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

Bollywood Objectifies Men As Much As Women, Then Why The Selective Outrage?

By Maitri Shah:

I was flipping through music channels the other day, and found that 7 out of 8 were playing what in Bollywood is called an ‘Item Number’. An Item Number is a song that often has nothing to do with context to storyline (which might also be true for most mainstream Bollywood music), often features a sexy, skimpily clad woman, has a catchy, dance-able tune and raunchy lyrics.

item numbers in bollywood

Item numbers are crowd pullers, and while these once were solely restricted to and performed by starlets, today, you have top heroines vying for them. The reason being, that sometimes, these item numbers eclipse the movie in terms of popularity. ‘Sheila ki Jawani’ being a prime example in today’s times. While Item Numbers are now widely sought after and a huge amount of money goes into creating a blockbuster tune, they still haven’t found unanimous favour among the audience.

A lot of discussion has taken place centered around how these item numbers sexualize and objectify women. How they’re a bad influence on young minds. How they set absurdly unrealistic standards for average women.

‘Why do you need them?’ Is a question often heard. ‘Why do women have to demean themselves by being fodder for a man’s wet dream?’ Is a question that has been subject to many animated discussions. But I find, that often during this discourse, we fail to acknowledge the fact that men too are objectified in our industry, if not equally, then substantially enough to have a discussion. The difference is that both forms of objectification are perceived and received in dissimilar ways.

So, when a Katrina Kaif does a ‘Chikni Chameli’, her pelvic thrusts are put up for debate by some people, but when a John Abraham steps out in tight fitting, ‘barely leaving anything to imagination’ trunks, and seductively tugs at them, you hear a collective swoon often from the same womenfolk who criticise female item numbers. And that is something that irks me even more. The fact that most of these discussions are spearheaded by women who show appalling disparity in the way they treat the subject.

Either you need to hold both men and women to the same standards of scrutiny, or else you need to just take it easy, and shut up.

It isn’t fair to question a woman’s integrity if she decides to put on a skimpy outfit and gyrate to a sexy beat, if your eyes are glued to the television screen when Ranveer Singh flexes his chiselled, waxed body and struts around dancing like a peacock. Also, if a female item number is demeaning to women, then isn’t using and projecting men as eye candy equally demeaning to men? Why is no one taking up their cause?

Personally, I like most of them. They’re fun, sassy and peppy. I also think it takes immense amount of guts as a man or a woman to put on suggestive clothing and groove like no one’s watching when you know that millions are, and will analyse your every move. I’m not naive enough to be swayed into thinking that the image projected by these men and women is in any way an indication of how ‘real’ men and women behave, or should behave. I’m mature enough to see it for what it is – entertainment for entertainment’s sake.

Film is the most powerful art form there is. That is because it combines all mediums together in a way that utilizes their collective ability to captivate the audience. It’s healthy to have a dialogue around them, but we need to not lose objectivity when doing so. Also, it’s important to remind ourselves that movies aren’t, and don’t have to be, custodians of our collective morality. The only thing they owe to the audience is sincerity and loyalty while making the film. And as an audience, you have the right to watch it or give it a miss.

Another thing to remember is that the society isn’t a reflection of the movies. Movies are a reflection of our society. So, if you are perturbed by the ‘worsening morals’ at the cinema hall, maybe you need to take a look around and you’ll realize that reality has taken a far more dystopian hue.

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  1. Adishi

    Not a wrong arguement, per se. But, long story short, women have, since long been, atrociously objectified and treated as baby makers, unlike men. So, it is an altogether a very different scenario and juxtaposing it with that of women is in a way, conferring to the age old objectification of women.

    This link will further expand my arguement –

    everydayfeminism.com/2014/07/men-objectified-by-women/?utm_content=buffer29ec8&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

    1. The Joker

      Whoa! Last time I checked, women gave birth to babies. Is it different in your household? 😀

    2. Voice of reason

      @Joker — nice

    3. Adishi

      Hah! JUST popping out babies? Weird, enough.

    4. Babar

      @Adishi: Concerning the link, you are correct. We should not ruin women’s lives by telling them what to do, as they are already ruining it by having multiple transient sexual relationships and indulging in promiscuous behavior in the name of liberation and emancipation. Also, with the promotion of plunging necklines, spandex pants, miniskirts, short shorts, tight jeans, tops so deep that when girls bend down they reveal a lot more than they intended – girls today are doing a good job of showing the world their “rights.”

