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

10 Boys From My Class Spoke Up Against A Sexist WhatsApp Joke, And I’m So Proud!


By Sinjini Sengupta

Every morning we’re hard hit with headlines screeching gender crimes, and I won’t even go into statistical figures. Every morning, we’re also served tea in bed by the mother, the bahu, or the devrani.

Point is, academicians in contextual gender fields have a point when they argue that the previous two sentences you just read are not really distinct, irrelevant and erratic – they actually form parts of the same spectrum. The spectrum that cries out to us right from when we’re born, that we are different. Boys and girls, the “us” and the “them”!

Curious, right?

Okay, so let us begin with a rather simple question. What makes us curious? I believe this should be easy. Well, we’re curious about things we do not know, or we do not understand.

It has been ages that we’ve believed them when they told us that ‘Men are from Mars and Women from Venus’. Several psychological studies today, however, will stand to vouch for the fact that the core differences between genders, while undeniably existent, have much more to do with social conditioning than intrinsic inborn distinctions.

It’s true that our anatomies are different. It’s true that our inclinations may vary too, yet we have to grant that men and women are not ‘designed’ to be as different from each other as to guarantee the stereotyped roles they’re made to play in their later lives – nurturing versus bread-earning, delicate versus strong, hormones versus muscles.

And so it becomes imperative to ask, where do these differences come from?

Question, in another but related context, also arises around how men view women and vice versa. Is how we are unapproachable and curious about each other helping our cause of a better society? Is it granting any scope for solidarity between genders, or is it rather prompting the whole race onto a dangerous track where the power games and gender crimes surface?

The answer is rather simple, is it not? We, the Society. We, the People. As a tradition, we provide the little girls and boys with a very different breeding ground. We discriminate between them culturally and socially, and with every breath, we tell them how to behave differently and what to make of their lives. We expect different things from them, and teach them different things.

However, accidents happen!

Like, as a kid, I’ve had the rare fortune of being put into a co-educational school by my parents.

The thing about that one, seemingly small decision is more than you can imagine. We sat side by side, sharing lunches and home tasks. We played the same games, basketball to doll houses. We learned the same skills, stitching to sewing to writing wall magazines. We sang the same songs as the sun scorched the assembly lines, and we danced to traditional tunes at the cultural functions.

The best thing is, we were never taught to bother about what people outside our school walls thought of it. We flunked our math tests together and wept on each other’s shoulders, without having to fall in love. We ran after running buses and fell on our knees on the highways to bruise ourselves, and to save ourselves miraculously. We bought our bicycles around the same age, and pillion rode on each other’s cycle without stopping to wonder who takes the rider’s seat gender wise.

I do not know if we have become better human beings by doing all that. But, here is something I can tell you today.

We all know of notorious WhatsApp groups that flood you early morning, every morning with dozens of ‘Good Morning’ wishes followed by jokes on marriage and what not.

Right, let’s not even go there! But the thing is, of the many groups that I’m a member of, one is with all our old school friends. The other day, one of them forwarded a rather stereotypical joke on marriage and men, making fun of how men roar like lions but sheepishly wash dishes at the wife’s command when no one watches.

As would be usual, the feminist in me rose up in fury, considered a protest, and then heaved a sigh and got back to work – because she has known enough to know it doesn’t help!

However this time, something interesting happened. First, there was this slight ping, and I checked in to see that one boy from the group had asked – So? And then, another. And the third, and so on.

Within minutes, messages were pouring in dozens. At least ten to twelve boys – mind you, boys – vociferously protested the joke. The first one said, So? The second called the joke stinking of sexism, and asked, what’s wrong in doing dishes if one of the two had to do it anyway? The third bragged about how he is the king of the kitchen in his house. The fourth after some discussions bade us good night, saying he’d have to get up early the next morning to get the kid ready for school. I won’t tell you what the fifth and the sixth wrote, because – let’s say – the language was “unparliamentary”!

The feminist in me grinned ear to ear. The batch mate in me was proud, immensely proud! And the mother in me promised that come what may; this is one thing she owed to her child and she will.

A humble first step, to make the world more equal. A small area – the school, to share. To begin with!

Will you too, please?

This article was first published on the author’s personal blog.


Image source: Illustration by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images
You must be to comment.
  1. T K Narayanan

    What’s the big deal in doing the dishes and other household work, good that your schoolmate stood against it.


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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.

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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.

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.

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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, 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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