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How Everyday Sexism Defeats The Larger Fight For Gender Equality

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By Suchetana Sinha

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While men and women around the world are struggling every day towards equal rights, there are sections of the society working hard to make them fail. There are times when you and I, who claim to understand the core concept behind feminism, also become a part of this nonsense, unintentionally of course. We are victorious when it comes to living room debates on feminism, but fail to eliminate sexism completely out of our lives, and that is where we lose. This is more than “women should not stay outside till late”, “women belong in the kitchen”, “it does not suit you, you’re a girl!” and so on. These remarks establish very well that a lot of work has to be put in, but what about those mentalities that are certain about their positive take on equality but continue to practice sexism unknowingly?

The minute you say “Hey! You were really funny, for a girl!”, you lose the battle against inequality. The idea was to compliment her sense of humour, but the added on clause regarding gender will only prove one’s inclination towards discrimination. It is so because we have grown up in a society where cinema has shown men in comic roles more than women. Because it is so ‘important’ for him to make her laugh. Because we are not able to give up the idea of hasee toh phasee (if she finds you funny, she’s hooked). Or simply because women still prioritize humour to be a prime quality her partner must have. Or maybe none of the above and the root cause is something totally different, but it is time that we, the liberal forward thinkers pin point the gaps that lies within. Any further ignorance would only cripple the efforts devoted in the hope of a free society.

You and I share the same ideologies when it comes to equal wages for both the sexes, equal opportunities and the right to wear whatever one pleases. But the moment both the sexes associate their female colleague’s success with an intimate relationship she may or may not have with her superior, the fight rewinds itself back to where it began. The corporate attitude incorporated within us admires a woman dressed in western attire but calls an ethnic dresser behenji. Is power, excellence and confidence a copyright under a pair of trousers and not patialas? Or are we that naïve to accept what empowers one person may not empower another? Somehow in the middle of all the anarchy, we forgot that different people attain strengths from different things, and it is not our place to tell them which one is it. Probably we were too busy spreading the good word for western styling that the real objective camouflaged; choice.

It is great that the world has openly started talking about the age old myth of men not crying and opposing the remark “don’t cry like a girl”. In fact some of us are so brave that they have taken the phrase “don’t run like a girl” under consideration too. Once skillfully trained by the ‘wise’ men and women in our adolescence towards accepting and preaching gender roles, finally being able to break the shackles of stereotype is indeed a great achievement. But in the midst of all the pride, there is one question seeking our attention – are we there yet? Are we ready to give up the usage of “have some balls” or “don’t be a pussy” while pep talking our friends? Are we chivalrous enough to say it loud that not only men but women too are entitled to chivalry?

Yes, it is a long journey, sinuous paths and bumpy roads. But if we fail to overcome sexism, be it of any form, then one day in the very near future, white flags shall be raised as we kneel down in front of patriarchy, inequality, female infanticide, crime against women all together.

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  1. Batman

    Women talk about equality in only those scenarios where it benefits them, while trying to benefit from the privileges that society, law, family, and people in general shower on them. Here are 25 reasons why there is no such thing as gender equality.

    1. Seats are reserved for women on buses.
    2. Women are rescued first from wrecked ships.
    3. The media only focuses on women’s issues for ratings.
    5. World’s most dangerous jobs are worked by men, safest by women.
    4. News channels announce deaths of ‘women’ and children.
    6. Juries discriminate against men in domestic violence disputes.
    7. Women have special quotas in the political scenario and corporate world.
    8. Women receive lighter sentences for the same crimes committed by men.
    9. Child custody is given to women is divorce courts, in the majority of cases.
    10. Men have to earn for women, but women are not under any obligation to earn for men.
    11. Domestic violence and dowry are seen as women’s issues, while men are the prime victims.
    12. Men are forced to pay alimony to women. Women don’t give alimony to men.
    13. Men are used as ATMs. Women always marry men who are richer, earn more, ‘well-settled’.
    14. Men die on jobs daily. 97% of work related deaths are of men.
    15. Draconian laws where women land men in jail through fake cases of rape, dowry, domestic violence
    16. Men must get down on their knees and propose.
    17. Separate compartment and reserved seats for women in metros.
    18. Women are released first in hostage situations.
    19. Most teachers hired in schools are women.
    20. Men have to pay child support, not women.
    21. Women rescued first from burning buildings.
    22. Men are expected to buy flowers, chocolates, rings, gifts on Valentine’s day.
    23. Lifeboats are reserved for women.
    24. All the awareness and funding for breast cancer. Little for prostate cancer.
    25. Men make up the majority of war casualties, homeless, jobless, suicides.

  2. Hulk

    Everything you see around you in human civilisation was invented, built and put there by a man. EVERYTHING. If women want to vilify the patriarchy paradigm then they must REJECT all things provided by men. They can’t extract resources by victimhood status at the hands of the patriarchy and simultaneously reap all benefits.

    If civilisation was left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts – Camille Paglia

  3. Tanvi Lall

    Hi @Hulk(the symbol for your chivalric male identity)

    Something from that EVERYTHING in human civilisation was built by women,and one of that was you! And when it comes to REJECTING, your mother should have vilely rejected your father’s sperm and would have saved the civilisation.

  4. Truth

    Tanvi’s comment does not add any value to the discussion, and is a needless taunt, typical of the modern Indian woman who feels entitled to everything because of her gender. Her comment drips with misandry. She even has a problem with his symbol. Unbelievable.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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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.

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