    5. Voice of reason

      @Babar – dude their is nothing wrong in a women wearing short clothes, it is the mentality like the one you portrayed that sucks and reveals a lot as to why people need feminism. Just tell us one thing why do you have such glaring inequalities in your mind when it comes to sexes. you say women are ruining their lives by getting involved with multiple partners, well last time i checked guys were doing the same. you feel a man can wear shorts and roam around and there is nothing wrong, then why should the same not be applicable to women. What is wrong with you dude………… do u hail from a village that in spite of education ( i assume you are educated) you treat women with such inequality. I mean in your family and surrounding are women only meant to be house wives and be child producing machines…………… sick dude

    6. Babar

      @Voice: I treat women with dignity, I do not brainwash them into taking their clothes off in public in the name of emancipation and liberation. As far as career goes, women can be what they want to be. If a woman wants to be a homemaker, why are you forcing her to join the workforce with notions of equality? Let women choose.

    7. Natesh

      In your limited perspective ,two things are clear:
      Liberation only means wearing short clothes
      “I treat women with dignity”-This itself is sexist. Women don’t need special treatment in much .This suggests they are inferior in some way and so compensate for it.

    8. Voice of reason

      @Babr – i am not forcing anyone into anything, nor am i saying that women should take off their clothes. The entire discussion started when you referred to women spoiling their lives etc. If you want women to choose for them selves in jobs, then why not in clothes. If males can have more then one partners then why not women.

      my entire perspective is how can you say that women are spoiling themselves by wearing modern day dresses, we should leave the choice to them and NO ONE SHOULD JUDGE them basis that. similar argument for partners…. you cannot and should pass judgement on these aspects, which unfortunately your comments does.

    9. Babar

      If you want women to choose for them selves in jobs, then why not in clothes.

      Women are more than welcome to choose what to wear, not what not to wear. Today, women look like they forgot to finish dressing up. Clothes are meant to cover the body, not reveal it.

      If males can have more then one partners then why not women.

      Is having more than one sexual partner a good thing?

    10. Babar

      we should leave the choice to them and NO ONE SHOULD JUDGE them

      When girls become mothers, I am sure they don’t want to show pictures of their youth to their children, and boast about how much thigh they showed or how much cleavage they exposed. Even in the western world, in many schools and colleges, their are strict rules about what girls can and cannot wear. Also, many parents are more concerned about having their daughters cover up (and not date) rather than come home one day and tell their parents that they are pregnant. Parents who allow their daughters to wear what they want should not have children or need parenting lessons.

    11. Voice of reason

      @babar – ” Clothes are meant to cover the body, not reveal it.”

      Brother that is how you look at things, not everyone. to most clothes are supposed to enhance your personality, looks, appeal etc. – again let the mass decide, we cannot pass judgement or say that they are spoiling lives etc. if you feel so then act accordingly ( which i am sure we all do)

      “Is having more than one sexual partner a good thing?”

      Again this is subject to personal thinking, personally i would say that one should be loyal to only one partner, but can i pass judgement on that – NO. Also please understand my point, the question is not whether it is right or wrong , or good or bad – the larger question that we are debating on is equality, and the simple thumb rule is if men can do something, the women folk should also be allowed to do the same. Thats it …………

    12. Voice of reason

      @Babar – “Parents who allow their daughters to wear what they want should not have children or need parenting lessons.”

      dude you are you to say who need parenting lessons, you dont like that dont let your daughter wear revealing clothes. those who allow are completely sane and normal to do that. infact they atleast realise that they should provide their kids the freedom of choice, which is very important ( you may think otherwise, but you would be logically wrong). You talk of school abroad, our own Delhi University does not have a dress code and still produce amazing students, think about it

      As for parent wanting to show their pictures, i am actually shocked that you could say that, Of course they would openly show their pics to their kids, why are you generalizing village mentality, or rather 20th century mentality on everyone. What data do you have to prove your point. Think about it, most movies these days have intimate scenes, but does that mean parents are no longer going to cinemas with kids. Dude that might be happening in your village but not in my city, so please stop generalizing.

      see what ever your response might be, but honestly times have changed, but unfortunately you have not. At the end of the day its our own choices but please develop that open mind where you respect open choices and do not say that people need parenting lectures, this just goes on to show how narrow minded you are.

