Chandigarh incident reminds value-based ecosystem need of the hour

The patriarchal and misogynist values that have been internalised since ages reduce the womens’ worth merely as bodies. The very thought of bodily image being tarnished out in the public domain scares all.

Waking up to the visuals of students’ unrest in a reputed university of Punjab shocked all of us this Sunday morning. Incidents of violence or brawls amongst the youth are not uncommon but this one is unusual and shocking as the girl students were seen protesting and were upset about their very sensitive and private affairs being leaked on social media and that too by their own close aide who was a girl herself. The facts of the matter are yet to be investigated but such incidents make us introspect our times and the threats we live through in this digital age from the sociological lens.
Incidents and reports of cameras being secretly installed in the trial or green rooms and the footage being leaked are the stories we hear on a frequent basis. Technology has been a tool for the perpetrators in such incidents. The breach of privacy is definitely a problem in all these cases, but the values that make victims feel embarrassed and guilty about these situations is another side of the coin.
The patriarchal and misogynist values that have been internalised since ages reduce the womens’ worth merely as bodies. The very thought of bodily image being tarnished out in the public domain scares us. Anyone, a friend, a foe or even a stranger can threaten and blackmail us using this tool. Why is there so much fear? Why are we so vulnerable despite so many laws? Because our patriarchal society considers women at fault in a situation, where she might actually be a victim. The panic amongst young girls is the example of the pressure that the women live-in to maintain the sanctity/sacredness of bodies, with a sense of fear that if anything goes wrong, they shall not be seen as the victims but party to the crime. However, the very idea of retaining sanctity of the bodies is ambiguous. On one hand, the global entertainment industry calculatively uses the glamour of women actresses to flourish and the audiences also wholeheartedly accept it. But, on the other hand, the same rule doesn’t apply in the ‘not-so-flourishing’ mundane situations. Hence, the women in the society, irrespective of age, social/financial status, are burdened with the pressure of having a ‘righteous image’ as per the social norms created for them. What happens if this ‘righteous image’ gets hampered? This bell rings in their subconscious minds all the time.
This incident also makes me think about the awe of social media. This pressure of maintaining a ‘righteous image’ has increased many folds in the times of digital culture. Any post or a viral video might not trend for more than a day but we take that forwarded piece of information so seriously without analysing it or even knowing its source or authenticity. Be it a positive image building or tarnishing someone, social media is the easiest tool. When accomplished celebrities, politicians and popular figures are not spared, let alone the innocent students. Being social animals, Homo sapiens, have always been conscious of their social image, but in present times this image has to be maintained virtually as well. In the digital world, the boundaries of what is absolutely ‘private’ and what is ‘social’ have blurred. The content posted on social media ranges from social engagements to private moments. So what is private and where is the privacy being breached? Hence, in such a scenario only the consent of the person about whom the content is all about is the only saviour.
Third area that needs our introspection is human bonds. In this era of technology, connectivity is not a problem but collectivity is! Individualism, impatience, decreased attention-span are the common traits of the hyper capitalist post-modern societies.  Petty fights, trolling, and violence are chosen over long term bonds, true friendships and familial relations. Therefore, age-old institutions of marriage, family and kinship that offered us security and emotional well-being are falling apart. In the situation of any chaos one does not know where to fall back on and ends up discussing it on social media and seeking help and support from outside agencies. Eventually, ending up in more stress than solace. 
Irrespective of the facts that this case of university may reveal after investigation, there is a dire need for value upheaval and creating a cohesive environment, especially at the educational institutions. Clearly defining and orienting students towards digital responsibility as well as about their rights and boundaries is the need of the hour. Conventional values of trust, mutual respect and selfless friendships that have sustained human civilizations for long need to be revived and instilled right from childhood.  All the agencies of socialisation have a role to play in ensuring that temples of education turn out to be happy learning places and not the platforms of chaos.  
Dr Veenat is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology in Post Graduate Government College for Girls in Chandigarh.