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Why Aren’t There Any Bollywood Songs Describing Male Beauty?

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Bollywood has been entertaining us for centuries with beautifully composed songs describing every inch of a woman’s body. The similes that account for the heavenly beauty of the woman range from the spotless moon (chaudhavi ka chaand) and rose petals ( khilta gualaab) to a chicken leg (tandoori murgi) and Ajanta sculpture (Ajanta ki moorat).

While some of these are outright smutty and indecent, there are few others which rightfully convey the literary prowess of the songwriter, where the woman is not portrayed as a lifeless showpiece but as someone with unmatchable beauty. The number of such songs where a woman is not objectified is, however, quite less. Beauty, like they say, is not just meant for a woman’s physical features exclusively but can be applied to all gender strata.

Bollywood, unfortunately, has failed to grasp this simple idea and there are a zillion of songs celebrating women beauty only. There is a sheer rarity of songs in Bollywood where a woman is describing the beauty of her beloved, without thinking of any future marital prospect; where she is singing about the attractive attributes of the person without sounding like a hopeless damsel in distress. The songs are only about her indescribable sadness for not being able to meet the one she loves or about how happy/ lucky she is to find such a suitable partner for her.

Women in Bollywood are either seen waiting restlessly for an unidentified human (mere khwaabo mei jo aaye) or wailing helplessly for her long lost love to come back (mohe bhul gaye saawariya). The content of such songs more or less revolves around the woman’s sorrowful situation. Moreover, the few that do talk about a man’s beauty, are only about the personality traits known to all which adds to their masochism  (e.g- Ude jab jab zulfe teri, kawaariyon ka dil machle or soldier soldier meethi baate bolkar). Some of these also have the woman reciprocating the praise that she receives from her lover, (e.g- aap se bhi khoobsurat aapke andaaz hain) but then again she is shown as a subordinate to the man who just wants to sacrifice herself to him (e.g- aapki nazron ne samjha, pyaar ke kaabil hume).

While the storyline is the major reason behind this parity, where a woman is just a visual treat to a man (and not the other way around), the patriarchal structure of the society also has a big role to play in creating this inequality. These socially constructed values are reflected in films where only the hero of the story gets to ‘see’ the heroine and she, on the other hand, only keeps fluttering her eyelashes and shying away from him.

This manifests from the whole idea that ‘beauty’ is something which is associated with women (not men) because she stands at the receiving end of the male gaze. In other words, only the man can rightfully see, touch, feel, love and praise the woman (or his beloved) but a woman is only supposed to wail for him and act as a non-existing counterpart.

The male gaze is not just attributed to the male character in the story or the audience who watch the film but also, arguably to the male lyricists who tend to satiate their voyeuristic desires by describing the woman like the way they do. Most of the indecent lyrics are written by male writers who don’t refrain from making an unrealistic comparison to a woman’s different body parts. All the item songs are evident of this voyeurism.

The only way to resolve this injustice is by allowing more women lyricists in the directorial and literary sphere of the film industry so that the woman’s character in the film gets the right voice and words to express her love or ‘desire’ through non-extremist behaviours.

Interestingly, all the popular lyricists and music directors we know, are male (like Amitabh Bhattachrya, Gulzar, Jaaved Akhtar, Nilesh Mishra) and there is not a single popular women music lyricist or even music director in the contemporary times. The wailing women characters in the films can get to sing songs of their choice only when the women songwriters get to show their talent in the mainstream cinema unless they also begin to objectify men in the process.

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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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