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Perspectives: Say NO to Character shaming as a form of Punishment

In a previous article, we talked about how gender non conforming or non-binary children lack safe spaces for expression in school. This issue too is connected with the sexual freedom of teenagers in schools spaces. Picking on the characters of students in the form of snide remarks or outright harassment in the principal’s room are common tactics of moral chastisement. Which send forth absolutely harmful messages for the social development of children, especially girls

In the name of discipline, schools create a distinction between the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ child.

A validated cause for character shaming students occurs in the name of discipline. Skirt lengths, kohl in the eyes, multiple ear piercings, untucked shirts are all tokens of questioning character. Girls who wear small skirts, wear makeup or basically want to look good while in school are framed up in the image of the young predecessor to the immoral ‘bad woman’ in society. The sexually disobedient immoral adult lady in the making. That is the light in which these ‘precocious’ students are seen by both teachers and parents of other students. The so-called ‘good-students’ are advised to sit away from or not keep company with ‘such’ children. Parents of the non-aberrants are informed in hush hush manners if their wards are found to be associating with the other sect. Sitting arrangements are made accordingly in class. Under extreme scenarios, (since smartphones are allowed in quite a few schools today), teachers take the extreme step of breaching the private spaces of students and checking their phones. In certain cases, students have talked of being taken to the principal’s room to be shamed and chastised morally on their characters.

 ‘You do it to get attention from the boys’ is a belief spelt out loud not only by fellow students but by also teachers. Very often, without realizing, by placing the blame of being sexually provocative on students who simply are in their growing-up years and want to look good or experiment with style and fashion, adults(parents and teachers) pave the way to stereotyping females based on the way they decide to present themselves. This is known as ‘slut-shaming’, not disciplining. Disciplining a child aims at inculcating the values of punctuality, sincerity to work, integrity and dedication in individuals. Not shaming them on superficial standards and especially their personal choices about tending to their bodies.

‘Fold your legs and sit’, ‘don’t talk back, we expect that from boys, not girls’, ‘don’t walk like that, it’s uncouth’, ‘don’t talk like that, it’s unladylike’; these are adages taught to girls from an early age in schools. Policing their bodies is relegated to means of enforcing discipline. This sends a very wrong message to their psycho-sexual growth as females. Girls are uncomfortable with their bodies as adults whereas boys are comfortable taking up more space.

To create a healthy society, we must differentiate discipline from character shaming and body policing. And that needs to start right away from schools.

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