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Why Do We Obsess Over The Lipstick Shade Worn By A Celebrity?

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By Amna Kapur:

Actress Aishwarya Rai arrives for the screening of the film "Mal de pierres" (From the Land of the Moon) in competition at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes
REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Are we more than what we look like? While the answer may be a definite yes for someone like me or you, those in the limelight may beg to differ. Celebrities are constantly judged for what and who they are wearing even more so, one could say, than what they do. A fashion faux-pas is a debacle and repeating an outfit is of the same likes as a criminal act. Now, award shows and festivals have become a battleground for reporters and critics to sit on the sidelines and cheer or jeer at. At the recent Cannes Film Festival, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan tried her hand at a something ‘different’ and received no end of criticism for it.

Celebrities are persistently under scrutiny by the media for their clothing and make-up choices. Bachchan, 42, wore a purple lipstick to the Cannes Film Festival 2016, only to get an outbreak of hate from social media users as well as the media. Though she had attended to promote her upcoming movie Sarabjit, there was no mention of the same with reporters failing to look past her dress and ‘bold’ lip statement. The twitterati took to Rai’s case. “Aishwarya’s lips all over. But can’t blame the trolls. Looks like she ate a lot of Jaamuns before going to the red carpet,” a user said. Another asked, “Did Aishwarya kiss a smurf this time before she walked the red carpet at Cannes?” All this rage simply because of a lipstick colour here was unprecedented. I do agree that it is understandable to discuss fashion choices but for the first thing to show up when searching Aishwarya Rai on Google to be her ‘fashion faux-pas’ is quite pathetic.

What is even more saddening than the constant judging of ‘looks and dresses’ is the calibre of questions asked at red carpets. Reporters seemingly believe that women can answer questions no more challenging than “who are you wearing” and “what is it”. While it is true that a lot celebrities put in effort to stun at carpets and that putting in such effort deserves a few minutes of discussion, it is equally important to talk about the celebrities and their work. Everyone cares to an extent what they look like, but there is more to a person than just the surface. Little girls and boys around the world will not be inspired to do something great by hearing their role model talk about what designer they’re wearing. What will make a difference is sharing opinions and views on current events, giving advice, and talking about change. Questions geared towards women tend to be narrow and sexist and we see evidence of this with Amy Poehler’s #SmartGirlsAsk having to be especially orchestrated.

Smart Girls is a campaign started by Parks and Recreation star Amy Poehler to encourage media reporters to ask more meaningful questions to celebrities on the red carpet. The organisation has teamed up with Twitter and the television academy to let Twitter users ask thought-provoking and stimulating questions that go beyond designer credits. The program was put into action at the Emmys this year and was a huge success.

Then why is it that reporters stick to entirely un-intellectual interviews especially with female celebrities? Perhaps because some are sexist and do not believe women are capable of more. Or maybe it’s because it is simply less time-consuming than to think of more interesting questions and the answer is straightforward. Or it is possibly because this is what viewers and readers want to know about. Trolling celebrities is a favoured past-time of a majority of Internet users who prefer scandalous comments made by an eminent personality to knowing about what advice they would give. Either way, it is evident something needs to be done and it is heartening to see celebrities like Amy Poehler take this initiative into their own hands and using their influence for good.

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  1. Puja

    Unfortunately award shows have become a fashion bazaar. If you notice the list of attendees to Cannes, the ones that get the most coverage are people who have contributed nothing to cinema. What have Bella Hadid or Gigi Hadid or Kendall Jenner or Kim Kardashian contributed to cinema? Or even Amal Clooney? Or even our own Sonam Kapoor. Why were they even at Cannes? The only thing that shows up anywhere these days is money power. The money power of big fashion and beauty companies. So when viewers or media focus on these things, I don’t think it’s entirely wrong. When you create a circus, that’s what people will focus on. The organizers of these events need to take a hard look at who’s invited and how they get center stage if they want to be taken seriously.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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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