Kerala men have never shied away from exhibiting their male chauvinism and Tuesday was testimony to that.
On the occasion of Valentine's Day, two separate incidents in two educational institutions in Kerala, proved this beyond any doubt - how the narrative of Valentine's Day itself is centered around men exerting their privilege of trying to "woo" women.
An all-women’s college, St Teresa’s in Ernakulam saw several male students of the Government Law College situated nearby barge into the campus to “celebrate” Valentine's Day.
In their excitement to express their long-suppressed (oppressed, repressed, depressed) love, the students bypassed the security guards at the gate and loudly announced their presence.
With “I Love You” readily on their lips, the male students went about approaching the girl students gathered outside their classrooms, with roses and sweet verses. Awww.
While the men’s “performance” was met with howls of protest from some girl students, many played along, accepting the flowers and smiling coyly, while some others looked away.
Some decided to make things more interesting by dressing up as women. Oh how humorous and original, don't you think?
Clad in a ‘low waist’ red saree, one of the male students came running into the college, dispersing flying kisses on the way. Another chose to wear only a sparkling white petticoat and paired it up with a hat.
Cut to CUSAT college in Ernakulam’s Kalamassery and the scene was not much different there. Though the male students chose to celebrate February 14 commemorating their lost love and celebrating the Devdas in them, the sentiment was no different.
Late on Monday evening, a group of male students who live in the men’s hostel took out a procession to the girls' hostel. Having locked away their love in a brown coffin, the grieving men carried the heavy coffin to the entrance of the girls’ hostel and lit candles on it in the presence of the girls.
Speaking to a regional television channel, one of men who claimed affiliation to the “Society of Broken Souls” said that February 14 was a day to let out their sorrow.
While the officials of CUSAT were unavailable for comment, TNM spoke to a faculty member of St Teresa’s college about the matter, who said that the episode was only “a harmless gesture.”
“On February 14, such things are only expected in an all-women’s college. We have had similar experiences a couple of times in the past too. But they are harmless and do not hurt the students in any way. The male students would stick around for a few minutes and leave after making some noise. We generally let it go,” the faculty member said.
Asked about whether such instances are likely to offend the students, the faculty member said that the girl students were used to having male students in the campus during academic competitions.
“No doubt the male students take this as an opportunity to exert their gender privilege, but I believe it is harmless when compared to the violent crimes against women happening in our society. The college management would have stepped in, if it offended the students or caused damage to the college property,” the faculty maintained.
Why do we think such instances are normal and harmless? Anu Pappachan, a faculty member at Vimala College in Thrissur, feels that men in Kerala have always exerted their chauvinism and Valentines’ Day is just another day when it becomes prominent.
“Valentine's Day has now become some sort of a celebration, much like how people celebrate Onam or Christmas. And when it comes to Valentines’ Day, youngsters do not seem to have any sort of target as to what the nature of the celebration ought to be. The focus then turns into doing something unusual, that will create a fuss and grab eyeballs. What they do is imitate what they see in movies. What does cinema teach us about heroism? That’s exactly what our men imitate and display their male domination. The society has conditioned the men to think that it is normal,” Anu said.
This explains why several regional media outlets too, chose to romanticize the incidents, as the “rendezvous” of “Romeos” on Valentine's Day.
Why is men dressed in women’s clothes, “imitating” women’s gestures and walking around seductively in revealing clothes funny? Where’s the humour in this? Anu feels many girl students do not realize that these are the kind of things they should be taking offence to.
“Many girls are now too immune to what’s happening around them and are too self-centered. Many wouldn’t react to anything that does not cause direct harm to them. Some others chose to simply ignore it,” she said.
B Arundhati, social activist and a research scholar at University of Hyderabad feels that many women are conditioned to glorify male chauvinism and accept that as normal.
“Everybody is an agent of patriarchy, one gets too pulled into the system, that it often takes time for many women to realize that they are willingly confining to the patriarchal system. That explains why many girl students were shy and did not raise objection when male students outside their college barged into their campus like this,” Arundhati said.