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Fun At The Cost Of Stereotyping: Here’s Why Apps Like ‘Stripper Pole’ And ‘Boyfriend Trainer’ Are Unacceptable

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By Vaishali Jain:

Fun? Sure, I understand fun. But there are more instances than one where fun doesn’t end as funny anymore. The story stretches to an altogether different level. Fun is subjective, of course. I have no problem with anyone who wants to have a jolly good time with friends or with a smart phone. Heck, have fun in your closet deprived of oxygen, I say. Nobody cares about anyone else’s form of fun but theirs, as long as they are happy with it.

But when you learn stupid things through the real world or the virtual world and do your super best to troll the little morals that are left in this world, I have to intervene. You spread misogyny or misandry like a bad breath and I have a problem with that. You demonize the other sex or make them a plaything, and I’ll tell you how intolerably wrong it is. I’ll never urge that men are superior or that women are. Forget about the qualities and strengths but on a totally humane ground, does it not sound right to treat the other as an equal? Or is it too much to ask for in the era where humanity is being stifled by our own practices?

As much as I try that my words make a difference in the way the world has been plastering typical, irrational adjectives to genders, there are people who love to shuffle the same typical, irrational adjectives your way and every way with utterly miserable ideas.

Play a game on our awesome app that’s designed especially for you, for example, “Shake That Booty”. You can manipulate the size of a woman’s butt (BOOTY, ha!) by shaking your phone. And, hey, don’t you feel guilty about it, big man. She wants it. With the makeover tactics, you get to enlarge body parts in someone’s picture through your iPhone’s accelerometer and share that feat on Facebook And another one, “A Stripper Pole” says, “… clap, yell, make some noise and they will spin around at your command.” Don’t waste your words on them, you control them with gestures!

Okay, so, you don’t have a woman in your life? Too bad. We’ll get you a virtual woman. And now that we are getting you one, don’t forget to order her to clean, serve, and behave. After all, you own her. You don’t need to thank us. Just buy this damn thing.

These apps do exist; some have been taken down after controversies, some still remain on their play stores. These are the burgeoning ideas that are finding a place in the market, with remarkable ease.

apps

There is one named “Door of Hope” that enables a ‘gay cure’ in 60 days. Then, there is Boyfriend Trainer. Yes. You train your virtual boyfriend to become an ideal prototype for your man. You can scold him, whip him, electrocute him, or keep him on a leash if he is untidy or looks at other girls. I wonder if today’s relationships are at such loose ends that they need a digital app to tell you how to treat and how to be treated.

“GoodBoy” aims at improving your real boyfriend by awarding him points on his housekeeping and personal hygiene skills. Be a good boy and you get to “watch the game all afternoon — with no arguments.” Because, of course, a boy is a useless excuse for a human till he is blackmailed into doing his own work.

The brouhaha comes from so many different sources on the internet. But the primary source is the stereotypical phrases of gender roles our society has been thriving on. The idea behind some of these is not offensive, per se, but one can sure judge the negative implications these can have.

Every person likes power (some assurance, basically) over someone else. And it’s fine as long as it’s in a friendly sort of way. What we see today is aggressive, compulsive need to control – somebody, anybody. That is where bullying comes into picture, and rape, hatred, violence, perversion, libelling, and stalking comes into picture. People say that children behave like the company they keep. Sure, they do. But, I believe, parenting is the most important aspect of an overall growth of a child. It is the duty of parents to make their child see the right in a right and a wrong in a wrong. That should be a start.

These apps are downloaded by choice, after all. But any individual can see that most of these apps don’t serve any purpose other than fun. Simple, enjoyable fun is cool and welcome. But if fun is a cockeyed master of derision, it needs to be slained to obscurity.

I’m sure I am guilty of stereotyping, just like everyone else, knowingly or unknowingly. It creeps in through the weak walls of practices that have been supported by archaic roots. One doesn’t even come to know when the quiet sexism makes its layers impenetrable within a being — brick by brick — and then turns into brazen sexism. Why, I ask, does history sound so intriguing? It belongs to an era that no longer exists, which in turn gives it fictional or rather mythical undercurrents. It has sexism canvassed at every single step, in every chapter. So ingrained it is in our books that we find it okay to attach attributes to genders. I’ll let you in on a secret. It’s not okay. Now that we are a society that’s lot different from what we were 50 years back, let’s forget how our ancestors lived 1500 years ago in their single-digit centuries. Let’s move on, like literally, please.

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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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