On the morning of 4th October, an image was posted by Pinjra Tod – a collective against the sexist and discriminatory practices in higher educational institutions – on its Facebook page. The image was of a poster from Hindu College, which said “Hindu mein Maal aur Maal dono milta hai”. In Hindi, the word “maal” is a slang term that is used to either refer to women in an objectifying manner, or to refer to narcotic substances.
An excerpt from Pinjra Tod’s caption sums up the view of those aghast at the language used in the poster thusly: “The many ways in which patriarchy reinforces itself every day in our campuses to convey the message that we may be studying in a university, we may be sitting in classes together, but women are to be primarily seen as sexual objects of exchange amongst men.” The poster almost seems to be bragging about the presence of women in the college, who are apparently not to be treated as equals or as peers of same intellectual calibre, but primarily as objects for men to lust over. Women are used here in the same breath as addictive substances, indicating that both are objects for pleasure. What adds to the whole issue is the fact that the poster was used during a Freshers’ party, and was probably one of the first messages that the new students picked up from their seniors regarding women’s place and perception in the institute. Universities are meant to widen horizons regarding thinking openly, but the regressive poster seems to be contributing towards promoting the opposite.
The Prime Minister of the college’s student union, Brijesh Tiwari, issued a statement that condemned the incident on Facebook. An excerpt from it said, “The Hindu College Parliament unanimously condemns the usage of such shamelessly gendered and misogynist phrases on campus or anywhere else. We at the Parliament consider it our utmost endeavour to arrive at a stage of gender equality, withering of misogynist practices and tendencies, and an overall climate of equal opportunities for all genders. We recognise how such phrases and their usage become an impediment in trying to achieve all of the above. The Parliament ensures that it will do its best to nip all such practices in the bud and to ensure that the student-driven crusade against misogyny must never be weakened.” Further, administrative lapses on part of the organisers and “deeply entrenched” misogyny that is “not a new innovation” were blamed.
This is, however, not the first instance of discrimination and sexism in Hindu College. Back in August, women students protested the administration over the differences in the hostel fees for men and women. The newly opened women’s hostel, in the college’s 118-year history, charged its residents more than double the fees charged from the men.
Image Credits: Pinjra Tod