This morning, I decided to catch up with On Air With AIB’s episode titled Purani Jeans, Purani Soch just to have a few laughs before starting my work day.
In the episode, Ashish Shakya and Rohan Joshi talk about the weird and nonsensical restrictions that educational institutions put on their students.
For instance, in Aligarh Muslim University, if women need to leave the hostel on any day other than Sunday, their parents have to fax a permission letter to the authorities.
Ashish and Rohan, then go on to talk about the implications of such restrictions by quoting a recruiter.
You may think this is a bit of an exaggeration. A lot of people come from these kind of colleges and are doing well socially and professionally.
Sure, some people are unaffected. But some others end up being unable to interact with new people, especially people from the opposite gender, if they’re overly policed in school and college.
My School Had Bizarre Restrictions
For my 11th and 12th standard, I went to a women's only boarding school, where we weren’t allowed to wear anything even moderately revealing to the dining hall because “men worked there”.
@genderlogindia That the mess bhaiya comes from a class background and therefore we must protect ourselves from his 'lustful' eyes.
— Pinjra Tod (@PinjraTod) October 6, 2016
I once dared to wear capri pants and a sleeveless tee to the mess, and my warden looked at me like I had grown a second head. I was asked to change into something more modest.
Apparently, when people see the bottom 1/4th of a teenage girl’s hairy legs, they lose their shit. It’s so bad that some schools even require their male and female students to always maintain 1 meter of distance from each other.
In my school, if the girls in the hostel ever went out, it had to either be with our parents or local guardians. My brother attended the men's only campus of the same school. They were allowed to go out on their own on Sundays. No permission needed.
And my parents were okay with this discrimination because they agreed that the women students needed more “protection” than the men.
You can imagine how happy I was when I finished my 12th boards and I could GTFO.
But my woes didn’t end there.
College Women? Freedom? What?
In my engineering college, girls and boys sat in separate rows in class.
“Couples” were banned from hanging around on the college campus. If a professor caught us chatting with boys, they would glare like we were escaped convicts.
And since I stayed it the hostel, my life was much worse.
All the women hostellers had to take permission from the warden before leaving the campus, even if it was to get photocopies or buy stationery.
The curfew time was 6 p.m. If we wanted to stay out beyond that, our parents would have to send their permission letters to the warden. If we were going out on Sundays, we had to come up with a good enough reason for doing so.
The boys’ hostel, on the other hand, had no warden, and no rules. They were free to go and come whenever they wanted.
— Northlines (@NorthlinesJK) September 3, 2016
My friends and I finally left the hostel when we realised that those restrictions were denying us an equal chance of doing well academically. For instance, we couldn’t stay out later to work on projects or have study together. If there was study material to be photocopied last minute before a submission, and it was pasted 6 p.m., we wouldn’t be allowed to do it.
We weren’t willing to compromise on our studies because of a few screwed-up laws.
It Gave Me Social Anxiety
Due to my long exposure to this type of discrimination, my personality was affected. I grew into a socially anxious person who couldn’t talk to new people, especially men, normally.
It didn’t matter much when I was a student. But when I got my first job, I had to talk to men every day. It was extremely difficult.
In the beginning, I just avoided talking to my male colleagues and managers. I wasn’t comfortable sharing the same space as them. I alienated myself from the rest of the team. I didn’t go out for tea breaks or lunches. I knew I’d be expected to mingle.
Gradually, though, I forced myself to speak with my colleagues, because I didn’t want my social awkwardness to affect my work. I kept telling myself:
“Are you a progressive, smart, intelligent woman or not?!”
Eventually, I built a good rapport with my male colleagues. I’m even good friends with two of them, something that I’d never thought was possible.
But that doesn’t mean, I’m totally over my social anxiety. I’m still learning how to learning how to network, and how to be comfortable when I’m surrounded by strangers.
When I changed jobs, I had to go through the entire process of “trying to make conversation” all over again.
I’ve never understood why schools and colleges create such a hue and cry over their students interacting with each other normally. We have to co-exist in this society, and in the workplace, don’t we?
The restrictions imposed on women don’t actually do any good. They’re just there to protect the interests of the university. Indian parents add to the problem by agreeing to put their children in restrictive environments because they think these rules will keep them “safe”.
Like AIB said, if you’re in such a situation, protest.
There’s absolutely no reason why you should be putting up with this type of discrimination in this day and age. Don’t agree to these laws. They’re not for your own good.
— Pinjra Tod (@PinjraTod) November 19, 2016
You’ll face opposition, but at the end of it, you’ll have an unbiased environment to study in. As you can tell from my story, it’s very important to have one.