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Bring Out My Guccis And Armanis: Are Fashion Magazines Carving Out An Elite Club?

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By Nidhi Sinha:

One would be meagrely surprised to see a young girl, hysterical with impatience laying her hands on her favourite monthly fashion magazine and gawking at it most anticipatively. A stupendously seductive cover, a celebrity hook embellished to perfection and luminous captions screaming ‘your quick guide to power dressing’ are reasons enough to bedazzle a beholder and generate that kind of half-frenzied, half-titillated response. A lifestyle staple for many, magazines like Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Femina are increasingly finding their way into the urban middle class milieu after having procured a constant readership of the elites and the fashion aficionados. The issue at hand however is, is whether the fascination with these magazines engenders a sense of ‘unbelonging’, of not being able to keep with the deluge of fashion labels or is it just an ephemeral longing and need not make one feel ‘left out’? The periodicals per se are not overly priced and conveniently purchasable, but as one flips through the pages, one is whirled into a world that is inhabited by the likes of Chanel, Dior, Balenciaga, Valentino and shuts its doors on anything that isn’t ‘haute couture’. Bam! Galling as it may be, your voyage to the Paris Fashion Week ends here.

 

An average middle class female reader would dread the dazzling million dollar Cartier and would only be further appalled by the exquisite yet unreachably expensive items that are hurled her way. Surely, she cannot transmit the grandeur she sees into her real life and prance around in her best bib and tucker at all times. Some may also complain about not having an ‘eventful’ life, a wardrobe loaded with endless clothes and a separate chiffonier for Jimmy Choo’s like the one possessed by the cover girl. But doesn’t one experience the same sense of wishfulness after say, a larger than life Karan Johar movie where even the poorest of characters are fashionably clad. You realize how ordinary your life is as compared to the terrifically opulent mode de vie of celebrities and characters. The top notch fashion magazines open up to the reader a universe of impeccable tailoring, fine designs, intricate embroidery, flawless tatting and concomitantly run the risk of being called ‘elitist’. This bias towards high end fashion labels disseminates the idea that fashion equals splurging truck loads of money or you’re not ‘in vogue’. However, this is not what the magazines aim at. Their job is to represent the fashion industry (both international and national) in all earnestness, reflect on the changing facets of fashion and needless to add, keep its readers abreast of what’s ‘a la mode’. Ergo, I return to the abruptly terminated sojourn at the Paris Fashion Week.

One may argue as to why the voyage cannot go on and pleasure be derived vicariously? After all, this is how one knows what’s in this season. Grace Coddington, Creative Director for U.S. Vogue, has admitted to having waited anxiously every month for the arrival of the Vogue magazine, which used to be at least three months outdated as she lived on the island of Anglesey, far removed from the fashion world. She grew up devouring this magazine which was “so entirely out of context compared to the lifestyle that (she) led”, and that is why all the more fascinating for a teenage girl hopelessly enamoured with fashion. Many such Grace Coddingtons savour their bit of Chanel only through these magazines and dream to own it someday. But for some, it only remains an inaccessible, unattainable luxury brand that has nothing to do with their quotidian life and will make flashes of its ubiquity felt, just that on somebody else’s body and not theirs. And this is why, fashion magazines need to pander to every girl’s needs and tastes making sure the readers relate to the content. This does not in any way mean that ‘haute couture’ needs to be doffed; it only means that street fashion needs to be given as much importance as any other Fashion House. The so called ‘ordinary’ dips into the recesses of ennui and increases manifold our fascination with the uber-stylish, glamorous world of these magazines. But maybe it is time that the ordinary was revived and given its rightful position, because it is you and me who are a part of this underrated ordinary, and not the glitterati.

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]The author would like to thank her friend Sahira without whom this piece would not have been possible.[/box]

Photo Credit: stilettobootlover_83 via Compfight cc

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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