      It was fun debating with you but honestly, two possibilities come out of it

      1) you stay in a village, or have been brought up in a place surrounded by such ppl and hence 20th century mentality .

      2) You are 75+ and hence 20th century mentality.

      P.S. – i really do not have anything against you, as a proper 21st century individual i respect your thoughts and believe every one has the right of opinion, dress, sexual partner and so on……… Tc man

    13. Maitri

      I’m pretty much with Voice of Reason in this discussion thread.

    14. Tulika

      Bro, you need to go see a doctor. You are drowning in the sea of shallowness and dumbness and perpetual state of stupidity.

      Get well soon 🙂

    15. Tulika

      @Voice of Reason

      Ironically, while you were engrossed in debating with Babbar you exposed a part of yours that needs to hear some “voice of reason”.
      Stereotyping villages and cities is not the nicest things to do. I have met people from villages who happen to be more open minded than people from cities. Don’t confuse modernity with the way of living. Village and city are different on basis of way of living and their main occupations. The mindset of people vary across individuals. Please do not have such stereotypical notions about anything so lightly.

      @Maitri
      It was kind of dissappointing to witness you support this.

    16. Maitri

      Tulika,
      I agree with most things he/she said. While I do think it isn’t right to generalize or assume how people think based on where they’re from, I think he/she meant it in that flippant way you call someone a ‘villager’ when they say regressive things. The reason being, comparatively,people in smaller towns and villages do tend to have regressive outlooks as vis a vis urban spaces. I say ‘comparatively’ and not ‘absolutely’.There are several reasons for it. Lack of Education infrastructure and opportunities, the fact that its more difficult to break out from close knit structures, ‘lok kya kahenge’ attitude etc., which you’ll find more prevalent amongst these societies. But besides that I think he/she was pretty much on track.

    17. Voice of reason

      @ Maitri – Thanks

      @ Tulika, i do not intend to discriminate villages and towns from the metros, I myself am from Shillong which is a small city in the northeastern part of the country. The arguments put forward by Mr Babar were so ridiculous that i did not have an option. Ofcourse there are a huge number of people who hail from small cities but have open minded thinking, my comments were not against them. But i would like to mention that in my opinion and personal experience i have found more open minded people in the Big Cities, compared to the tier 1 or tier 2 towns….

    18. Adi

      As you and that stupid article that you suggested says, its not demeaning to objectify men as women have been oppressed in past and men have not been oppressed. If that is what feminism is all about then that thing is useless.

    19. Maitri

      Adishi,
      I’m not denying that women have long been the oppressed gender. So have transgenders btw. The point in writing this article was:
      1) To try and put across the fact that sometimes, under the guise of what I call, misunderstood feminism, our views become too gender biased.
      2)To put into context this particular issue, which is regarding objectification in Bollywood. As a feminist who believes in equality of all sexes, I can’t just turn a blind eye to the objectification that males in our industry are subjected to while holding a banner for women.
      3)To sort of de-stigmatize the issue.As a people, we’ve become too touchy and at times make huge issues out of nothing much. Isn’t it time we move past this debate entirely? Wouldn’t that be more empowering to women? Why are we still talking about what they’re wearing and how their behavior is like and how that affects mankind? Want to wear a bikini and dance? Go ahead! Don’t want to? Power to you! I think it’s time we move beyond debating what I call an individual’s right to choose. Their clothes, their jobs, their whatever.

      I find the article you posted a little flawed. The way the dynamics of our society are changing, it’s more complicated than neatly calling it an object-subject relationship and ascribing gender roles to it. There are bits and pieces where the article seems like it’s on track but then it veers into a black/white zone.

  2. Monistaf

    It is truly refreshing to read an article on YKA that examines BOTH sides of the often debated issue of “objectification”. It is perceived differently by both genders and in most cases, women find it demeaning. The author is absolutely on the mark to call out the hypocrisy of feminists who are horrified by the objectification of women but have nothing to say about men being objectified, or conveniently assume that it should be acceptable because they apply different standards to both genders. If you have time and would like a better understanding of “objectification” and why we do it, please watch Karen Straughan at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-N9daqANcw.

