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6 Things People Always Get Wrong About Feminism

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One time, while I was on Tinder, this boy asked me about the very taut description I have on my profile. He said: “Films, Food, Feminism? First two are fine, but third one I am not sure. Like, you’re not ugly.” This very enlightening remark made me wonder how many people believe that feminism is “done by” ugly people, sexually frustrated people or those who are “female chauvinists”. When it comes to misgivings about feminism, there is so much to tackle, and I want to address some of them here, through various statements that I have heard:

1: When Someone Asked If I Became A Feminist Because I Was Sexually Harassed

Sounds warped, doesn’t it? To most people this is a common conception: you “become” a feminist because you might have had a bad relationship, or because you haven’t even had a relationship, and when no one paid you enough attention you started hating men. This thought particularly stems from the misconception that feminism is anti-men. Feminism says two very basic things: First, all sexes are equal; Second, Patriarchy is a system where men are systemically accorded power and privilege.

Thus, unlearning our privileges is where we need to start.

‘Feminism is for Everybody’, a seminal text by bell hooks. Source: Elisabeth Murray.

2: When People Say Feminists Are Ugly

And ugly people do not get attention, right? This actually perpetuates the system which categorises people as ugly, beautiful, attention-seeking gender, attention-giving gender. This system is our old enemy in the garb of a friend: patriarchy. And patriarchy is something feminism fights against. Feminists aren’t ugly, patriarchy makes you think they are.

3: When People Say It Shouldn’t Be Called Feminism If It Is About Equality

Feminism is called feminism because it is “conventional” femininity (taught to us in texts, through family, religion, language) which is looked down upon, and this is the reason why both men and women suffer patriarchy but on different terms: women suffer because they are women, men suffer because they should be men and not become women, or womanly, or woman-like, or anything less than a “perfect man”. Thus, people who think feminists are male-bashers and are too extreme, well there’s something you need to recognise: every man is taught to “be a mard” and take advantage of his gender privilege, and every woman is taught to accept this. Both become part and parcel of perpetuating this system. All of us need to keep doing our own thing to break patriarchy.

4: When A Woman Does Not Believe In Feminism Because She Loves Men

Feminism says all genders are equal. So when you say “I love men“, feminism says: “Um, who’s denying that?” Men and women are both equal, but sadly women have to unlearn the fact that men aren’t gods, and men have to unlearn the fact that they aren’t gods and women aren’t either gods or objects. We are all idiots trying to get by, only some of us are helped more than the other by a system that basically sucks.

5: When People Say Women Are Pretty Damn Sexist Too

Like, the other day a woman was shouting at a man for getting the reserved seat and was very rude,” you argue.

Well, every human can be an asshole at any point of time. But here’s the thing: women can be prejudiced, discriminatory, and assholes, but right now, as the society is, they can’t be oppressors. Why? Because well, for that you need the whole world order supporting you in that oppression. Remember that this is a world where seven men sign a deal about women’s reproductive rights. No, the kind of apocalypse where women control the world isn’t gonna come soon, and feminism actually wants to make sure it never does. Women have been denied spaces in public space and affirmative action (like seats in a metro) is necessary before the system allows for direct intervention in spaces. And when you say women are “misusing” their “rights”, you are again saying it is something that they didn’t particularly deserve. Everyone needs to undo their patriarchal baggage.

6: When You Say ‘Men Suffer Too’

Everyone knows that, and, more importantly, feminists definitely do. Men suffer because the system teaches them to be not like women. Hence, you don’t hear much about male sexual harassment because well, do the math. The whole darn society will say being a survivor makes one less of a man, that’s why.

Feminism is a lot more than binaries of men and women. Right now, as it stands, it has gone beyond the gender binary of male and female – and even renowned feminists (like Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie) have had their issues of not taking into account the multiplicity of experiences. Feminism is a process, which makes us learn and unlearn our own biases. It evolves according to the needs of the time, demands of the people and the issues at hand. For example, my recent unlearning process has been to stop saying “guys” for addressing a group of people, writing and saying “they” when I cite hypothetical examples instead of “he” or “she”.

All of us need to do our own bit, and you will realize, you too are a feminist.

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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.

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.

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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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