This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Stereotyping Of Women In Contemporary Society: A Feminist Discourse

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Abhinita Mohanty:

Since the feminist movement started in India, most of the educated and elite women have tried to redefine their status and identity, both in the public and in the private life but this has not percolated into the lives of those women who are outside the fringes of these movements; it won’t be wrong if I assume that even within these ‘educated‘ women there are women who suffer different forms of atrocities in their everyday life. It’s a known fact that women can become victims of violence, notwithstanding their class or age. Instead of writing about the feminist movements or the steps that are being taken by them to alleviate women’s status, I would rather like to write about the various forms of visible and invisible gender stereotyping that is found in the contemporary society. Many are so subtle that even the one using it seldom realizes that she/he is actually guilty of gender stereotyping.


How many times do we use the word ‘History‘ in our classrooms and in everyday conversation? Here, I emphasize the word ‘His‘. ‘Her‘ is thus considered as someone who do not make, contribute or forms the ‘History‘, ‘her‘ merely becomes a passive observer who adjusts to the norms of society, and it is the men who make history….their story! I am sure that, 2000 years later we still would be referring to ‘history‘ and ignoring the contributions made by the contemporary women. There is again a gendering of profession. Historically speaking, men have always been a dominant character of society due to their superior physical power and thus establishing hegemony over the construction and manipulation of history itself.

Another major problem lies within the very conception and understanding of the feminist movement itself. I would like to use a term ‘elitisation of feminism’. By this term I mean that the people involved in this movement, the issues which concern them at large and the activities undertaken mostly target the elite although they say otherwise. In this context I would like to tell about the recent Delhi gang rape case that jolted the nation and the feminists equally but where were such upheavals in case of Soni Sori (a poor tribal woman who were raped by the policemen), Bhanwari Devi (gang raped by sarpanchs and other higher caste for stopping a child marriage), and many such were raped or assaulted? These women failed to catch the attention of the media and feminists alike hence the public too did not express any outrage. I am not undermining the rape case of the Delhi ‘braveheart’ but don’t these women deserve equal attention. Delhi case involved someone who was from a middle class background, thus giving it enough attention. But the other incidents occurred in far flung places (far from the capital) and to women who were neither elite nor literate and ‘modern’. It can be said that the so called feminists and media alike have no desire to take up issues involving the rural, non-elite women. As stated in the opening discussion, these movements do not popularize the plight of such women nor do the media ever hype them. Many of such cases even remain forever buried in the piles of documents in court rooms and police stations. A movement, be it feminism or any other, cannot have much impact if it fails to mobilize individuals at the grass root level. A pattern of bottom-up should be followed instead of the illusion of a trickle down process from the ‘top to bottom’. The women who take steps to direct the feminist movements are always from the upper strata.

In the contemporary world, concepts are created by the electronic media many times even very unconsciously. In the minds of the coming generation, this stereotypical image of women is deeply being manufactured through popular T.V. ‘soaps’ and movies, which is watched with relish by most! Let me focus on any T.V. serials. The women is depicted in a ‘sati-savitri’ style (fidelity to husband), all decked up, showing respect to her in-laws even if they do not like her, forgiving or tolerating the husband’s misconducts and infidelity, listening and serving to all his needs, always in need of his support and protection, a simple home maker with no say in family business or career, very soft spoken with perfect feminine qualities. All these reaffirm both the concepts related to masculinity and feminine connotations. The public too prefer the portrayal of women in this way. Many a times she is also shown as a vamp playing ‘politics’ inside the house but no role in the public sphere. In the movies a woman (actress) has to look glam and good all the time, have perfect figure and need to expose them to seduce her man, while the man is shown to be muscular and ever present to protect the woman from the ‘villains’. The glam image of a woman (be it in the form of a modern chick or a traditional woman) is always loved by all. All these can be well reflected every day in the matrimonial columns, where the bridegroom wants ‘fair, virgin and homely’ girls’, I only wish women would also demand these traits from their men counterparts! Many think that portrayal of women’s body in advertisements, movies and hoardings are a sign of women’s liberation; it’s a misconception, a popular fallacy. In movies the fully clad hero with a skimpily dressed girl depicts the desires and fantasies of men for the female body. It cannot be vice versa as most people cannot even conceive of any ‘ideal’ female having fantasies for the male body. It is as if the vagina has no desire to penetrate! Her ‘pussy’ is merely considered to be ‘his pet’! Females are not supposed to initiate sex but only show coyness when a man initiates it. That is what is shown in our popular culture that makes our conscience. Many people believe that boys can see porn or hang the scantily clad portraits of women in their room but a girl doing the same for her favorite hero is considered as a sex maniac. Another image of ideal women is conceived in the minds of small girls when they play with barbies and other dolls. They learn that it is looks that matter the most for a girl and every effort on her part should be made to portray herself physically attractive. Her brains do not matter, it’s her appearance that can only determine her future. Her brains come secondary and her intellect is often neglected. One of my sister in law has a ringtone saying ‘hey beautiful you have got a message’. She told me she has this, just like men have something saying, ‘boss, you have got a message’. She said that very casually and unconsciously but this sums off a women’s status she can be beautiful but she can never become the boss.

