Behind #boislockerroom

Bade bade deshon mein aisi choti choti baaten hoti rehti hain. In big-big countries, these small-small things keep happening. I am not sure what exactly Shah Rukh Khan’s character meant when he kept repeating this line in DDLJ (1995). He was probably going for a breezy, man-of-the-world larger picture vibe in order to impress the sheltered girl he had fallen for. But I find it so horribly apt for all the ghastly things that keep happening repeatedly in our country, no, all countries, and which we tend to let slide because there is, you know, larger stuff going on. Like we have a pandemic to fight, and the enemies of hindutva to battle, and a new central vista for Rajpath to build, and stuff.

But here is the thing: The little stuff is all mixed up ­­with the big stuff; it is both the fallout and the cause of the big stuff; and if we ignore it, it will snowball into the big-big stuff of tomorrow.

Illustration: Bhaskaran Illustration: Bhaskaran

This week, all the moms in the richer schools in Delhi are shook because some young girls have revealed an Instagram chat group called #boislockerroom, which has several hundred members and which exists basically to rate, discuss, dehumanise, and share nudes and morphed photos of attractive girls who go to the same schools as the boys. They have also come up with a list of ‘Girls we would like to Rape’ with the names of 20 underage Delhi schoolgirls on it.All the girls on this list ( I have known one of them since she was a baby) are attractive and active on Instagram—that is, they are “proud” and “uppity” and “flexing” on their hotness, and therefore need to be taken down by the self-appointed, morally-righteous ones on #boislockerroom.

What is really getting to me is all these Delhi moms shaking their head and wondering, where did we go wrong, how did this happen?

Did they really think that all the filth that goes down on Twitter, the relentless, misogynistic unchecked trolling of any woman with an opinion, be it Mahua Moitra, Smriti Irani, Gauri Lankesh, Kangana Ranaut, Swara Bhasker, Payal Rohatgi, Sonia Gandhi, Barkha Dutt, Sania Mirza or Rana Ayyub—calling them randi (prostitute), kutiya (bitch), bar dancer—would have no fallout on the plastic young minds of our children?

Did they really think that when a man who is followed by the prime minister of India rolls his eyes at the assassination of a respected journalist and tweets t­­­hat all the puppies are crying because the bitch is dead, that our children would not be listening and learning?Did we really think when Neha Dhupia gets viciously trolled for telling a man on Roadies that he cannot hit his girlfriend even if she cheats on him with four guys, that our children would not be listening and learning?

And do they really think that the obnoxious, violent, self-righteous language that Arnab Goswami used against Sonia Gandhi recently is OK? That repeatedly invoking her maiden name and ordering her to go back to Italy and demonising her parents and her home, and basically acting like a nasty old mother-in-law from some creepy TV serial is OK?

Why the hell should Sonia Gandhi go back to Italy? Or, back to the kitchen? Or, back to the periphery, which is where Arnab and his paymasters clearly think women belong? Every time we normalise this language of violence and degradation, every time we let this shit slide, we are contributing to the hateful misogyny that is flourishing openly in our country. A boys-will-be-boys culture of rape-rap lyrics and item numbers, of selective, opportunistic outrage, where Jai Sita Ram has morphed into Jai Shri Ram and Sita has been reduced to a meek, complicit handmaiden, and all the Shurpanakhas get their noses cut off for daring to be bold. It is all one. It is all connected.