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Editor’s Note: This month, that is August 2020, FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth is Campus Experiences, where we invite various articles to highlight the diverse range of encounters we often confront when we are a part of any educational institution or space for learning be it schools, universities, colleges, tuitions and home. If you’d like to share your article, email us at pragya@feminisminindia.com. 


Posted by Saloni Kirdak  ,

“India’s cream” as they say, IITs are reputed to host India’s top engineering students, the brightest minds in the country, the potential future leaders of the nation!

For almost 17 years, our mannerisms and appearances were not entirely of our choosing but governed by our parents and the society in general. This has been an indispensable part of our upbringing. Our suffering even when caused by someone else, was analysed, twisted, and presented to us as our own fault. We were labeled as victims and this ‘victimisation’ was conveniently paraded out in every discussion; yet we never received the empathy one should show towards a ‘victim’.

Image Source: Business Line

Being a woman is already difficult enough in this world, with society scrutinising your every action, judging you for your every decision. After all of this, we expected college to be different, or better. We wanted it to be a safe space where we could discover ourselves and realise our dreams. This is definitely not an unrealistic expectation to have from a group of logical, intelligent, and rational adults of our generation. But we were severely mistaken here. College, turns out, is just the same, or worse, with all the hate concentrated on the 11% female population here.

If she gets good marks, it’s because she is a ‘girl’. If she is confident, it is because she receives a lot of attention from the guys and that too only because the gender ratio here is skewed. Otherwise, in the real world, she would be begging for validation. If she gets an internship, it is because she is a girl. If she gets into a society, it is because she is a girl. If she gets 3 rasgullas, again because she is a girl. Rain doesn’t fall over her—girl. Butterflies dodge flowers to get to her—girl.

Sexualising girls and talking trash about them is a common ritual that people practice behind closed doors or even very openly sometimes. During Inter IIT Sports’ Meet, the guys who come to cheer for the girls’ sports team, prefer to trash talk the other girls rather than cheer their own team. And although this is a commonly seen sporting technique, these guys shout out lewd comments on the other girls’ appearances asking them for photos and phone numbers, which is unacceptable.

These are some of the things which aren’t uncommon to hear on the campus on a regular basis. Words like ‘Feminism‘ have either of the two effects here—they make people uncomfortable and extremely aware of their surroundings and what they say, or they present a golden opportunity to let out all the frustration(?) in the form of jokes which have to be accepted as amusing or laughable, and if you fail to do so, it will make you the uncool one. It is not rocket science to understand that you need to treat everyone with respect. If Feminism is too heavy a concept for your sad little minds to comprehend, why don’t you try zipping it once in a while?

Recently, a guy put out a post on a meme group criticising one particular person (a girl, obviously!) for being a feminist and a hypocrite (notice that these two words were strung together so as to use them as insults.) These people feel the need to ‘call out’ the feminists as if they are accused of a grievous crime. The F-word is used everywhere and anywhere. It has absolutely zero value and the meaning of it is long lost. It is now being used to describe a girl who does something, anything, that the larger group does not agree with. Being outspoken as a boy is considered to be confident and brave. But as a girl, well, she is just being a ‘bitch’.

Sexualising girls and talking trash about them is a common ritual that people practice behind closed doors or even very openly sometimes. During Inter IIT Sports’ Meet, the guys who come to cheer for the girls’ sports team, prefer to trash talk the other girls rather than cheer their own team. And although this is a commonly seen sporting technique, these guys shout out lewd comments on the other girls’ appearances asking them for photos and phone numbers, which is unacceptable.

Every girl here has multiple stories of sexism to tell you. We were asked to take it with a pinch of salt first, to sad react and move on, but now it is so blatant and ubiquitous that it needs to be called out.