    1. Maitri

      Thankyou 🙂

  3. Tulika

    I absolutely agree with what you say. This article needs to be painted across cinema halls for people to see, read and understand!

    1. Maitri

      🙂

  4. Damien Hanet

    I like the article. In every society the film industry objectifies men and women according to some beauty canons. Not only the film industry but the publicity is also very big in using precise beauty standards. I do not know about the effect of it all in India but I know that in Europe it does have some negative effect. Youth can find their image not up to the standards and it can cause eating disorders, depression, and other mental illness. ( I guess that it is more or less the same)

    It is very important to teach that life and beauty comes in every shape and size and that one should not only be judge by the physical aspect (yes only because we all judge the physical aspect since it is the first contact we have with someone) but also by his/hers personality, actions, etc.

    As for the man talking about the western world. We tend to let people dress as they wish. Of course no parent is happy with the outfit of their children (too short for girls and boys look like tramps). It is the role of the parent.
    No parents encourage their offspring in having multiple partners but it is part of life, under age/pre marital sex is as old as sex. You cannot prevent it, you can just educate: 1) when the time is right 2) a no is a no and you can always say no 3) protection, protection and more protection 4) you can always talk to me about it or talk to specialist.

    1. Maitri

      Absolutely agree. Thanks for going through the article 🙂

  5. Vikas Kumar

    Clothes are meant to cover you, isn’t it? Wearing exposing clothes defeats the whole purpose of wearing clothes. Clothes don’t mean anything to you, its to cover your body from others you wear them. Or if you feel uncomfortable, like when the weather is too hot or something, shorts and similar clothes are ok to wear. But when its freezing cold outside, why would you want to wear shorts, backless dresses, low neck dresses, etc.

    Why would you want to show half of your breasts, thighs, your naked back, the color, size and brand of your bra, panties to everyone on the street? Breasts are called private organs if you don’t know. Bra is an inner wear, which means you need to wear it inside. Not show it on the outside. If you want to expose your bra or your panties, why would you even wear the outside dress.

    Just go roam out in a bikini, or if you would like roam out naked. Why not? Why even wear that little piece of kerchief covering you? just go out naked. Whats stopping you doing that? You wear such clothes, to show others only isn’t it? Why else would you wear such dresses?

    You know men will stare at your cleavage, breasts, thighs, etc when you are showing it out publicly, don’t you? You know that’ll happen and you still wear such clothes. Why? I just don’t understand why you would like to wear such clothes? There’s no valid reason to wear such clothes, because we see so many woman wearing decent clothes. Why do you want to wear a backless dress? You wouldn’t see your own back right? So its not for you, why you are wearing it. Its for others to see you are wearing it right? Of course people then will see your naked back. As they see they get desirous to see even more.

    What makes you think that black skirt is pretty? You are showing half of your legs in that. You are almost naked in that, that ain’t pretty, that’s called sexy. Why would you want to wear sexy dress? To attract men towards you right?

    When you don’t like people smiling at your bra strap, why do you even show it to people? You wouldn’t want to see your own bra strap right? Its for others to see you are showing it out. Why why do you want to do that? You show it out, and then say he’s staring at my bra strap. When you don’t want men staring at it, just don’t show it. When you find something attractive, when something catches your eyes, you stare at it right? When you see a handsome man on a superbike, it catches your eyes and you do check him out right? What makes you think you have the right to check out guys, and we don’t have the same? You girls always talk of equality, and we don’t have the right to check you out when you’re showing it out is it? If you don’t want to be checked out, don’t show out!! Its so bitchy don’t you feel? How would you like a man wearing tight jeans, or wearing jeans showing his underwear, or half of his dick(penis). Would you like men roaming around with half of their erect dicks shown out?

    No I seriously don’t understand what is wrong with you girls these days. Those dresses aren’t pretty. They are sexy, they show out your sexual organs. They are meant to be shown to your sexual partner(husband), not people on the road. You know your cleavage shows when you wear a kurta, why would you even want to wear a dress that shows your cleavage? Its completely biological, that men get attracted when they see women in sexy clothes, that’s god’s creation. If you don’t want that, all men will become neutral, and there’ll be none left to fuck you and get you a kid. Understand? You expose, they get attracted, understand? As simple as that. If you don’t want that wear decent clothes.