Profession is many times gendered too. The word often used to describe doctors, bureaucrats, scientists, philosophers, leaders, boss, etc. ‘He’ is often used to describe these professions. Many argue that it is because these arenas are dominated by men, but can we ignore a minority of women who are a part of such profession? In that case, why our constitution and our laws did not ignore the Indian ‘minorities’ but conferred them with many rights? Note this, in the word ‘she’ the word ‘he’ is included but the opposite is not true so using the word ‘she’ for all purposes should refer to both the sexes. ‘He’ may not be required at all. People naturally refer ‘she’ when we use words like nurse, school teacher, receptionist, secretary, etc. Let me tell you a story here, the answer to which I seek from many friends who most failed to reply. A father and a son were going together in a car and in an accident the father expired on the spot and the son was rushed to the hospital. In the hospital the doctor was shocked and refuses to operate him saying ‘the boy is my son’. How? I asked. The answer is that the doctor was his mother but most could not think of this. They failed to conceive of the doctor in the image of a woman. This shows the people’s perception about a women’s job. ‘She’ suits better for ‘low paying’ and ‘low position’ jobs. Even ‘spaces’ and language in the contemporary world is gendered; men can be seen in tobacco shops, paan shops, tea stalls, gossiping in groups, mostly visible in public places. But women cannot access these places due to certain norms; women are mostly clustered within private spaces. A man can use words that are vulgar and have sexual connotations but people will be horrified if a woman uses them. She has to be soft and non-aggressive. All these norms are enforced, socialized and institutionalized by a patriarchal society to control women. I do not advocate that using filthy language is good; I rather condemn it both for men and women.

Recently, in Haryana, a democratic state government and some of its leaders actually dared to say that the marriageable age of girls should be decreased from 18 to 16! Why? This would save girls from being raped in Haryana, a place where rape cases are all time high in the country. Isn’t this outrageous? These leaders instead of accepting that they have failed to maintain law and order want laws that will chain a woman. The questions are, can’t a married woman be raped by outsiders? Can’t she be a victim of marital rape? Can’t girls below 16 be also raped? Many women even do not know that marital rape is equivalent to rape. The society think and women too perceive that a husband has all rights over a women’s body. This is a culmination of a primitive patriarchal culture that actually sanctions violence against women. Again this culture was seen in Kashmir when the all girl’s rock band was threatened and warned that a fatwa will be issued lest they should call off their performance. The terrified girls and their families not only were forced to call off the performance but went into hiding fearing a backlash. This should have been the plight of persons who threaten them; instead, it happened to these honorable torch bearers of women rights. A particular religious leader of a community said in a sexist remark that women should stay in home and sing only in front of their family members. This anguished me. Religious norms should be respected but no one has any rights to impose them on any one, be it the ‘mufti’ or the ‘Vishwa Hindu Parishad‘ villains who harass couples on Valentine’s Day. If a woman does not want to go out or sing outside or celebrate lover’s day out of her own choice it’s fine, but who are these men to force it on them? Nothing happened to people who made such sexist remarks. Omar Abdullah supported the girls in Kashmir but failed to punish the guilty. Even in this era, such people escape with impunity. All these itself shows how seriously the rights of women are upheld in contemporary society.

I do not support the slogan ‘men and women are equal’. Rather I seek for a distinct identity for woman which she rightly deserves. It’s really good to see that many of my male profs. in the Hyderabad University are feminists. A prof. once remarked that it is not necessary to be a woman to understand a woman and another remarked that just by making the laws equal for men and women, women will not become equal to men. These people are a silver lining in the feminist movements. As a passing remark, I want to add that for us it is not something fanciful to be called as a feminist, rather it’s a matter of shame that even in this advanced era we have to clamor for equal rights for women.

You must be to comment.
  1. Rigya Singh

    This is the problem everywhere. Like “black” and “white” Feminists, with diversity arises the need for different kinds of Feminism, but that does not mean one kind has to exclude the other when we are fighting for the common cause. Racism and Casteism has a tendency to seep in everywhere.
    For a woman living in the Metropolis, equality probably means freedom to roam about freely at night and visit night-clubs, smoke in public, be able to drink freely and so forth. For a Dalit woman, she’s doubly oppressed by her gender and her caste. For her, her priorities will be different. She wouldn’t really care about pubs and all. So different types of Feminism are needed. But a little consideration is needed too.

    1. AbhinitaMohanty

      You are right.

  2. No Country For Women As a new wave of feminism catches wind, we introduce you to three very distinct women paving the way for us

  3. AbhinitaMohanty

    What urged me to write this article is d fact that I am doing my research on Domestic Violence and while interviewing my participants in d field site I was amazed that so many suffer from harassment and other atrocities. I was shocked,sad and very angry.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI)

By Azad bansala

By Mitesh Solanki

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below