Image Source: Scroll

Here are a few of our seniors and alumni describing some of their encounters (there were many!) with sexism in the campus:

Spandana, the General Secretary, Sports for the year 2016-17 was the third girl to hold this position since the inception of IIT Kharagpur. Contesting for elections is a very brave decision and requires a lot of strength and determination for everyone. But she found herself facing many more problems than her fellow candidates. The idea of a female Gsec Sports was shocking to people. They wanted their candidate to win and did not see how a girl could beat her competition.

After her candidature was registered, she went campaigning from hall to hall during hall days, as is the tradition in Kgp. There, the questions she was asked weren’t related to her proposals, or her vision for sports in Kgp, unlike her peers. People repeatedly questioned her capability to work among guys if elected, or the questions were related to her managing the position “as a girl”. She was constantly discouraged by a myriad number of people.

Elections are already an extremely stressful time for the candidates, imagine having to deal with people trying to pull you down without even knowing you, based solely on your gender. During her tenure, everyone preferred approaching the other member of the sports team for any work they had, as they just assumed that she would not be able to carry out her duties. Some members of her team too, would not report to her, they did not consider her equal or worthy enough of the position.

Even after winning in the elections fair and square, she had to constantly and repeatedly prove herself. She was always treated as the “girl” Gsec, and the sports for which a female team did not exist were regarded to not be in her domain. At the Inter IIT Sports’ Meet that year, everyone felt the need to point her gender out, this as Spandana describes, was the most hurtful moment of all.  

Even after winning in the elections fair and square, she had to constantly and repeatedly prove herself. She was always treated as the “girl” Gsec, and the sports for which a female team did not exist were regarded to not be in her domain. At the Inter IIT Sports’ Meet that year, everyone felt the need to point her gender out, this as Spandana describes, was the most hurtful moment of all.  

Snigdha, who got an opportunity to intern at Goldman Sachs last year, faced a lot of vilifying comments. This is what she had to say. “Everyone assumed that I made it to GS because the company hired more women compared to men. We as students, cannot decide how a company hires interns, it is their policy and decision and they have been trying to improve the skewed ratio.

On being asked how she dealt with it, this is what she said, “Women, in general, suffer from a syndrome, where we tend to over-analyse and criticise ourselves that we do not deserve the achievements we worked hard for. I am one of these women and I tackled it by just bearing with the sexist remarks. Yes, sexism exists even at such an institution that is supposed to represent the best minds in the country. It exists everywhere, women role models at a higher pedestal is something we do not see.” 

Remee, was the Inter IIT Basketball captain two years ago. She has been playing basketball at the Inter IIT level from her second year. Even after investing number of hours into practice every day, she had to deal with comments like, “It is very easy for girls to get into an Inter IIT team, all they have to do is go to the court for 10 days.” After giving the sport your all, time, sweat, and tears, having to hear comments like these is heartbreaking. Under her captainship, the team won a silver medal, but this too, was not proof enough that the girls had gone above and beyond their normal practice schedules and strategised and worked hard for the well-deserved award.

Their toil and struggle did not receive the appreciation it deserved. We are aware that it is extremely difficult for boys to get into the Inter IIT team even as a probable. The population of girls is 10 times less than that of boys, and this obviously makes it comparatively easier for us to get a spot in the team. Even with these numbers, we manage and create a competition among us and try to reach our best. We do get opportunities easier than boys, but we work really hard for it too, and nobody has the right to belittle anyone’s achievements or tussle without knowing the entire situation.

Also read: Of Chaos In IIT Madras And Politics In Educational Institutions

These were just a few instances of sexism which is prevalent in the campus. There are thousands more. It escapes me how, a shout out to feminism or calling out misogyny is accompanied by some boys ridiculing or just quoting other instances the person did not speak of earlier. This is not a fight of girls vs. guys. We are all in this together. We, as girls, are trying our very best to make the most of the opportunities we get, and working extremely hard for what we do not get. The same as boys. If you cannot support us, do not shoot us down either.  