    What would people talk about your parents, because of your views like this? Do you think your parents would like to see you roaming on the street, half naked? That will psychologically kill them. Do you think they like to see you cuddling your boyfriend in the middle of the street? Huh? What non-sense?

    Do you think your brother, or parents would like to see you go back home drunk, losing full control over yourself, with your bra strap showing and falling off, since you’ve lost control? Is this what you want to preach? Go half naked on the streets? smoke, drink, fuck your boyfriend, and go back home like you’re an innocent kid? No dad would like to see his daughter in her bra and panties, that too falling off , as you’ve lost control over your body.

    I thought, girls are at least more matured than animals. Animals have no brains, they don’t wear clothes, they don’t have the power to think. You having brains, should at least learn to protect your own body from others. Stop exposing your private stuff, we don’t want to see them too. I’ve seen women wearing high heels, and falling off as they are not comfortable. I’ve seen women wearing shorts and pulling them down, cause they feel uncomfortable. I’ve seen women wearing bras that only cover half of their breasts, and then later pulling them up. I’ve seen women wearing kurtas without dupatta and bending, later realising they’re showing their private stuff. You know private stuff shows up, still you wear such clothes. Don’t you have the least common sense to cover yourself ? I’ve seen women wearing tight clothes, feeling uncomfortable, and pulling the dress from all sides, to make air go in. Why would you want that? To show others only right?

    Don’t preach such non-sense culture in India. Please. There are many decent men in India.

    1. Maitri

      You’re an idiot.

    2. Damien Hanet

      I have been going out in Bandra, Worli/LP and Colaba for the last 6 months, I have never seen the boob/ass/private part/panties of a girl outside the privacy of my flat. I did see cleavage and nice legs outside the privacy of my flat.
      I did see bra straps… So? I don’t stare at bra straps, what is the point to stare at a bra strap?
      I do give a quick look at nice legs and cleavage but I do not discuss with them, I talk eye in eye because that is what a decent men does. He doesn’t stare, he doesn’t become an animal because he sees a bit of a thigh. Same goes for girl, except that men don’t have cleavage or go out with short shorts since it is not nice, there is a difference between the legs of men and women. But they do check out guys! Everybody checks out everybody.

      I do not think the author preaches girls and boys to get piss drunk, have drunk sex, smoke. No she is just saying that people who criticize the objectifying of a woman should also be offended by the objectifying of men…
      Plus a decent man will not take advantage of a girl that is drunk… You look after the girl, force them to drink water, a shower if it is possible, change of clothes if it is possible, a warm, protected and comfy place to sleep. You do not jump on her.

      About the cuddling bf/gf in the streets, I do not see the problem. Cuddling is not evil, it is not sexual, it is not provocative. I will pursue a little further little kisses are kinda cute. But i am not Indian so I guess my opinion doesn’t count.

      Come on sir, please don’t make sound like animals that can’t control themselves because they see a bit of a thigh and a cleavage. Don’t make girl sound like whores because they wear clothes that you find too short and/or too showy. They don’t ask you to look, if you can’t control yourself then you are the animal.

    3. Maitri

      Hi,
      I would have typed down this exactly. Thanks for doing it instead Damien.

    4. Templetwins

      Dressing ‘provocatively’… ‘provokes’ a reaction, hence the verb/adverb relationship! Dress scantly, increase odds of being looked at as an object of desire.

      I feel a woman who willfully sexualize herself is as much of an animal like a man who would cat-call a sexy woman. I don’t condone the touching/grabbing/catcalling. But your rights as a scantly clad woman stop where my eyes begin. I can look at you all I want, especially if you’re choosing to dress up in a manner that reveals your body in a sexualized way, I’m going to look at you sexually whether you like it or not. It’s within men’s nature to be visually attracted to women in such ways and it would appear women want men to deny their nature while women are allowed to embrace their own.

      You seems to claim the right of women to flaunt and dress provocatively while demanding immunity from others’ response to these choices. Women may have the right to dress however they like, but to claim exemption from others’ critiques of their intentional appearance is unwarranted and unrealistic.

      Besides that, I agree with what the author said, both men and women are objectified. We all are objects of desire one way or other.

