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The ‘Ms.’ Representation: Who Gave Birth To the Idea Of Misogyny?

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By Mahitha Kasireddi:

I walked in to the library one afternoon and subconsciously started searching for books related to women issues. This is the unusual me, I have always been neutral to the gender factor and today without my notice I turned into a feminist. I emerged a strong advocate of the ‘Right To Choice of Women’. Thanks to Damini, the brave heart who gave us this spirit to fight for the representation of women!


I am extremely happy with the new propaganda that is being propagated by women within the horizons of society they live in. The propaganda that caught attention, especially the males’ attention- “Don’t teach me how to dress, teach your sons to respect women!” The most celebrated laconic statement which served as a logo for the mighty women’s movement.

Since a month it’s been quite difficult to keep track of the number of misogynistic assertions made by politicians, police and god-men. Like any other girl I was equally outraged by the absurd and backward mindset revelations against women. All these days the misconception I had that women are developing and making their mark in every field has been corrected, thanks to the male chauvinistic forces in the country.

Lately I have been through a great transformation of ideas inside me. I do not know if it is a healthy sign but I see myself getting very intolerant towards mildest of jokes about women. Every now and then there is an attempt somewhere to stereotype women. The popular relationship jokes in which the girl is type casted as a typical cry-baby who is confused and hysterical always initiates the breakup. Exclusive jokes related to women driving on the roads, and the ones on shopping habits of women. In fact there is nothing about us which isn’t commented or laughed about.

The very feminist tendency is always scrutinized, put in the dock, judged, ridiculed and victimized both by media and by common people like you and me.

Yes, you and I are also a part of the ground basis of this spreading misogyny.

If you are a girl, look back and retrospect for a while. At some point of time you would have judged a fellow woman basing on her choices, her character, her friends and relationships. She might be your sister, your classmate, your best friend, your teacher or your aunt.

At least once and at most always you would have gossiped about her personal life and her character because she is very interactive with men, wears skin tight clothes which reveal her shapes so distinctly, something which you cannot dare to do because you are not that confident enough to be a liberal, free thinking woman or because she is sexually very active. Do you realize that on the one side you are supporting the women cause and on the other side you are deterrent in another woman’s life simply because you do not respect her choices?

If you are a housewife, remember the number of times you gave an unacceptable gaze at your teenage neighbour each time you saw her dressed and going out with her male friends?

If you are a male who is sensitive and supportive to the women’s movement, shouldn’t forget the time when you underestimated your sister and always broke her confidence by telling her she cannot do things what men do, like driving fast and playing cricket etc.

Well, I have a confession to make. When I was 19, I had blocked a school friend of mine on Facebook for the only reason because she was extremely liberal and modern. I was surprised to see her photos on Facebook posing very close to men who were drinking and she was clad in ‘less clothes’. I feared the social stigmas surrounding the issue. I feared I would be questioned for having her on my list. Today, after four years I deeply regret and I am ashamed for judging her and not respecting her choices.

Now, having said this I am caught up in an ambiguity on which side to take. When girls say that nobody has the right to prescribe what they should wear, parents have stronger arguments to negate them. Priyanka Chopra said on a TV show- “This is a democracy, I may walk naked on the road but nobody has the right to touch my body or rape me. I should be respected for my choice”. My father says she has no social responsibility and ethics. Well, what are those standards and parameters? Who defines when teasing becomes disrespecting and when wooing becomes harassing. Who decides moral and ethics? Should these be left to individual beliefs?

Commenting on the growing rape culture in India and safety of women our politicians cleverly pushed the blame on nudity in films. I had tweeted to actor Suresh-“Indian cinema does influence young minds. The heroes woo heroines and young boys who follow them think it is chauvinistic”. Replying to this he said-“Common sense dictates man from movies to reality! Why can’t they follow the scenes where hero saves the heroine?” Looks valid enough, but is the saving act also not a part of impressing her and compelling her to love him back as a return favor?  I did not make an effort to tweet him back as we all know that it is difficult to get politicians to agree that they are a corrupt lot and an actor to agree that movies influence societies.

