Editor’s Note: #ChalkfullBullying is a campaign that resolves to tell stories about gender-based bullying that happens in school, where students, especially non-binary and girl students, are subject to harassment, moral policing, severe disciplining and punishment, and routine bullying. Their fault being: for not conforming to outdated gender stereotypes, the repercussions for which can scar us for a lifetime.
Trigger warning: references to mental health issues and suicide.
Posted by Lakshita Anand
Social media is emotionally exhausting. I stopped posting about the issues that affect my life directly because of the emotional labour it takes to talk about it and the unsolicited opinions and negativity that follow. I deactivated my accounts because of my deteriorating mental health and other conflicts. I’ve been seeing posts about a so-called progressive modern private school, where after a molestation case, all girls were advised to wear slips along with only skin coloured bras and to add more buttons to their shirts so that no skin is visible.
I kept blocking all my teachers on social media because I was scared of them finding another reason to shame me if they found any picture of me, where my interaction with someone or a post won’t fit their standard of a ‘good girl’. Now I’m unblocking all of them to make them read how they failed me and countless other girls. I don’t care about how good you are at your subject or how hard you worked for your students, you don’t deserve my respect at all. You are trash because:
You didn’t give your students proper comprehensive sex education or worked on sensitizing boys on gender-based issues. Instead, you publicly, in front of the entire school, shamed me (and probably other girls too) for interacting/having relationships with boys. Which started a spree of rumours about me from asking money from boys for sexual favours to me bringing condoms to school.
You dragged my parents into it for no reason and made my parents hate me. Not only did you make going to school a nightmare for me, you made even staying at home hell for me. You destroyed my character and left no opportunity for me prove myself again. You declared me a whore at the age of 13. Congrats! It takes a whole lot of insensitivity and misogyny to do that.
Every time I tried to fight back the shaming and harassment, I was physically assaulted by boys and was touched inappropriately. When I reported it to you, you replied with, “jab tum ho hi aisi to log to aisa bolege hi” (when you are like this, people will talk about you like this). Thanks for the guilt and depression I suffered all my teenage years. It still haunts me in the form of nightmares and repressed emotions.
I was a bright and promising student (only if you remember anything about me other than my bad reputation and the rumours). I had top scores in every subject except maths and those of you who taught me before 8th standard know about it. Those of you who taught me after 8th standard always told me how smart I was but I don’t score as much as you expected.
All these years of depression and medications messed up my head. I couldn’t concentrate anymore. I couldn’t keep up with the syllabus. I started to score badly and looked for escapism from school work and studies because the constant decline in my grades made me suicidal and I didn’t want my parents to suffer more because of me, after all of this.
I lost my friends’ and family’s support because you and others told them to stay away from me for the sake of their reputation. I had no one by my side. You are not empowering girls by teaching them if you expose them to harassment and shame them for the smallest things. You kill their confidence.
You reduce them to sex objects when you tell them you are distracting boys. You destroy their overall growth as a person and then give speeches about feminism and empowerment in the school assembly. Reaching school on time is discipline, keeping yourself and your surroundings clean is discipline, doing homework on time is discipline; telling girls to wear skin coloured bras or shorts underneath their skirts is not discipline.
Yes, in school, the safety of girls is your responsibility and you’ll call these so-called disciplinary actions ‘safety measures’. I don’t know how many times we have to do it till you understand it’s not us but them. Please don’t try to defend yourself or your actions. Please accept you are contributing to rape culture when you shift the blame. We don’t need your apologia. Kindly introspect your actions.
I tried to be ‘your good girl’ – obedient, not laughing with boys, not sitting with them, wearing the skirt length you asked me to, focusing on studies, doing everything you wanted me to. Still, the shaming didn’t end and I finally decided to leave your hellhole of a school.
I tried to be extra careful in the new school but yet again my parents were humiliated in the parent-teacher meeting in the 10th standard, for hanging out with a boy, while you never complained about it to his parents. I overheard one of you telling the mother of a boy to make your son get rid of this girl, for she will destroy his education and career.
The next time I changed school was to a girls’ school – where I studied in 11th and 12th. I went there because I was tired of my life being controlled because of the presence of boys. I thought of it as a comfortable space where I could be unapologetically myself – only to find out later that there wasn’t much difference, and at times, it was even worse than co-ed.
You told us not to wear cut sleeves on school trips because men will get attracted to our armpits. What?! Whenever a girl tried to dress up by applying kajal or wore a low waisted skirt, they were bombarded with – “there are no boys, there’s absolutely no need for you to look nice”.
Not every damn thing we do is to please boys or seduce them. You all started educating your girls so that they can support their husband’s family financially while doing household chores. Not because we are as human as your sons, not because we deserve every right to become what we want to be.
Why can’t a girl dress up for herself or look nice for another girl? For you, that’s even worse than girls getting into a relationship with boys since a woman’s body is only for a man to have sex with. “You shall not lie with a female as with a man; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22). When will this progressive convent school talk science and not the Bible, and will provide safe places for non-binary people?
Teachers who never shamed female students but were neutral in situations of injustice towards us, you are equally at fault. Neutrality never helps the victim. Your silence was conforming and encouraging. You’ve failed us too.
My teachers declared me a whore at the age of 13.
This is the real me. I’m unapologetically myself. You can hate me. I gave up on caring about my reputation a long time back. You don’t have my respect. I’m a stronger woman than you are. I take pride in my self.
I was never your favourite student because your favourite students are the rote learning toppers who have no practical understanding of how the world works. You’ve not created educated well-evolved people, but mere conformist puppets who will serve this exploitative system.
I have rebelled my way out of life. I constantly deal with anxiety and depression. I’m shaking and crying as I write this. I don’t want anyone’s apologies. I’m out of school and it makes no difference. I’m not forgiving you all either. The least you can do is either accept you’re misogynist or change yourself to give young girls a safe place to grow and prosper.
Stop fooling yourself. If you are a teacher or teacher to be, make sure you’ll not make your students, especially girl students, go through what I went through. The years spent in school are the most important ones, they determine the future self of children. Make sure you help them become the best version of themselves. Learn, unlearn, relearn. Break your prejudices every day.
Lakshita is a nineteen-year-old student who advocates intersectionality and loves to explore new things to do. She deals with minor inconveniences in her life by eating, napping and binge-watching BoJack Horseman. She can be followed on Facebook and Instagram.
Featured Image Source: Dallas Morning News