    5. Damien Hanet

      But that is the problem Templetwins, they are not sexualising themselves. That is your vision of the thing. A woman with a dress that shows a bit of cleavage and a bit of thigh is not sexual. In the 18th century in Europe a woman’s ankle was utterly sexual. See how it changed?
      And no it doesn’t give you the right to look at the girl like an animal. You look at girls like a sexual object because you want to! Please refrain from generalising your opinions and point of view.
      She doesn’t dress for you, she dresses for herself!

    6. Suman

      Exactly i agree with damien…in the history of glamour there are 3 types of modelling ….and cleavage showing clothes,mini skirts and hot pants,etc modern day women’s clothes are inspired from designer garments of models.In the glamour industry pornography is sexualization but showing thighs or cleave is not its glamorization.Showing cleavage or thighs is not sexualization but glamorization and its a style and modern day trend which has an aesthetic beauty and that style is appreciable.So its perfectly allowable.Some old school people just need to understand that.

    7. Templetwins

      You claim that breasts aren’t sexual parts? I would probably agree with you if groping is as common as shaking hands. I had to put it crudely because your argument was absurd. If you touch a womans breast, it is considered as sexual harassment, hence breasts are sexual parts too. You say they aren’t sexualizing themselves, that’s your point of view but not an objective reality.

      Like I said a woman who is flaunting on the public is acting on her instincts to attract, and a person who cat-calls is acting on his instincts to show that he’s attracted/interested. It is two animals acting on their instincts by ignoring social civility. I have no sympathy for both of them but on the other hand I would look as much as I want for I am not invading anyone space and I consider it as a healthy expression of my sexuality and no, how you feel about it doesn’t really matter, for you(the scantly clad women) are sexually aggressive too.

    8. Damien Hanet

      Sir where do I say that breast are not sexual? A cleavage is not sexual, a cleavage is not the full breast. I said that showing a bit of cleavage and thigh is not something sexual. You translated that in saying that breast is not something sexual. Please refrain from putting words “in my mouth”.

      And no they are not sexualising themselves that is your idea. Same goes for your stare, you will judge when a woman is indecently dressed and your judgement will give you the right to stare like a goat. So basically you will stare like an animal when you feel like it.

    9. Templetwins

      A cleavage is not full breast hence it is not sexual? So half of my ball-sack is not sexual because it is not a full genitalia. Are you from the land of absurdom? So if i poke a finger in her cleavage it is not sexual harassment until I pinch her nipples? what do you have against goats? I’m gonna have to call peta! Yes if shes fine with indecent exposure and I am fine with staring. The feeling of discomfort, disgust that she feels are hers alone, the same feeling could be attributed to her attire too? Some onlooker could feel the same discomfort and disgust by her sexually suggestive attire.

    10. Voice of reason

      Vikas just one question,

      when was the last time you got yourself mentally checked, please do enlighten.

      and please it seems you are educated, do some justice to that. Education’s purpose needs to be enlightenment, not provide only a job!!!

    11. The Joker

      Oooooohhh….women become a part of the enlightened lot by hurling abuses …. and by being near-nude in public. The more thigh and cleavage you show, the more enlightened you are! 😀

    12. Green Lantern

      When women cannot defend their absurd theories in a rational manner, they taunt, and when someone writes a comment reeking of a holier-than-thou attitude, they are quick to say that they would have said the same thing.

      Never seen the ass of a woman in tight pants, Mr. Hanet, or for that matter panties revealed through low waist jeans, or women who show their enlightment by sitting with their legs open in miniskirts?

      Let alone judge, don’t even look at a woman but she can dress however she wants, not knowing that the only judgement men pass is feeling sorry for women who show skin, as a woman with a brain does not need to impress with her body, revealing their naked body and low self-esteem in the process.

    13. Damien Hanet

      Well no, I can see the form of it but I do no see it. I did see panties trough low waist jeans, short skirts, shorts. But like I have seen men’s boxers trough low waist jeans, shorts or even the form of their dicks trough tight jeans.
      I have rarely seen a girl wearing a skirt sitting down with her legs wide open, they usually cross them or have their hands/purse hide that part. But you seem to frequent a lot of these girls, it is strange that I do not. Probably the super hero charm!

      So women smart women don’t reveal their bodies? Weird, I met a lab director (pretty smart woman working on DNA) that always wore short tops and tight jeans… Very much a brilliant woman striving in a tough world.

