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So What Do You Gain From Being A Feminist?

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By Arjun Raj:

ecff04a50999b87886ed9251dd990f74Every time I have a heated debate with a self-proclaimed male chauvinist friend of mine about feminism, equality and gender roles, I think to myself, why do I care? I could say it’s because I am the son of a working woman, who raised me to believe what I have between my legs isn’t going to give me any special privileges at home. Or because I’m the brother of an ambitious woman who is a daughter, sister, wife, daughter-in-law, and friend, all at the same time without conforming to typical gender roles. Or maybe because I’m just that awesome! But am I?

Having a pretty good understanding of myself (though whatever I said above, except maybe the ‘me being awesome’ part, might have influenced my way of thinking in a bigger way than I could’ve imagined,) I’m aware that the reason is selfish. I put myself first. It’s me and then everything and everyone else. I’m the centre of the universe (which, by the way, I recently learned, is a scientifically accurate thing to say. With the universe being infinite and ever expanding, everything is a centre in its own right. But that’s something for another article. Arjun, focus!).

So what do I gain from being a feminist? I’m a man, not a woman. The lack of equality might be an advantage for me. I’m gay; I don’t desire women. So the lack of equality doesn’t affect my sex or love life either. Even if I see gender as a spectrum, just like sexuality, which I strongly believe it is, I identify myself as predominantly male. So what is it exactly that upsets me to the core when I see an oppressed opposite sex?

Let’s explore the possibilities, shall we?

Empathy from one oppressed individual to other oppressed beings

Although, in some cases, the gay male community could be the oppressor to the former, let’s just say all the gay men are angelic little snowflakes. And although there are a lot of women who hate gay people, let’s say all women are angelic little snowflakes too. Which leaves one empowered, dominant and substantial group of humans – straight men! The ones who controlled and still control the world; making laws and taking decisions for the rest of us. So maybe it’s the hatred buried, deep, deep, deep in my soul that makes me a feminist. But as a lot of feminists would say when they are called man-hating ‘feminazi’ in Facebook comments, feminism isn’t about hating (straight) men. It’s about equality. So no, empathy isn’t the reason. Well at least, not the main reason. I can be sure because I have a dangerously low EQ. I have no empathy!

Feminism invalidates gender roles

This is a big one. If we go by the typical gender roles, as a man, my role is to be the ‘superior’ sex. I’m the ‘Protector Of The Weaker Sex’, ‘The Provider Of The Bread’, ‘The Lord Of Hiding The Emotions’, ‘The Opener Of Closed Doors’ and the ‘King of… well, almost everything. Also, I have to stick my ‘pee-pee’ into a ‘vajajay’ for procreational purposes. None of which really makes me not want to throw up. Now let’s forget ME for a second. Every man, who falls too far left of the Elton John-Chuck Norris scale of sexuality, which I just invented, hates to live up to these standards.

No, we don’t want to be a protector. We don’t want to hide our emotions because we have a dick (I might be a robot who is dead inside, but I wouldn’t want to be judged if, in case, one day, someday, I decide to let it all out). We don’t want to be the only source of income in the family. And although some might have a different take on this, most of us don’t bother opening doors or holding the elevator door for women, because honestly, we don’t give a fuck about chivalry. So in a way, the lack of gender roles is more beneficial for men, both gay, straight, and bi, than women. It takes a lot off of our shoulders.

They ‘get’ me

Stereotypically speaking, women, especially straight women, and gay men are born BFFs. And it’s a stereotype for a reason. A lot of the time, we understand each other, without the burden of same gender problems. We stick together as a team to oppose the monstrosity of watching a cricket match on a Saturday night! But that’s just my straight female friends and me. Yes, we are a stereotype.

So all of these combined could somehow explain my feminism. But as an egalitarian, I know it all comes down to individuality and that gender or sex or sexuality shouldn’t be a barrier for standing up for justice and equality, which invalidates this whole article. But that’s okay; that’s how it should be!

This article was originally published on Huffington post

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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