What are you doing? Why did you not get better grades than the first girl in your class? If she can do this despite being a girl, why can you not do so being a boy? - these are the exact lines I often used to hear from my mother when I was little.
Being a curious little boy, I asked my mother why she could not be first in class just because she was a girl. Why was she any different?
But she used to ignore those questions.
At first glance, this story might sound trivial, just a mother scolding her son for not doing good enough in the exams. But if we look closely, we will see how problematic her choice of words is. Her words hint at the misogynistic idea that girls are inferior to boys.
This is just one example from my own family.
I have also encountered such notions in my educational institutions, social circles and so on. With just a little bit of attention to our surroundings we can hear such statements being made regularly. Deep-seated misogyny is normalised to the point that it creeps into casual conversations.
Casual misogyny refers to a conscious dislike or hate for women caused by the existing social constructs and stereotypes. It caters to the existing patriarchy of our society, and it is interwoven so deeply in our society that, at times, it is tough to even explicitly identify it.
It occurs through "supposedly harmless" actions, behaviours, or comments. It is like a disease without visible symptoms. We might often fail to notice it, but it is everywhere. Most of us are suffering from it, and it is especially difficult for men to detect it with the glasses of male privilege on.
Women are not free from it either, as women can and tend to be enablers of misogyny. It has been internalised and is expressed through passing judgement on other women's appearances and insinuating the worst about their character based solely on clothing.
The inequality in perception begins at home with parents being reluctant to send their daughters to schools, and instead opting to marry them off. Sons are not encouraged to partake in household chores, while daughters are expected to do it as a rite of passage.
We often see parents prioritise their sons and provide them with better opportunities than their daughters. So many parents start nagging their daughters for marriage in their early 20s and say things like you can carry on with your education after marriage. They do not let their daughters do a whole lot of things, saying you can do so after your marriage. Boys do not have to face that.
While daughters are asked to do chores at home almost all the time, sons get a free pass as it is widely believed girls are supposed to do those. Children start learning from their families that women are expected to take care of their households instead of working outside and earning their own bread. This is the case in nearly every household, and women are expected to carry out all the household work while men just sit around.
In classrooms, gender stereotypes are peddled rather than broken by teachers. Students from all boys' institutions perceive their female counterparts as otherworldly, unreachable beings and harbour problematic ideas.
This misogyny finds its way in inappropriate jokes in male groups, where even if someone was uncomfortable, they would not choose to speak up in fear of being outcast. This inability to object allows misogyny to keep getting more and more ingrained in society.
In a classroom full of boys and girls, teachers might often accuse female students of being more 'emotional'. Students are often taught the existing gender stereotypes at school, while it should have been the other way around. This way, misogyny keeps getting more and more ingrained in society.
If we look around us we will understand casual misogyny exists everywhere. Even at restaurants, waiters tend to provide the bill to men instead of women, regardless of who is paying.
Women are often deprived of jobs, as employers think they will need more leaves and will not be profitable for the company. They tend to be offered fewer opportunities than their male colleagues who are often favoured by the higher-ups of a male-dominated workplace. When a woman gets better opportunities, they get sneered at and undermined.
Whenever someone speaks up against these discrepancies and discrimination, they get punished, and women's opportunities, jobs, and places get reduced. More compliant women or men take the place of the confrontational ones.
But when people grow up groomed from a very early age by their family, teachers, peers, and so on, it starts manifesting in their actions and behaviours at one point. Hence we start witnessing highly apparent misogynistic and violent acts around us.
Trying to dictate how women should act, behave, and live their life, discrimination in almost all aspects, sexual harassment, and assaults, are just a few results. We have even witnessed some shocking and abhorrent instances in very recent times.
The occasion of the international women's day was still fresh in our minds when the heartbreaking news of a school-going girl committing suicide hit us. The young girl left a letter for her parents before taking her own life. She thought the sexual assault was an attack on her and her family's 'honour', so she killed herself.
That letter did not only break our hearts; it also confronted us with the misogyny and patriarchy deeply embedded in our society. Similarly, the incident of a law enforcement agency member accosting a woman for her appearance serves as a grim reality check of just how pervasive misogyny is.
Another incident that exposed the abysmal misogynistic mindset of the masses was the news of a university first year student who was run over by a covered van while riding her own scooter. Rather than expressing sympathy or grief, netizens stormed the comments section to post objectionable and downright derogatory remarks regarding her appearance.
These events might be separate, but they are offshoots of the same misogynistic mindsets rooted deeply in this patriarchal society. While they inspire shame, guilt, discontent in us, it needs to also move us to confront instances of misogyny - small or big - first in ourselves and more importantly within our circles.
Nafis Almas Siam works as a writer for a content writing company.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.