Image Source: The Daily Californian

Here is a very simple guide for guys in IITs to follow if you wish to be better humans,

  1. This may come as a surprise, you should probably be sitting down for it, but being sexist or misogynistic is not funny and memes with such content are NOT dank.
  2. Feminism is not a cheap word that you fling into a losing argument to ridicule a person.
  3. You do not need to display your desperation or sexual frustration on confession pages.
  4. “Didi” in many languages is what you respectfully call an older woman. Using this word multiple times, along with insolent remarks is plain demeaning and derogatory. 
  5. Sexualising, or objectifying girls is not the “hip” thing to do. If you find your friends doing it, speak up!

Add this, with some respect and compassion, and you are good to go!

Also read: How IIT Kanpur’s Annual Fest Turned Into A Nightmare For Us

College is a tough phase for all students. If you cannot lift people up, please do not be the reason for someone to question their own capabilities and achievements.


Saloni Kirdak is an Editor at The Scholars’ Avenue and a fourth-year student of IIT Kharagpur, pursuing her B.Tech and M.Tech in Biotechnology and Biochemical Engineering. She is a voracious reader and a particularly ardent admirer of Jane Austen inspired literature. She is a vehement believer that equality in all aspects can be achieved by instilling a sense of respect for people who you perceive to be different from you, and that words can help bring about such revolutions. She likes to write, play basketball, and cook occasionally. You can find her on Facebook,  Instagram and LinkedIn.

Featured Image Source: The Financial Express

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11 COMMENTS

    • I am in line with most of what was said there. What I briefly wanted to talk about was the internship/placement process which you mentioned above.

      There are companies who hire in the name of diversity but there entire process is different for that matter. There, the eligibility in itself is only for diverisity and I do not have any problem with that.

      What’s wrong is, allowing all the students go through the same set of procedures and then creating biases. I as a student have fixed number of companies I can fill for that matter. If I am aware, I would never fill such companies and would never want to be a part of such culture that weighs “X” over talent.

      We did not come to IITs to face reservations in the name of gender. And as your fellow friend highlighted that it’s the company policy. Right, it is, and we all should stand against that.

      In this digital age, I have seen how memes have had helped in conveying very critical issues in a subtle manner. Be it politicians or big brands, they ought to get a hint of the situation from memes. Lastly you can condemn anything in the name of content, but you are no one to claim what is right or wrong.

  1. I can understand where you’re coming from, BUT I have some issues with your closing statements :

    >being sexist or misogynistic is not funny and memes with such content are NOT dank

    It is.

    Dark humour is a thing.

    Just because you don’t find it funny, doesn’t mean there are people who don’t.

    I am not misogynist, misandrist, racist, homophobic, transphobic and any other -ist or -phobic; but I will never not find misogynist, misandrist, racist, homophobic, transphobic jokes funny.

    >You do not need to display your desperation or sexual frustration on confession pages.

    Um… that’s what confession pages are for.

    To vent.

    To say stuff that you couldn’t say otherwise without the fear of judgement.

    But you still have the comments section to judge that confession.

    >“Didi” in many languages is what you respectfully call an older woman. Using this word multiple times, along with insolent remarks is plain demeaning and derogatory.

    Going by that logic, even the “ok boomer” meme is ageist and the “Karen” meme is Karenphobic.

    Calling someone “Didi” is the Indian equivalent of a “Karen”, but I fail to see why you’re complaining about a meme in an article about misogyny.

    • Deepak purti , dark humor includes rape jokes and dead baby jokes too just because people find raping a woman or killing a baby funny doesn’t make it appropriate . I mean I will consider a person who finds dead baby jokes funny a sadist so , the same goes for being sexist or homophobic or ageist . in a time when people are abusing old People , “boomers ” being left to die on roads , in rooms filled with rats etc , women being raped , enslaved , beaten to death , burned to death , same with transgenders , we ( collectively , “didi , boomer and hijra” ) will never be able to find this so called humor funny as we have suffered it literally and continue to suffer , laughing at someone’s real sufferings wasn’t , isn’t and will never be funny if you find it funny then you are either a sadist or sexist .