    14. Babar

      Staying in denial mode is only going to work for so long. Breasts are sexual organs, and being topless is a crime all over the world for women. And since Indians think it is in their best interests to follow western culture, they should also know that skimpy clothing is banned in many places in western countries, including schools and colleges, being cited inappropriate. If girls are going to dress in an indecent inappropriate manner, then they should not complain if men look, a reaction that they would like us to believe is inadvertent. When men are out in public, shirtless, with a muscular, tones body, women also stare, but men don’t complain because they know that it is a natural reaction of their act, however, women stay in denial mode.

    15. Maitri

      The Joker,
      It’s so neat that ‘hurling abuses’ gets equated to being near nude ‘in public’. Living up to the moniker are we?

    16. Maitri

      Green Lantern,
      The reason I chose not to argue further with the er, gentleman was because it was beyond idiotic and I didn’t want to waste my time articulating what Damien very well did. Not because I’m not expressive (Wouldn’t have written the article otherwise) or I’m some sort of a damsel in distress.
      But don’t feel left out. Your opinion is pretty idiotic as well o Superhero. I’m not going to explain why because again, Damien has done a good job of it. Please understand the difference between obvious logic and ‘holier than thou attitude’. If you genuinely believe that a girl dressing in a ‘sexual’ manner gives you the right to pass judgement on her then it’s you who needs a reality check. Hiding under an anonymous garb (insecutrity issues much?) and spouting rubbish. Ironically superhero-like.

    17. Green Lantern

      Getting personal once again, eh? Can’t defend your absurd theories in a rational manner?

    18. Maitri

      Green Lantern,
      Everything I’ve said so far is pretty rational.
      When people find that their views aren’t logical they often go on the defensive and instead of admitting that their logic is flawed they’ll blame the other person for ‘being personal’. Like I said, I don’t even know who you are. To me, you’re some random person on the internet. I’m not hiding under the cloak of anonymity, you are. Even if I want to, I can’t get personal considering I know nothing about you except what you typed down here and which is pretty idiotic. It’s not personal at all. It’s plain logic.

    19. Green Lantern

      Once again, you have done nothing except tell us that when you are given a crushing response to your flawed and absurd theories, instead of defending yourself, you label what others have written idiotic.

      I didn’t know advocating wearing clothes in public would earn the title of an idiot. Nevertheless, would you wear “whatever you want” in front of your father/brothers? Also, parotting “don’t judge me” is not going to help you. You can’t stop people from thinking. Finally, being naked in public is not being progressive.

    20. Maitri

      What crushing response?
      You mean the defensive you’ve been going on ever since we were having this argument?
      Listen, I can’t make you see it logically if you refuse to. How a woman or a man chooses to dress up is their own business. People are smart enough to be able to discern what they want to wear and where. And no, if a woman(or a man) wears something that outrages your flawed sense of morality or your uncontrollable hormones then it’s not her/his problem. It’s yours.
      Do you happen to have women friends? i suggest you open up this conversation with them and see what they have to say.
      And if your next response is another defensive or along the lines of, ‘all the girls I know are morally sound and covered’ then we’re done. Btw, even if a woman is covered from head to toe, there’s no guarantee that she won’t be eyed, so you see, clothes along isn’t the issue.It’s the way you view women basically.
      All the best in life, going around with this thought process.

    21. Anonymous

      In that case can you please enlighten us on the rape and sexual assault on women in the arab countries where they are mostly covered up head to toe? And no girl will object to a guy looking at her face or her hair coz dey think it looks good and that is the way a girl check out a guy. If a girl shouts out it is becoz of inappropriate touch at the least. And even I would think that men are better than animals who ask for the female’s consent before trying to be intimate.

