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What Do You Understand About Feminism?

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By Tanya Kak:

Ever heard statements like, “Oh God! You’re a feminist? Please don’t put us through the agony of listening to your nari-morchas” or “you’re a woman, you can’t make up your mind and settle for one thing, let alone the oh-so-many demands that you go on ranting about!”? If this is something that has escaped your ears, I’m sure this one is a classic that just can’t, “why are you crying like a girl! Get a grip of your emotions and be a man”.

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Whether it is the Delhi Gang rape case of 16th December or the recent passing of a fatwa, banning the all-woman rock band in Kashmir in the garb of gross misinterpretation and religious fanaticism, the problem has its roots much deeper and beyond what usually meets the eye. Let’s establish a few things at the outset.

First, feminism is not about portraying the woman as a “victim”. It’s about how the very same woman is a “survivor” of the deeply entrenched patriarchal norms of the society that she’s been subjected to in one way or the other.
Second, feminism is not an ideology, it is not a certain set of beliefs that are fixed and about a group of people who believe in painting a particular gender with the same brush. It is about lived experiences, it is about voicing those experiences and standing up for what you think is right. I can be a feminist, a man can be a feminist and you could be one too. There is no one feminism but “feminisms”, because every experience is different, every story is worth sharing. So the next time you go about telling a woman “that feminists are so confused that they can’t even agree on a certain set of demands, on what is it that they exactly want”, remember its very strength lies in its pluralism, in how it can’t discredit and dismiss lived experiences.

Post the gang rape, I’ve actually heard a lot of amusing statements, some filled with disgust and some others saying “every man is not a rapist”. The part where it becomes amusing for me is when I see the very same people going back home and after eating dinner, expecting the lady of the house to take their plate when they’re done. So the next time you start asserting, with so much conviction, that “all of us are not the same” and accuse feminists of over-reaction, make sure you’ve not been the one under-reacting all this while. This brings me to my next point, “the personal is political”. No, it’s not just a fancy jargon or a clichéd line that one might hear time and again. If you can keep the courage to go out there and protest and show your levels of outrage, you must also realise that it is your gestures in the smallest of interpersonal relations in your private life that gradually make you the individual you are in the public sphere.

Sexual assaults, harassment of women and the consequent fear that it instils in them is not a sudden development or something that exists in vacuum. It originates from us, it lies within us. Our constant and subconscious habit of segregating gender roles on the basis of some attributes that we associate with them, the mindset that a woman always needs to be taken care of, needs to be protected goes a long way in strengthening and enforcing the misogynist attitudes. To be the harbingers of change, we first need to acknowledge the problem and fight the war within for it to translate into a victory well achieved. And that for me is YOUTH KI AWAAZ.

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author: Tanya Kak is a first year student pursuing political science honours from Lady Shri Ram college, Delhi. A passionate debater, she loves to dissect and analyse things around her in order to understand the fundamentals of any given thing/situation. She’s deeply interested in world and Indian politics and loves to have constructive discussions on the same. A source of Inspiration and somebody who has always defined a leader for her, happens to be her grandfather[/box]

Photo Credit: crl! via Compfight cc

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  1. Harish

    A few points :

    – Heard about masculism and MRAs? They are quite a lively bunch. Some of them are rational people who are genuinely trying to help men being falsely entrapped by our justice system. And there are those raving misogynistic homosexuals who can’t stand women. In the same way, feminists come in different types and flavours. But one thing is common. They think of men as a homogeneous and cohesive gang.

    – Regarding your point about women being portrayed as victims, that’s absolutely true and it needs to be stopped. Along with the attitude that men are disposable “martyrs”. Next time we have a war or are assaulting some gangster’s hideout, let’s have a gender-balanced force doing the killing and getting killed. And in times of emergency, there should be mandatory conscription for both men and women (Not just men, like it has been for millennia )

    – Regarding your “under-reacting point, why do you think that I as an individual have any obligation whatsoever to be responsible for the actions of other adult men, in the present or in the past?
    Are Indian Muslims expected to denounce Islamic terrorists more forcefully than Hindus, to remove any doubt of collusion?
    The fact that I am a male is a matter of genetic chance and not a choice of ideology. As a male, I take no credit for the achievements of Neil Armstrong nor am I to blame for the actions of Hitler. This is a very important point which many feminists do not seem to understand.

    – Totally agreed with “the mindset that a woman always needs to be taken care of” has to stop.
    I hope the society will change and let individuals be free from societal pressures. Marriage is a big burden thrust upon young women but also young men. In the vast majority of marriages, both the young man and the young woman are forced to live together and breed. While the woman is expected to be run the house, the man is expected to earn for both of them and the child. Why so? Let the man and woman each have their own incomes and support the child equally. Or if they wish to have casual sex and focus on their careers, let them. Why bind them in such structures? Why should the society or even the government have any business in interfering in a relationship between two consenting adults as long as they don’t hurt anyone? The government should remove all legislations concerning marriages(and thus in effect also removing legislations for divorces, alimony etc.).

    PS: I’m against both feminism and masculism. I shouldn’t have to state this but I get accused from both sides of being an agent of the other

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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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