How do we break free?

Coming from a progressive school, I was shielded from the brutal reality of sexism and endemic discrimination that plagues India as a nation. Somehow some aspects of this bias have become entrenched in our society so that despite being seen as ‘open-minded’ and unbiased most of the time, I found myself facing traces of this discriminatory mindset. I’ve been alive 15 years, which isn’t a long time to judge a society as a whole after interacting with only a select set of people, nonetheless, I can still see places where I’ve been discriminated against, or I have seen others face this inequity and favouritism.

When we were in second grade the teachers would ask for ‘strong boys’ to help lift the chairs in the other room and I remember being confused as to why I wasn’t asked to help, I knew I could carry a lot more than some of them. When we went to a camp in 5th grade and a group of unknown kids joined our class on the campsite, all the boys came out of the tents looking “intimidating” and the rest of us sat down inside, scared and confused for no apparent reason. . In sixth grade, when we had to choose which sports we wanted to pursue for the next two years, all the boys chose football and cricket, sports which were played in the sun outdoors and required physical exertion while the majority girls were choosing basketball. , thinking that it would not ask us so much. It’s those little experiences and actions that so many of us have had from a young age that forge the sexist mindset.

Dealing with gender stereotypes and stigma at school

Every Disney princess story, where the prince comes to save the damsel in distress, every time you’re told to wear a dress while the boys are wearing suits, every time your classmate even makes a slightly homophobic joke, everything works to reinforce that stereotype and stigma that will remain prevalent even in a place so many call a second home.

Photo credit: The Conversation

This year alone, during a psychology homework, one of the questions asked was whether he would be comfortable coming out to school and what his reaction would be if his best friend showed up. as a queer person. The majority of their answers were as expected, but some of them surprised me. One person admitted to having been homophobic in the past due to the societal conditioning imposed on him, but after taking classmates out and having teachers who were part of the community, he warmed to the idea of ​​time and felt that their mindset had changed. At that exact moment, after they told me that, I was overwhelmed with emotion. The fact that even after having an idea and a mindset thrown at you all your life, people are still able to think for themselves and open their hearts to those around them made me so happy and so hopeful that one day we can break down all these walls of homophobia and sexism.

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As someone who has been encouraged to think for themselves all their life, I have enough frankly, despise people who don’t. I guess I always assumed that people were in control of their thoughts and what they saw as right or wrong, however, the reality doesn’t match my blind idealistic assumptions. In a way, my mindset itself is one of blind privilege, the fact that whenever someone doesn’t share the same level of what I call my “open-mindedness “I immediately minimize it in my brain and push it away, not even once considering the world they’ve been exposed to, what they’ve learned. It’s something that makes schools an amazing way to learn about others and about society as a whole, to be exposed to so many different mindsets and rather than learning academically, learning on the others.

Breaking out of established mentalities is one thing, but it is more important to break one’s mentality towards the world around him. Accepting more of those around you and gaining empathy to understand and be aware of what others have been through is probably the only way to break these stereotypes and move towards this utopia with a true “open mind”, whether at school or at home. .

The opinions expressed are those of the author.


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