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In Pictures: How Students At Harvard University Are Raising Their Voice For Women’s Rights In India

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By Dhruv Arora:

“19th century called, they want their attitudes back” reads one of the signs held up by one of the students belonging to Harvard University, Cambridge.

Their campaign, #embodyindia, aims at destroying the very stereotypes that reinforce the structures responsible for gender-based violence. Disha, one of the students behind the campaign, told us “As students from India, we feel extremely strongly about women’s rights back home.” The campaign page on tumblr also published a powerful letter talking about the entire Deepika Padukone — TOI debacle, connecting it back to the larger debate around the problems surrounding women’s safety in India.

An excerpt from the article reads:

“To walk down the street in India as a woman is to understand the complexity, discomfort surrounding feminism and women’s rights in India. Whatever one wears, however unengaged and stoic one may be, the very presence of a women in a public, likely male-dominated space, ‘invites’ attention. Those that might show a shoulder or a midriff? Well, they’re obviously ‘asking for’ the leers, the whistles and the lip-smacking.”

The idea behind the campaign is to come up with strong and bold messages that the students come up with themselves, based on the things that bother them. “It bothers us that we are at Harvard and can’t always make an impact on the ground”, they said. “I think the fact that the Indian community at Harvard can mobilize to send across this message is a powerful thing”.

We asked the people behind the campaign what they hoped to do with the campaign. “We want to undertake the daunting task of changing how people think”, they told us. “Yes, we need better laws. Yes, we need better security. Those would be effective, but they don’t change the roots of the problem- and that is how people think about a woman in relation to her body. It’s the very basic premise of a woman’s ownership of herself that we need to accept.”

Violence against women is a global issue, be it India or the United States. This is why the group strongly believes that the region divide does not hamper the idea behind the campaign in any way. “The manifestation varies, but it’s a challenge everyone needs to address”. The campaign is no longer limited to the Indian community at Harvard either, “Even on campus, this movement is growing beyond just Indians, if you look at our second set of photos. It strikes a chord with people from across the globe. As one of our signs said, ‘different symptoms, global disease’”. The faculty at Harvard has shown great support for the campaign as well, and one of the images even features the Dean of the college holding up a sign that reads “Women’s Rights are Human Rights”.

Although there has been an overwhelmingly positive response to the campaign from across the world, there are still a few comments that reinforce the problems that the campaign is trying to fight. When asked about why the image above was reuploaded after the image on the left had already been posted, Disha replied, “The second image is a response. People, and the media, have paid our campaign a lot of attention, and the portrayal of our message has been extremely positive. But then you read the comments sometimes, and the focus is ironically just what we’re protesting against- our attire. Our campaign wants people to look at our message, not our clothes, and the second image addresses that some people still don’t do that”.

Does the campaign inspire you? You can be a part of it. Take a photo with your own message, share it with #embodyindia, and contribute to the conversation!

To know more about what I think of this story, follow me on twitter at @thedhruvarora

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  1. Babar

    Women can look absolutely gorgeous in a beautiful shalwar kameez, but you must wear ‘whatever you want’, in other words, miniskirts, short shorts, backless dresses, tight jeans, low neck tops, spandex pants, etc. Men only have to bother with shirts and trousers but there are innumerable clothes, designs, colours, accessories, etc, for women, and women’s fashion is always changing – ever wondered why? It is a marketing gimmick – to sell. Fashion, beauty, and diet industries thrive on women’s constant urge to shop – hence the term shopaholic. Furthermore, women have to have an abundance of clothes, a dozen sandals, manicures, pedicures, constant visits to hair saloons, gyms, spa, dieting, anorexia, and it has even reached a point of cosmetic surgery for girls who are absolutely in no need of it – spending billions in the process and falling prey to feminist theories. Women today are so used to visual images of scantily dressed women that they don’t even feel it anymore. Of course, you can sell women anything, from lies about liberation to Torches of Freedom, and they will buy it. Women have been told by feminists, repeatedly, that by dressing sexy, they will be seen as progressive, intellectual, and liberated, and these notions are repeatedly emphasized in blogs, movies, music videos, magazines, and advertisements.

    1. Taniya

      Babar understand this.
      It is not working outside or inside the house which bothers girls. It is the importance n respect given to her job. A girl can work outside by begging-it is working outside but she wont do it cuz it is not given any moral respect.

    2. Babar

      I don’t see feminists giving much respect to homemakers. And please tell us why women have sex with their bosses to climb the ladder in the corporate world.

    3. srishti

      Babar, I don’t know how exactly you concluded your responses, may be its a result of having a certain type of mindset for years. I don’t think that can be changed. Why did you watch this post, if you were so confident that women are the masterminds behind the leering and sneering and indirectly implying that molestation happens because they somehow instigate it.

