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Why I Refuse To Be A ‘Lady’ For The So-Called ‘Gentleman’

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By Tamoghna Ghosh:

A few days back, I was hanging out with this guy friend of mine, and I wanted to set him up with a sweet girl from my batch. He’s been friends with her for almost a year, and I felt it’s time they take it to another level. However, he casually commented, “Naah, she isn’t my type. You see, Gentlemen don’t date flirts, and I’m a gentleman.” We shared a laugh over this comment, as if it were a good joke.

But was it? Wasn’t it a perfect example of the patriarchal mentality that’s been in existence for ages now? Aren’t there enough posts and memes on social networking sites, stereotyping boys and girls on the basis of their personal or sexual life? A guy who is popular among girls and flirts with them is termed a ‘stud’, and when a girl does the same, she’s frowned upon and judged majorly. Let me be clear on the onset that I am not taking a stance for or against flirting, it’s just the gender bias that exists, that riled me up.

In the present day, it’s hard to find guys and girls who don’t flirt. With the spurt of so many dating and hookup sites, like Tinder and all, people take to flirting at the tap of a button. I once knew a guy who admitted that he used to brush up his English and put out witty one-liners and puns just to flirt and impress the girl. And once it gets serious, he thinks it’s too much of a bother. Guys like him only want girls to go gaga over them and fall for the flirting. But what if the girl simultaneously flirts back? Then all hell breaks loose. Then they would immediately brand her as a ‘loose’ girl, or worse. I would personally salute a man who doesn’t judge a girl just because she flirts back with a guy, with whom she’s not in a relationship.

I’ve a friend who is smart, bold and basically the opposite of what your ‘pados-ki-aunties’ would call a homely girl. She has a lot of guy friends and hangs out with them on a daily basis. Having had a serious relationship which didn’t work out like she expected, she gave up on the concept of relationships. She’s just into casual dating and some harmless flirting. She confided to me once that she may eventually find her Prince Charming, but until she does, she feels no harm in flirting back to a guy. I like her whole attitude of not caring what people may think. If only people were not judgemental enough, for she’s the same girl about whom the guy friend of mine made that seemingly funny comment about.

I have always felt the need to answer to your own conscience. If your conscience tells you, you’re on the right path, then even the so-called norms of society will not stop you. Until what you do becomes the reason of sadness or hurt in another person’s life, is there any need for modifying your behaviour? If a girl feels comfortable around a guy, if she feels she can flirt back, without imposing a ‘sin’ on her conscience, so be it. Society must understand the time has gone, when girls are expected to be ‘Sati-Savitri’. We’re out in the world, fending for ourselves just like guys are. So why shall we not have some of the same fun, that guys do? Why shall we sit back and play the submissive role in any friendship or relationship?

Enough about the Homo sapiens of my gender. Let’s now take a moment to dwell on the dictionary definition of the word ‘gentleman’. A man of noble or ‘gentle’ birth is called a gentleman. A man whose conduct conforms to a high standard of propriety or correct behaviour is called a gentleman. Scratch ‘man’ off and replace it with ‘woman’ and you shall get the dictionary definition of a ‘lady’. So my question is, who has set these standards? Where does the norms of ‘correct’ behaviour come from? Is there a stone slab pretty much like the 10 Commandments of Moses, stating the qualities that make a man a ‘gentleman’, and a woman a ‘lady’?

I have known men who are termed ‘playboys’ in the society. Their personal lives are as colourful as a macaw. And I have known them to be philanthropic in real life, to be chivalric and open the doors for women, to care for their pets with all their hearts. They are real passionate in their endeavours, be it job, or be it their love life. Their hearts are made of gold, it seems. And yet, everyone scoffs at them for their socially unacceptable personal life. They fall short of the attributes society requires in a ‘gentleman’.

And I have known men who lead sunny married lives. They have a decent 9 to 5 job, a nice house and pets, a happy social life. And yet they indulge in corruption in office. And yet they come back drunk, and beat their wives. And these women take pains to camouflage the scars left by such indecent behaviour, just to save the face of their husbands. Just so that society still calls their husbands ‘gentlemen’ and treat them with the respect they so obviously deserve! The world does work in mysterious ways, indeed!

If the world is so full of delusions, no matter what society demands of me, I’d rather choose not to be involved with anyone, but only make friends, even at the cost of ‘tarnishing’ my image as a ‘flirt’, than portray the image of a lady for the so-called gentleman.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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