    • Also, for the record, you clearly don’t understand where she’s coming from. Maybe re-think what you think you know?

      – A guy on the internet 🙂

  2. I am a girl, I am from IIT Kharagpur, I am an year senior to the writer.
    I would like to correct the facts and arguments mentioned in the argument.
    Misogyny, and discriminatory sexism does not exist in the IIT Kharagpur as it is highlighted.

    The campus; especially the student community is structured and based on the merit of individuals.
    Yes, some stereotypes does exist but it is based on the reality that the gender ratio is very poor.
    The General Secretary Position held by Spandana, during the campaigning the questions were asked if she can handle the responsibility that comes with the position as all the other candidates are asked. Despite being questioned, the student community did trust her with the position and she was elected for the tenure. There have been a history of girl G.Sec. So.Cult. and G.Sec. Tech. who have been great examples of leaders who did tackled all the responsibility of the position. Surely thet did fight there own battle againt stereotyping but they did prove their merit through their candidature and then in tenure.

    Unlike Snigdha, there have been number of girls who were placed or selected as intern in Goldman Sachs. There were girls who were selected along with Snigdha at the same time for internship, however, no one ever doubted their caliber. This was because they had already proved their potential in some way or the other for the position.

    Inter IIT sports teams are though to get into, true. But for a team size of 11 there are more than 3000 boys, while in girls for the team of 11 there are potential 400 girls. So to put it in numbers it indeed is very difficult to make a cut in mens teams than in womens team.

    Yes, sexism does exist in the campus but it is more of casual sexism. Misogyny is not a word to be used in this case. The campus does not discriminate against women, however, some stereotypes do exist and girls need to work more to prove their caliber. The campus community is more than willing to accept and see the change.

    These are very few personal stories particularly based on negative experience you can’t label the entire community misogynist. There are many women who got the opportunity and did grow to be great leaders you can’t speak on their behalf.

  3. Amazing! Felt it. I’m from IIT BHU and it’s the same, if not worse here. I feel that when we say – “society judges women badly, a huge portion of it is other women who judge gossip about how certain things are ‘inappropriate’. This is something that really needs to change and something that can be changed faster than trying to change the mindset of men.

    • Hey Ria, I agree that there are a lot of things that are inappropriate in our college. I am in now second yearite in IIT BHU btw. But I also believe that it’s not as polar as it seems. Most people I find are just ignorant and sexist but not really misogynist. I just wanted to say this that maybe whenever Lit Club would be resuming activities try to encourage people to engage in discussions on these topics (not limited to feminism and nature of sexism existing in colleges but also on things like Dank memes, humour in general, toxic online behaviour where people now just keep trying to prove each other wrong and label like bhakts/andha , extrimism, actual nature of religion existing in our country). I think that words mean a lot different on Internet so it would be a lot better if it be on voice.

  4. You don’t have to find it funny.

    I like both “dank” and “normie” memes, but I don’t expect everyone to find the things I find funny to be funny.

    Everyone has a different taste, and there are people who like “distasteful” jokes; but that doesn’t make them bad people.

    Moreover, it’s not that hard to understand when a joke is made unironically and when it isn’t.

    Most people can tell the difference of when someone makes a joke about them and when a joke makes fun of them.

    For instance, the web comic “Cyanide and Happiness” makes fun of everything from suicide to pedophilia; doesn’t mean the people who read those comics (and there are millions) are pedophiles or sadistic murderers.

    People find dark humour funny, not because they want to laugh at someone’s sufferings, but because they have the ability to find something to laugh about in the most grim of situations.

    Of course you are free to disagree. But it is rude to make inferences about someone’s character just because they like “inappropriate jokes”.

    • Deepak you are the kind of people we need on the internet, trying to present one’s viewpoint without making other feel stupid and with enough thought to validate one’s reasons and actually make some difference. :like:

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