  6. Rohit Kapoor

    Entire Bollywood remains quite on other Issues regarding Women’s Issues in India. They all have ganged up when a media house showcased a Bollywood Celeb’s cleavage in a wrong manner… this is “selective” outrage and even some media houses are stooping so low in our country 🙁

  7. Natesh

    Your point of it being a art form is well taken. consider this, Lavani Folkdance belongs to Maharashtra .Lavani comes from the word ‘Lavanya’ meaning beauty. The gyrations, expressions and the erotic innuendos are all centred on one thing-attracting male attention. In fact , the classic Marathi song ‘ Moongra…Moongra..’ is Lavani. Or Consider Geishas of Japan. ‘Womanly cham’ .It is considered an art .And a very difficult art at that.
    I happened to see Rihanna’s video ‘Unfaithful’ song. There she is skimpily dressed ,her bosoms are almost exposed and her lipstick is heavily exaggerated. But . how she carries it off – with heels and expression-simply stylish. I did not see her ‘objectified’ at all. Style is a very important factor here in this discussion ,much more than we realize it. ; but Style is very cultural and regional-subjective. consider the american band ‘Pussycat Dolls’ . In india, they are apparently seen as
    classy while in the US, they might be probably seen as a bunch of horny girls who just want to have “it” .
    Bottom line : sensuality is long seen as an art form ,from Khajurao days and there is no denying that or even before that-Yin and Yan.
    The problem specifically here is, rather than seeing it as complementary ,femininity is seen inferior and this is worldwide. A bunch of blondes swooning over the almost naked body of John Ibrahim is seen as ‘macho’ and bespeaks John’s sexual prowess.(that he is ‘man-enough’ to attract a bunch of girls). He is a role model . On the other hand, an ‘item girl’ only purpose in life seems to offer herself to the services of men and satisfy the men ,rather than herself. No brother would like to see her sister or mother in that role. Would you ?I would not ! Hence, There is no level playing field.
    Secondly, I am not going even near saying this is moral and that is not – according to Taliban , women using internet or any form of ’empowerment’ is sure to bring chaos in the social hierarchy and supposedly against religious teachings and therefore immoral. Morality is very subjective.

    I have seen many people get irked when someone questions the entertainment industry for systemic and societal problems. I respect Priyanka Chopra because I feel she carries herself with elan . But, even she’s of the view that questioning ‘item numbers’ is only a way to distract from the main issue. The thing is Bollywood is more central to Indian culture than we realize it. In other countries, there are carnivals ,theatres and city events ,etc at the centrestage of culture along with cinema. In India,Bollywood holds centrestage (and cricket to some extent). It reinforces the stereotypes. And in this fast moving life, we have our own share of problems,exams,job,relationships and movies and songs is people’s way for collective escapism (and that’s okay smile emoticon ) .No one wants to question it and feel guilty in partaking in objectification of a gender. But, that does not change reality.

    1. Natesh

      To make things even clearer. Consider the lyrics of the latest pop song by Paaji who calls himself ”Badshaah’ … DJwale “babu” mera gana chalado …??!!., It suggests and assumes a priori, that femininity is “inferior” to masculinity.
      Another classic example of implicit assumption that masculinity is superior to femininity : a woman wearing pants is considered “bold” whereas a guy wearing make-up is just ‘gross’! And I am sure most of the young-blood males would love to be in so- called male item-songs, showing their torso and having European blondes all over them . Like I said,that’s considered “bold” behaviour. A girl even hoping to fantasize that ,is branded “slut” !
      Recently, the video of a lesbian ad went viral on youtube. The ad was artistically directed. It did not generate as much criticism as the gay version of it would probably have (I assume, I may be wrong! ) because seeing two gals ‘together ‘ is a turn-on and entertainment for at least a few men,for sure ! While seeing two guys together is gross,for most men! A lot of what is portrayed in media as entertainment caters to men and help them fantasize their fantasies. Women’s enjoyment is only incidental. Think about it. ( Ranveer’s six packs or chikni chameli enticing with the liquor)
      Moreover u say,” I’m mature enough to see it for what it is – entertainment for entertainment’s sake.”
      It is not about you or me or even the choreographer of the item song.
      It’s about the audience. India, having dramatic economic disparity , and not everyone is in a position to understand entertainment for its sake and eventually get their stereotypes enforced ‘ Men are placed higher than women -this is the natural order.’

      This is not to say that the discrimination against women is happening because of “item songs” or raunchy lyrics. The problem is systemic and Bollywood sits at a crucial place in the System. “The only thing they owe to the audience is sincerity and loyalty while making the film.” Sorry mam, they owe sincerity to themselves and have social responsibility for the audience! Otherwise ,don’t screen the film for a general audience.

      P.S Arguments apart, I must admit it was interesting to read your post and you gave your arguments well !

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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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