      Simple question- If your sister/friend/mother/cousin/girlfriend gets molested- would you ask her, “so, what exactly did you do to make the guy want to lay his hands on you”? would that be your response?
      I am curious.

    4. Babar

      What do my comments even have remotely to do with molestation?

    5. the fact

      yes, i ll ask ,and if my sister or any of my family is not following the norms i have set , i m not responsible n i ll not help her if she gets molested n yes, if she is of good character , she has no bfs n she wears decent clothes i ll not care my life in order to protect her ….n don’t come up with ur feminist sermons…..i m prudent enough to develop my own thought , don’t try to preach me…..

    6. Prachi Sharma

      I just wonder how a man who have no respect for woman rights end up reading all the women supporting article and replying with the same nonsensical ideas all the time. Either you are too engrossed in your own mind that you don’t realize that your same stupid mentality about every idea related to women revolves around their clothes and working women or you just don’t have anything else to do. anyways overtime you have succeeded in becoming a hilarious read for me and making my belief stronger that we cant succeed completely without the help of good psychiatrists.

    7. Babar

      A feminist indulging in personal attacks when she has nothing intellectual to say. Shows their inadequacy.

  2. Babar

    One message reads “respect my mind.” I personally have a lot of respect for women’s minds who actually choose to impress with intellect rather than their bodies. I have even more respect for women who, through their education, are choosing to be homemakers to be able to give their children time and educate them to become civilized and cultured human beings, and of course, help them with their academic education. Women today who work outside the home are too tired to educated their children, have no time, and at best, hire tutors for them, making me wonder if their education is only to compete with men in the workforce and earn money. The problem is, feminists want you to work outside the home in order to be seen as normal, progressive, intelligent human beings. The moment you choose to be a homemaker, to enjoy the security and comfort of your home, to play with your children, there is something wrong with you. You are labelled ‘regressive’ and ‘oppressed.’ It doesn’t matter if your choice to work inside or outside the home is taken away from you through systematic brainwashing, it doesn’t matter if you have to
    leave your children with in-laws, babysitters, domestic help, or in daycare centers, you must work full-time outside the home to be seen as worthy.

    1. akshita prasad

      well, i am assuming when u said that “women have sex with their bosses, to climb the ladder” you did consider that the “GUY” is also using her and promoting her “JUST” for sexual pleasure. So is that professional ,now? Isn’t he also a jerk? And how many cases have you heard of women sleeping with their bosses?

    2. Babar

      Beating around the bush when stumped. This is not about sexual pleasure, it is about trying to get a promotion using lewd tactics since women cannot compete fairly with men. It shows women’s inadequacy.

    3. Fem

      You haven’t replied to Akshita’s question Babar.

      (1) If women are sleeping with bosses, we can safely assume they are largely male bosses, how about the other half? There is a man into this too who is ready to distribute promotion based on sex. Is ‘that’ professional? So how about pointing fingers at both, if you do want to point at one.

      (2) How many cases have your heard of promotion based on sex? How are you sure that most women who are getting promotion are sleeping with bosses. I have never come across any in my life. I have several promotions to my credit without sleeping with anyone. So what is the base behind your logic? Was there any fact finding survey done? Or a private investigation?

      Your not answering the questions she raised is ‘beating around the bush when stumped’. So do you want to stop beating it?

      Very easy to be vindictive. Difficult to hold your own when asked to support your claim. So you resort to abuse and strong language.

  3. akshita prasad

    @the fact,
    They don’t need you to protect them, they need you to support them.
    and what’s wrong with having a boyfriend? What’s wrong in being in a relationship with another human being?
    And why should they follow the norms you have set? Why can’t they make their own rules?
    What are decent clothes? I think a bikini is decent.

    You don’t set rules for your brothers or son’s, but when it comes to your daughter’s, sister’s and wife’s it’s always their fault.

  4. Prachi Sharma

    Sorry i forgot to mention my comment was for Mr. Babar.

  5. Sanjana Ahuja

    This was a wonderful initiative by the students at Harvard and a great article! Spreading awareness is the first step towards rectifying a problem and I believe such initiative will jolt a lot of people into changing their archaic mindsets.

  6. ItsJustMe

    A country which has 6 times the rape rate of India advising Indians to respect the girls
    The irony is that shit heads in YKA took out the time to post these pictures and they are not that good either. A little bit of effort would have been great.
    India – 4 rapes per 100000
    USA – 30 rapes per 100000
    So reading the statistics and the article and concluding the more you respect women the more you rape them

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