A virtual error or a system failure?

In these virtual times, there have been several instances of cyber bullying – the recent ‘bois locker room’ debacle just reminded us of that. The underage culprit is reprimanded, the group has been disbanded (or so it seems), parents have learnt their lesson, the victim seems to be given justice or at least a reflection of it, the whistleblowers’ heroic spirit is appreciated and the society has protested outrageously.

So now, things are falling into place; or are they really? Is this truly enough? Will the incident gather dust? Is this the end of it or is there more to it? Such incidents make me delve into the depths of human nature.

What made the culprit do what he did? Is it simply a sexualized comment for fun, or is it a means to brandish their masculinity? Their understanding of maleness has been inherited from previous generations – playing with cars and guns, being admonished for crying like a sissy, ‘act like a man’ being ingrained since childhood. Well, as the boys grow up, these subtle and not so subtle cues build a sense of entitlement to talk crass about women, and express sexual aggression overtly.

Well, if parents were more attentive, if the passive members had been outspoken, or the society had been more responsible – could this be avoided?

But parents seemed busy thinking about their child’s bright future – enrolling him in the best school, sending him to topnotch coaching classes, bringing technology at their disposal, providing them with state of the art amenities – giving them all that they had and did not have in their childhood. But they did not realize the need to provide a safe space to talk about emotionality, respect, care or sexuality.

Friends and friends of friends formed the group. While one posted a demeaning comment about a fellow classmate, others – in order to be accepted and avoid mockery, just played along. The need to belong and the desire for social status, made being a part of an exclusive group, a matter of pride. Speaking  out against the status quo and potentially alienating from friends would take courage and massive determination. In a society which relies on the minds of others and pressurises individuals to conform, thinking clearly, feeling deeply, and swimming against the tide is a rare virtue, which  unfortunately these teenagers lacked.

The whistleblower, with a high moral compass, managed to blow the lead over the incident. It took great courage to tell right from wrong and to stand up to friends. The determination to speak openly about the disturbing content and let the truth emerge, notwithstanding its repercussions to the self.

Why were the girls dragged into this mess  for no fault of theirs? Or are we to blame them for the way they look,  for the clothes they wear, for the thoughts they express, for the friends they make, or for their very existence as girls and women?

Well,  I pondered over this but couldn’t conclude what could have been done differently. All  I realised is that change can’t be brought about in actions without  changing the inherent thought.

For that,  parents need to have open discussions about taboo topics with their children, teachers need to clarify students’ silliest doubts, friends need to be outspoken about things that don’t feel right, bystanders need to be vigilant about the things that be!  We all are stakeholders in some way, in averting such instances in the future.

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