With the growing number of sexual harassment cases in universities around India, @genderlogindia had a fruitful discussion on Twitter yesterday, about the issue and the underlying factors behind it. It started off with women on twitter sharing anecdotes about their personal experiences of sexism at Universities and in academia. The fact that recalling instances of sexism in academia was that easy, says a lot about the Indian institutions and the mindset of people who have the power to influence.
Sexism does not come in one shape or size. The conversation then veered towards sexism that comes in the form of men preferring ‘hot’ women professors or giving them feedback depending entirely on their looks. The twiteratti responded with anecdotes and their own ideas of what happens at institutions and how that affects women who are trying to just do their jobs or study hard.
Further to this discussion, it was also pointed out that men are not the only ones to blame for sexism. Patriarchy is all encompassing and pervasive. It does not stop at men only. Women in positions of power also misuse it to either suppress other women or take advantage of young men who can be influenced.
When the discussion veered towards anti sexual harrassment committes in Universities, we got a better picture of what goes on behind the scene. As we all know, these committees are almost always incompetent, mostly manipulating the complainant to take the complaint back than to actually solve the problem or punish the culprit. The recent case of the sexual harassment PhD candidate at St. Stephens college in Delhi, shows us exactly why the committees set up to protect women are setting the system back. Furthermore putting the reins of the committee in the hands of the oppressor kind of makes the point moot.
The entire discussion puts safety at academic institutions and the assumed equality into perspective. It also begs the question, are we going to stand it ? Are we going to let this happen? @genderlogindia feels and we certainly agree with them, that if you are being sexually harassed, make use of any agency available to you to seek justice. The system is screwed, but things only change for the better when we try. If you fight back, it will make a difference in your life and others’.