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Why ‘Your’ Feminism v/s ‘Mine’ Doesn’t Help Anyone But Yourself

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I’ve heard one too many (neo-)liberal women/liberal feminists using the rather convenient exit out of an argument by using the ‘freedom of speech/opinion’ trope. ‘My’ feminism may be different from ‘yours,’ in practise, in tactics, in theory. However, it must be said now– when pop feminism is on a surge and people largely are in consensus (at least at the outset) that women must have ‘equal rights’– that feminism is not limited to pressing egalitarian demands upon a structurally patriarchal society/State or seeking concessions. A systemic struggle against patriarchy lies in the beyond rather than in the inbetweeness.  The negotiation with patriarchy involves the raking of comforts of our gendered thinking. Thus, it is bound to make us feel uncomfortable and therefore the backlash (name-calling, ‘feminazi’ bashing, etc) is no surprise rather the lack of an opposition would have been suspect.

While it is true that there cannot be a homogenous ‘women’s’ struggle, it is also true that not all feminisms are the best versions of itself. It is important to appreciate the efforts of women from all walks of life resisting, fighting, negotiating patriarchy from different locations (socially, economically, politically) and that each of those struggles are overdetermined by their differential locations on the matrix of oppression. Yet, it is important to remind ourselves that capitalism, neoliberalism and democracy are flexible enough to incorporate ‘only so much’ of our general critique of a system which rests and (re-)creates our labour.

So, of course, the figure of the ‘boss lady’ who ‘leans in’ will not cause a rupture in the larger scheme of things as it often only manages to reproduce more labour force on which the market thrives. So its perfectly comfortable to capitalism-patriarchy-democracy to observe women to break the glass ceiling by working a little harder to fit into an unequal system and thereby becoming a ‘role model’ for other women who are left behind in such an individuated opportunist struggle. And yet, (not so paradoxically) it will create a scope for ‘debate’ and space for ‘resistance’ wherein you will be allowed to ‘condemn’ caste-based violence and at the same time encourage you to maintain your casteist anti-reparations views. It will even go on to the extent of demarcating a legitimate space for dissent while at the same time condition you into believing that all spill-over anger on the streets is a source of ‘inconvenience’ to your ‘norm’al life.

Probably there will be moments of genuine wonder and curiosity to ‘learn’ about the ‘miseries’ of the ‘subalterns,’ yet in the suggestion of their humanness will get subsumed the specificity/particularity of their difference. So the misery of the minoritarians would be a living wonder, a spectacle which we can afford to ‘watch’ from afar or even choose to ignore as a violence we haven’t ‘actively’ inflicted on the other and still get on with our lives consoling ourselves with a mental list counting the Kings/Khans of Bollywood. A list made mainly to silence an outer/inner-voice which recognises our own complacency, hypocrisy is sustaining a perverse system to exist and exploit selectively which lets and even, wants a single-dominant/mainstream feminist discourse to wipe out all the other counter-narratives within feminism, for the sake of ‘clarity/simplicity’ for precisely those against whom the feminist movement makes its case.

I’m sorry, but ‘my’ feminism was not developed to please your objective, rational minds which are ridden in patriarchy. A systemic sexism/ a system of patriarchy (I will use Teju Cole’s argument which he uses to explain American racism and apply it here), “…has had many moving parts and has been able to evolve an impressive camouflage which allows it to hoard its malice in great stillness for a long time, all while pretending to look the other way. It is atmospheric, you don’t see it at first, but understanding comes. ”

So the next time, we are out there busy discounting the struggles of a doubly marginalised woma(/y)n and are unwilling to engage with their ideas, using an “I am also a woman and I don’t think that way” trope, lets pause and take a moment to reflect on why that’s a highly individuated resistance distancing itself from questioning systemic inequalities.

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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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