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Isn’t It Time We Stopped Being So Darn Judgmental About Everything?

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By Sakshi Srivastava:

Judgment: the ability to form opinions and decisions with some laid out facts.

I once saw this really nervous looking young woman at a Crossword bookshop. She was standing in the romance section and staring longingly at a Mills & Boon book. While doing so, she kept darting hurried glances around her as if she was committing a theft. As soon as her eyes met mine, she hastily kept the book back and moved on to the Fiction Section. She picked up a book and started flipping through the pages. I observed her till she was in the book shop, an action I later realised was incredibly creepy and rude. She flipped through a dozen books of different genres disinterestedly, yet her eyes kept going back to the romance section. After some time, she left the store with a copy of a random murder mystery while her interest sat silently in the aisle at the store.

This incident made me very much aware that how far we are affected and controlled by judgments people make about us.

‘Never judge a book by its cover.’ – a saying we have heard so many times. Ironically, it’s exactly what we do. All of us, at multiple times in a day, are subjected to either making judgments or being judged. From cradle to grave, this process continues. Judgments can be broadly divided into bad and innocuous. Like constructive and destructive criticism. While good judgments help other people, bad ones only hurt them. Like stopping your friend from investing her affections in a wrong source that will most definitely end up hurting her is a good judgment on your part. But, criticising her when she is actually happy and mocking her might not be.

You are judged for each and everything you do. The clothes you wear, the food you eat, your social circle, the books you read, the company you keep and the list is endless. While some of these things might be trivial, some aren’t. Like sexual preferences, occupation, love interests and several other life choices.

When we see a girl coming late at night a little tipsy and one who has had several relationships we say ‘what a whore’; when a person doesn’t talk much, he is ‘shy’; when a girl gets raped it is ‘her fault’; when a man cries, he is ‘unmanly’; if a person is single, he is ‘available’; an attractive person has to be confident; if a person chooses to remain quite during an argument means he is wrong; if a young man works, he must be in want of money; if a person is vegan, it must be something to do with religion; if a person lies, means he is a cheater; if a person is jobless at 28, he must be uneducated or undeserving. The labels are unending.

What exactly triggers judgments isn’t hard to know. But, only if you are completely honest with yourself. We are necessarily wired for hard survival. Defence is our natural mechanism. Judging people comes from that. When we look at something or hear about it, we make a certain image based on what is visible. Kind of like a first impression, like if we go to pet a dog, and it bites us, we call it a bad dog, but what we might not know is that the previous owner used to beat him?

Everyone judges at all times, so saying I haven’t, would be grossly hypocritical. I am not proud of it, at all. But, remaining on the receiving end of it for most of my life has given me a wider perspective of things. We can’t stop it but we can control it, limit it. What is important is that we need to stop painting everyone with the same brush.

Fear, control and anger are some of the important and basic reasons of judging people. I am a very reserved person; I don’t really like going out so much or socialising. People around me automatically give me a label, introvert, therefore, timid, bore and rude. When in reality, I am none of these. But, what happens is people see what is on the surface, it suits their temperament and satisfies their ego that they are better. Gives them a very heady feeling of control. When people want something they don’t or can’t have, they get angry, hurt and take it out on other people. When someone does something we have wanted to, we feel resentful, hence the judgment. We have a very solid problem of projecting our feelings and imposing our decisions on others, irrespective of their choice. Never bother looking deep under the surface.

We live in a world where materialism and faking are the norms. The society thrives on putting people down to appear righteous. People believe that you have to be part of this herd culture to survive. It makes us do things that we normally don’t. Put on a facade of kindness and sophistication while criticising others who don’t fit into the mould. All this to gain validation for actions which aren’t even our own. We hate those who have the courage to swim against the tide, but what we actually do is we end up hating ourselves. Because we are more alike than different. Deep down, we judge people because it’s the same thing we are terrified of.

Judging people only hurts them and us while perpetuating stereotypes. Groupism and bullying are a few far reaching effects of such thoughts. We pass on insensitive comments about people without thinking what it might be doing to them. Some people brush these off, while some can’t. From personal experience, I can say that it makes us retreat more into our shell. Beats our self-esteem into a pulp. Makes us doubt ourselves. Forces us to change to blend with others. Makes us lose our individuality. We get the approval of others but no personal gratification. It’s just like eating some dish with an unpronounceable name in a fancy restaurant with your sophisticated aunt, while all you want to do is stuff yourself full with the food from your favourite roadside stall. All this just because of the fear of being scoffed at.

Some time back, there was a photo of a dress that created a rage on the Internet, some saw it golden, some blue. Same is the case with us. We all are like that dress, but each with a different colour that hardly ever matches the way others look at us. Perspective matters so much. Not every finger is the same. The World is not always in black and white. We can’t know the cause of other people’s actions until we step into their shoes. What were the choices in front of them and what value system they have, can be vastly different from ours. We have to understand where they are coming from. The silent sea sometimes houses the strongest tornado. Most of the times, it isn’t even about us. It’s about the person we are judging. Often people have unfounded bitterness towards a thing or person who they don’t even know.

I, myself, hated an actress just because she caused two of my favourite stars to break up. In the end, nothing happened to her. I wasted my energy and felt like a douche. Similarly, when we judge people we don’t know, it’s like spitting at the moon, comes back on our faces only. What drives a person to do something cannot be ascertained until we have talked to them or been in the same situation. Just like we can’t learn to get up until we fall ourselves. No one fights other’s battles but everyone is ready to mock the result all the same.

Once, a friend of mine asked me my opinion on a character from The Game of Thrones series. When I told her I haven’t watched it, she looked at me with such disdain, as if I had done something blasphemous. “How can you do that? Isn’t watching it like a rule or something these days? You have no culture.” She commented in an obnoxious voice. I felt like strangling her. For the rest of the time, she kept sending me pitying looks, as if I had been living under a rock. My intellectual capability and tastes all got labelled as unrefined just because I refused to watch a television show everyone is raving about. We need to learn that people have different choices, not all can be according to our liking. Respect them. Not everybody lives to please others. Each one of us is a beautiful creation with equally beautiful idiosyncrasies. How would the world be if all were the same? Bland, monotonous.

If we can’t see a person’s wings doesn’t mean they aren’t flying. Change your way of seeing. I understand it is hard to let go of prejudices sometimes, but easy won’t make it worth it.

So let’s promise ourselves that we won’t subject others to such treatment because, As the Dalai Lama says: “People take different roads seeking fulfilment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.” Nothing can be truer than this.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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