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Decoding Moral Policing from childhood and how it leads to the imposition of gender-specific ideas

What is Moral Policing? Know how it leads to controlling and structuring gender-based ideas since childhood

Moral Policing is the act of enforcing a code of morality and is very common in Indian Culture. It is basically imposing a set of rules in the name of morality, identifying them as important for the cultural identity of the country. Where there are some laws and actions that are morally policing while the moral policing includes any activity subjective of being immoral or against Indian Culture or standards and being propagated by the vigilante groups, police or the government like that. Where the spectrum of policing is extremely wide, but gender-based policing is something seen as most prevalent. The conditioning of the image, choices and ideas that a particular gender should be following is what defines the gender policing.

Moral Policing in Early Childhood

Now, the act of moral policing starts from the very day a child starts understanding things and from even before that. The imposition of gender-based choices like colour choices (pink for a girl and blue for boys) or gifts (kitchen set for girls and power ninja for boys) is the act of specifying choices for a particular gender at an age where they are starting to subconsciously learn things. The others may include conditioning activities that a child must not do because of their gender which can be like telling a boy to not apply nail paint or telling a girl to have long hair. While these are the things that subliminally affect children, there are specific policing codes that makes them condition the body image, gender identity etc.

Moral Policing in Schools

Remember, the school days where in the classrooms we see two separate rows, one for boys and one for girls and at the back of the head, the idea that most of the teachers have is that girls and boys can’t be friends. The seating plan itself starts creating the idea of gender inequality from day one of the school. A code of moral policing is also a scene when girls start to talk to their male classmates and are portrayed as distractions and attention seekers by male friends.

Read more: How to combat common Gender stereotypes that rule our society?

Another area that is moral policing is the dress code.

Where in the first place, the schools should keep a gender-neutral dress code, here if it does keep gender-specific dress code, they police a lot through it. Firstly, it imposes gender identities instead of giving them room to explore what gender they belong to.

Secondly, in general, the girls’ dress code includes a shirt, skirt and socks at the elementary level and salwar suits at the secondary level. On the routine uniform checks, teachers often monitor that the length of the skirt is covering the knees and the socks are long enough to cover the major portion of the legs. While in Salwar Suits, a dupatta is made mandatory and should be covering the breast properly and the length of the kurta is often monitored. Girls are even shamed for wearing makeup and wearing loose hair. All of these are only to ensure that the girls don’t seek the attention of boys. This imposition is simply the violation of choice in the name of checking the dress code. And, they do it all saying “ladkiya choti skirt mai aachi nhi lagti, and ladke dekhenge to kaisa lagega” as if the boys are not seeing it and are not learning the pseudo idea that girls with short skirts are attractive and are inviting them for sexual pleasure because that is what the teachers are teaching by policing the skirt length. This act leads to creating body image, slut-shaming and stereotyping idea of gender appearance.

Moral Policing for male students

Even boys go through moral policing at school levels. Often during the games period, girls are suggested to play board games while boys are taken to play games like cricket, kabaddi, football etc. Generally, the games which require physical strength precisely because the teachers live with the idea that men are more interested in such games where they can show their power, giving ways to masculine ideas and behaviors. Any boy who doesn’t show interest in such games is often shamed and joked about.

Taboo zoning the already tabooed conversations

During puberty, when girls start to menstruate, the classroom takes it as something to hide about. There is a lot of hush-hush when a girl happens to bleed in the classroom and teachers ensure that the male members of the school should not get to know about it. While the chapters on reproduction are there in a course at an adequate age and by the time a girl gets her periods, most students already know about it, then what’s the point in hiding it and making it a question of morality if a girl happens to get a stain in the classroom. The impact of this conditioning is only that after such repetitive episodes, girls start to think that there is something wrong in it, and boys think that it is something they should not be knowing about. And the fact is either of the two ideas are wrong and stupid.

Well, the above was just a few examples while there are countless times when children are subjected to a following and behave in a particular way, which is simply not letting them explore what they want and conditioning them with what they should be wanting. Let us know your incident of facing moral policing in the comments.

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Ishika Aggarwal

Can write, shoot, listen, talk and procrastinate. A feminist at heart, Ishika is an avid writer and multimedia person who loves talking about women, realism, and society. When not working she is either seen watching films or making one.
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