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Feminist Kaun: Have The Different Kinds Of ‘Feminisms’ Really Helped The Movement?

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By Pallavi Ghosh:

What is feminism? With the ever widening scope of the discourse around gender equality including transgender as well as LGBT rights, there is no one answer to who is a feminist or what being a feminist is. Multiple timelines exist interacting and affecting each other actively.

feminism1

The development of feminist politics has been subject to, like all movements, its own successes and failures. The persistence of gender inequality globally and the varied forms it takes in specific locales has naturally resulted in a kind of double-existence – one that unites all the different forms into a global struggle to achieve equal gender rights for men and women; and the other that claims its unique identity as against the essentialist tendencies of a universal or global definition of women, their needs and struggles.

Feminism, as a movement, was the child of the 1950s and originated in the UK and US. It began focusing on egalitarian ideas of demanding equal rights for men and women. The notion of difference, as against the all-are-born-equal view of the first wave feminists, gained an early expression in the second wave in the early 1960s. This phase also marked the onset of intersectionality (the term coined by American professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, was used to describe women’s oppression as differing in intensity and nature according to the inter-related factors of class, race, gender, ability, ethnicity and caste) debates since it reacted to criticisms against feminism being limited to the upper class, white women in UK and US through inclusionary politics. Therefore different experiences amongst women on the basis of race and class began to feature more. However, it was with the third wave beginning from the 1990s that brought the idea of difference to the centre-stage of feminist discourses.

Following contemporary developments, the experience of feminism in India has also been variegated. Existence of multiple indices in identity politics like caste, class, region and language, along with their complex over-lapping, have complicated the gender discourse. This complex of intersectionality gets reflected through everyday incidents. Rape and sexual harassment of Dalits in the country, discrimination against and harassment of north-eastern women in the northern region; or the sexual exploitation of domestic help or labourers, are all indicative of the factors affecting the power dynamics between men and women. In other words, feminism cannot possibly think of dis-engaging itself from caste, class, regional and linguistic politics.

Naturally then the feminist campaigns so far have been equally diverse. To speak of a few here – The Gulabi Gang’s approach was to literally arm oneself against, and teaching through the stick method, towards patriarchal husbands. On the other hand, the Bell Bajao campaign strode its way to success keeping men as comrades in a common battle. More recently, the pad protest campaigns initiated by students from multiple universities focusing on breaking the stigma about menstruation – a natural/biological fact of women’s bodies. While the earlier Must Bol Campaign aimed at including and engaging men in debates about gender violence as active agents of change as well as victims of violence.

Each campaign and movement relates to and practices a particular brand of feminism. To deny the diversity is to deny the different levels of development and successes that feminism has achieved so far. To think that diversity dilutes or confuses feminist politics is to echo a similar scepticism that British colonialists had of a democratic India – that it will descend to chaos because of its diversity. Well the Indian democracy is very much alive and still creating histories; and so is feminism. Or should we say feminisms?

You must be to comment.
  1. B

    All the faces of feminism reek of hypocrisy and double standards. Please explain to me why women on women violence is not covered by feminists, why a committing suicide in India every 6 minutes is not screaming headlines, why women are released in hostage situations before men, why are lifeboats reserved for women, why do men have to leave seats for women, why it is men who have to pay alimony, why women receive lighter sentences for the same crimes committed by men, why dowry is a woman’s issue despite more harassment from wives, why men have to pay child support, why child custody is always given to women, why 95% of work related deaths are of men, why most homeless are men, why verbal and psychological abuse from wives is not included in domestic violence statistics, why quotas are in place for women in companies and parliament, why seats are reserved for women in buses and metros, why news channels announce ‘women’ and children, why men have to earn for women but not the other way around, why most dangerous jobs are worked by men, why media only focuses on women’s issues, why the lynching of an innocent man falsely accused of rape in Nagaland was not news, even though it was as horrendous as Nirbhaya, if not more.

  2. B

    What feminists are trying to spread is rape hysteria, which is why YKA deletes my comment everytime I post this video.

    https://youtu.be/KdGUPTub-L0

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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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