advice: listen patiently and give space to others to grow.