Even though I am calling for reforms in the Indian cinema, I still say women who choose such a career should definitely be respected for their choice!

Does art influence society to violate women?”

A regular blogger Sumit Saurav in one of his article put forward this question to which he said no. Well, why not? It definitely does!

In all major platforms of articulation be it cinema, literature, sculptures or paintings, women are either objectified or disparaged. Centuries ago when Shakespeare wrote the ‘Taming of the Shrew’, it went out to give a message that women can be overpowered, subjugated and oppressed. The same was shown in Indian cinema for years. Some need a mention here like ‘Gharana Mogudu’, ‘Bhanumati gari mogudu’, ‘Atha ki yamudu, ammai ki mogudu’, ‘Nari Nari Nadumurari’ etc. How many movies do we have, which show the socializing of a rape victim? The famous erotic sculptures of the Khajuraho Temple are a unique variety of their own. No other place in world has evidence of such revealing depictions on stone. Would curious teenagers have the mind to appreciate them in artistic sense? They would rather decipher them as Sex Education in its literal meaning!

Today, we have enormous access to obscenity. We have 24×7 media and spend hours together on the internet. It is now normalized to see less clothed women on hoardings, commercials and of course the famous irrelevant item songs called for ‘entertainment’. That’s a continuous feeding and imposing on young minds. Parents definitely feel uncomfortable when their little daughters dance to Chikni Chameli, imitating the moves and adopting them, irrespective of how catchy the music may be. Sadhguru of the Isha Yoga Society says- “In most minds, women means an accumulation of body parts. The problem is rooted in investing too much on physicality of life”. The advertising of women’s sexual desires through the salacious deodorant ads does inform men and makes them want to buy the product. The advertisement somehow makes public feel powerless without possessing the products they market.

I recommend you watch these amazing videos on ‘commodification’ of women. The videos show a shocking analysis on how women are represented by the market forces in music videos, advertisements, magazines and video games.

Video 1
Video 2

Jean Kilbourne, senior scholar at Wellesley Centre for Women says that the obsession for woman’s body and appearances is so much patronized that the value of any achievements made by women depends primarily on how she looks. I could not help but accept it due to the recent speculations that sparked around Hina Rabbani Khar.

Following her ‘warmongering’ comment I came across an article in The Speaking Tree which says she has transformed into a Hawk from a Dove. She has always been put under scrutiny for her choices right from the bag she carries, the goggles she sports, her dominating voice to decisions she makes for the country. Don’t you think she has the right to make a choice on how she wants to look when she moves out?

This shows how much women intellectuals are discouraged. Most call it an irresistible combination of beauty and brains. Chetan Bhagat had tweeted-“Hina Rabbani, So beautiful, so shrewd”. A parody site, had proposed a funny solution to resolve the LoC issue by making Aishwariya Rai Bachchan the External Affairs Minister to make Hina agree to our demands! How ridiculous!

Women have been deprived of representation way back when studies around life sciences had started. The Second Sex, written in 1949 by Simone de Beauvoir shows how women were classified or I’d rather say marginalized as ‘the other’. The book says- “The body of man makes sense in itself quite apart from that of woman, whereas the latter seems wanting in significance by itself … Man can think of himself without woman. She cannot think of herself without man. And she is simply what man decrees; thus she is called ‘the sex’, by which is meant that she appears essentially to the male as a sexual being. For him she is sex — absolute sex, no less. She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her; she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute — she is the Other.

Women were never regarded as an autonomous human being. She was made out of the bone of man. Well, even if it was vice-versa unavoidably half of the human race has to struggle for representation and power.

A ray of hope emerged in the darkness…

The women’s movement now has gone beyond India. It has taken a global shape; thanks to Eve Ensler, the lady behind the famous play ‘The Vagina Monologue’ who carried out the world wide event, V- Day as part of her efforts to break the taboo on words like vagina and clitoris. February 14th was a big day for all the women who have chosen to march for their dignity, respect and representation. I pray this fire never goes down and compels every sector to bring reforms and call off the objectification of women for capitalizing the economy.

Photo Credit: martinak15 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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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