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Misogyny And Patriarchy In Indian Media: What The Times Of India And Dainik Bhaskar Want You To Think

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By Sonakshi Samtani:

If you thought that Salman-Shahrukh patch up and the royal baby stories were the lowest that journalism could reach, well you got it wrong. Apparently, The Times of India, the world’s largest selling English-language daily, finds it very appropriate to publish full fledged articles titled ‘7 things you didn’t know about women’s breasts’ or the very recent ‘Funny, Weird facts about women’. The latter being called ‘the worst thing ever’ by the Huffington Post, garnering criticisms both from the readers and news agencies worldwide.

This is the photo that accompanied The Times Of India story on "Weird, funny facts about women."
This is the photo that accompanied The Times Of India story on “Weird, funny facts about women.”

Mr. Biben Laikhuram, the author of these disasters they call articles, is a Delhi University graduate and his areas of interest range from women’s breasts, their virginity or the ‘sex positions they would die for’. Interestingly, the editorial policy of TOI seems starkly incongruous to their recently launched ‘I Lead India’ initiative, which calls upon the youth to take the initiative and stand up for issues like women’s security, gender equality, traffic management etc. Mr Biben’s articles, however, impose and assert the same skewed gender stereotypes that India, as a country, needs to get rid of. The set of ‘featured stories’ on the TOI website, have remained unchanged for over a year and a half now, all three of which claim to help women get a flat tummy or a tiny waist.

One of the articles on their website, again by the same author, tells us ‘the great things about being a virgin woman’, supported by the notions of morality and how men love it when their partner is ‘untouched’ and ‘pure’ before marriage. However, all of these articles have been removed from the TOI website due to the controversy surrounding his latest piece.

Trashy articles like these are published with eye-catching headlines so as to keep the readership strong. It reflects the pathetic social mindset which deems it fine to objectify women and publish plagiarized content, so as to keep the circulation going. Yes, most of Laikhuram’s work is partly or entirely plagiarized, and is copied from various blogs on the internet. This raises serious concerns over the content millions of people read every day. This state of journalism in India answers many questions we ask about the differential treatment of women in the society. If the masses are subjected to such pieces on an ever day basis, we see the reason as to why the efforts to propagate gender equality are taking so long to show fruitful results.

While the recent JNU incident left the student and teacher community shocked, Dainik Bhaskar, an Indian Hindi daily, goes ahead to publish the story with headlines reading “…the girlfriend even had sex with the guy and then started mocking him”. The correspondent himself comes to a conclusion that the girl had slept with the boy, even though there were no such records found, and irresponsibly goes on to project an off-center perspective of the issue. Given the patriarchal outlook of the masses in the country, an average person would read the article presuming that the girl, having compromised her so called ‘morals’, was at fault. Moreover, for those thousands who skim through the headlines to get their dose of daily news, a headline is enough to do the damage and the understanding of the actual issue would remain distorted.

Dainik Bhaskar

Spiro T. Agnew, the 39th vice-president of the USA once said “Some newspapers are fit only to line in the bottom of bird cages”. With ever increasing articles about weight management, beauty and opinion pieces that are utterly demeaning and project irrelevant gender stereotypes, most of the leading news papers and channels are bringing news dissemination to all new lows.

For a country struggling to attain gender equality and safety for women, gender insensitive journalism and mass media would divest the efforts from reaching the masses. It is imperative for these mass media agents to reflect upon their ethics, exercise social responsibility and work towards creating a more sensitized environment instead of indulging in irresponsible commercialization of news and facilitating a regress.

Note:
Facebook link to the Dainik Bhaskar article

Link to the actual article, weird, funny facts about women, from where it was copied

Link to “Great things about being a dimwit”, an article thrashing Biben Laikhuram’s original on women and virginity

Huff post article 

You must be to comment.
  1. Heema

    Girl, you spoke my mind! I did come across these articles and couldn’t face-palm myself hard enough. I’ve long given up on TOI. The comments below its news items make me lose faith in humanity.

  2. Neha Mayuri

    I absolutely agree with you Sonakshi. Journalism has stooped to a level which is beneath anyone’s dignity, in order to grab the reader’s attention and the traffic of the site, esteemed papers like TOI and The Dainik Bhaskar have left no stone unturned to objectify women. This is a shame.

  3. Raj

    Fascism much? While the Dainik Bhaskar article is clearly out of line and the paper deserves to be severely punished, what is wrong with the TOI articles? Is expressing your thoughts a crime because it doesn’t fit with politically-correct talking points?

  4. Prashant Kaushik

    I echo your sentiments and agree that journalism is falling off in standards. But, what WAS the NEED to use the SAME VULGAR PICTURE Which you yourself are criticizing ? I mean you are yourself indulging in what you are accusing the TOI and Danik Bhaskar of. If your purpose was only reporting, you could have used a smaller or blurred version but instead you went on to use the same photo which you are condemning. Sorry to say, but I dont see much of difference between you and TOI in this respect.

    1. Raj

      You mean the girl on the toilet?

    2. SS

      Simple! To show what TOI has actually posted.

      Blurred version! Really!?

  5. Bijaya Biswal

    That was some great article 🙂 Keep it up.We would be waiting for more such awesome articles

  6. Shivangi Singh

    Brilliant piece! Way to go!

    1. Raj

      Could you translate and summarize those articles?

  7. Dr Rathna

    Very nicely written.Infact written in a very cultured manner.It can be more scornful also.What all the women on earth doing about these headlines?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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
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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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