This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Poornima Mandpe. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

While Female Athletes Break Stereotypes, Our Sexism Is Showing And It’s Not Pretty

More from Poornima Mandpe

 By Poornima Mandpe:

It’s usually a long struggle, beginning from the birth as a girl child to taking up sports as your career. It is followed with inadequate facilities and insufficient training space, less scope and lesser attention, and also getting marred down by cynics when you ready yourself for the fight. Yet against all the odds, Dipa, Sakshi, Sindhu and others took off.

When Sakshi’s big, burly brother from Haryana – the state with a highly skewed sex ratio – broke into tears as his sister claimed the bronze at the Olympics, we knew that some things are changing. Indeed they are, otherwise why else would the cricket loving fools that we are, be clued to the television to watch with bated breath how Sindhu’s swift strokes of badminton was creating history at Rio?

Dipa missing the medal by a few points broke our hearts, but she found a place there too.

The fear of tanning in the wicked sun, turning dark and warding off prospective bridegrooms is dwindling. The shame of your daughter seen wearing shorts in the open is receding. The way parents would like to see their daughter upholding the family pride, is also slowly but surely changing.

And yet, as many things are breaking down and breaking free, some things, running deeper than we think they are, refuse to leave our collective psyche. Even as we are celebrating our new sporting stars, the messages and the jokes that are abound, allegedly in support of these girls once again bring us invariably to square one. Here are a few examples:

1) Sindhu has given us a reason to Save the Girl Child.

Girls should not and need be saved in the hope of her growing up to bring a medal or glory or whatever. Aren’t these the very same reasons that boys are preferred to girls, that boys are believed to bring some glory to the family name? Every human being has the right to life and right to live with dignity, irrespective of your gender and irrespective of what you would achieve in the future.

2) Women are on top, time for men to go home, wear bangles or play mangala gaur (festival for brides among Marathi Brahmins).

Yes, that’s the latest. Appreciate a woman for breaking stereotypes, and then taunt the men for displaying ‘effeminate qualities’. What such comments actually mean are that women are surging ahead by following the examples of male achievers, and men are left behind because they are acting like ‘women’ or ‘acting weak’ in other words. Need I say more?

3) The relentless search for Sindhu’s caste.

If she belongs to a higher caste, the members from the community would be re-claiming and flaunting their so-called superior status. If she belongs to one of the lower castes, its members would use her name to assert their caste identity. All in the name of that individual victory for which nothing but her hard work and training can take the credit.

But we Indians are not the only ones. Sexism unfortunately is a norm at sporting events even such as the Olympics where the share of women players is far more than any other event. International news is filled with such misogynistic excerpts from commentators and journalists.

Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszú won gold in the 400-meter individual medley Saturday, but one NBC commentator said her husband and coach was “the person responsible for her performance.” From describing women’s Judo final to a catfight, to praising the incredible athleticism of a sportsperson as “Wow, she swims like a man,” all is being said and done. The feather in the cap of the prevailing sexism was when one BBC commenter congratulated Andy Murray with, “You’re the first person to ever win two Olympic tennis gold medals, that’s an extraordinary feat, isn’t it?” Too bad, that for him, that Murray had to quietly remind the world that Venus and Serena Williams had broken the record way, in fact by winning four each.

I am celebrating our girls at this moment, in spite of the all these discouraging comments. Every step counts, yes, but still there’s a long way to go.

You must be to comment.
  1. Bidisha

    A few months late, but the thought behind your article resonates even today. True, relatable, compact, loved reading your piece!

    1. Poornima Mandpe

      Thanks, Bidisha for your generous comments. I am looking forward to reading your piece as well!

More from Poornima Mandpe

Similar Posts

By Nupur J

By Shareerspeak

By Priyasmita Dutta

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below