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‘Men Don’t Wear Pink’ And 6 Other BS Stereotypes We Should Abolish Now!

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Men don’t cry. A pregnancy is the end of a career. Women are bad drivers! These age-old ideas – telling us what a man and woman can and cannot do – are known as gender stereotypes, and are quite rampant in our culture. We list out a few for you, along with the efforts being made to challenge them.

Pink For Girls, Blue For Boys

This one is a bit new for India, but we are latching on to it fast. As soon as the baby arrives aunties and uncles start gifting pink or blue things. We have adopted this rather foreign concept so quickly that even our women-only autorickshaws and banners in the metro are also pink. Pink is fast becoming a ‘feminine’ colour with boys even being ridiculed for wearing it.

Thankfully, some of the hottest Bollywood men – Abhishek Bachchan, Ranveer Singh and Saif Ali Khan regularly wear pink shirts and totally rock it too. Pink is also a part of our traditions – no wedding is complete without the pink saafa. So here’s wishing an exit to this fad, much faster than it arrived!

Men Can’t Raise Kids

We have no one to blame this one on. Motherhood is as integral to women’s lives in India as water is to ice. Most women too, believe that parenting is a God’s gift bestowed only upon them. It is a popular notion that only women are good at raising kids and men can just ‘help’ them with it. Feeding, changing nappies, waking up at night are all on the mommy’s task list, while daddies go out and earn money for a child’s future.

However, an advertisement by a famous diaper company has tried to break this stereotype beautifully. It shows a number of daddies feeding, changing and putting their babies to sleep with total elan. The advert ends with a beautiful message – it takes two to bring up a baby and that the gender of the parent is immaterial.

Pregnancy Ends Career

This is a natural precursor to parenting’s only for women. You can either have a baby or do business deals, not both together. Pregnancy cuts a woman’s career short. But this is not just a notion. It is a reality for women across the world and worse so in India, where the workplace is still largely a men-only club.

A recent advert featuring Radhika Apte turns this notion on its head. When her boss, a woman, pacifies into ‘focusing’ on her child and baby, Apte cooly shows the boss her new office proudly announcing the start of not one, but two beautiful beginnings.

Women Belong At Home

So starts a new advertisement featuring India’s Olympian wrestler Geeta Phogat. The advert goes on to list a host of others do’s and don’ts for women. Women are meant for housework. Women don’t wrestle or play sports. Women are not physically strong. And if any woman steps out, she will bring a bad name to her family. Enter Geeta Phogat, breaking every single of these notions and bringing only glory and laurels not just to her family but to the whole country.

Boys Don’t Cry

Oh yes, women are not the only victims of stereotyping. Men get it too and the worst of all is the pressure not to cry, not to show emotions, the pressure to be strong and the pressure to be ‘manly’. As soon as they cross the toddler age, where crying is acceptable, they are told by parents, teachers, siblings, doctors, coaches: “Boys don’t cry!”

And so what do the boys do? Some pass the test – they don’t cry. Others internalise it and feel the pressure through their lives. A few take it out and make others – especially women – cry. A short film ‘Start with the Boys’, featuring, Madhuri Dixit, makes this point rather poignantly. Yes, men do cry and the most successful ones have done so openly and publicly – US president Barack Obama being the most famous of them all!

Women Are Bad Drivers

We can bet that all of us have cracked a joke or two on women being bad drivers. Imagine a scene on an Indian road. A huge traffic jam. Two cars have banged into each other. One driven by a man, other by a woman. Who does everyone around lay the blame on – must have been the woman!

One look at YouTube and you will see video after video featuring bad women drivers. But are women causing all the accidents in the world? Purely going by statistics and given that men around the world generally have more access to a self-driven vehicle, in all probability men are causing more accidents around the world.

Just because someone isn’t putting all those videos on YouTube does not mean that men are any better than women. Women are flying planes, running trains, commanding submarines and so there ought to be something wrong when a four-wheeler is considered not their thing!

Men Make The First…All The Moves

Men propose, women accept. Men pay for dates, women just smile. Men kiss, women kiss back. We all have been brought upon on Bollywood and Hollywood films showing the women just waiting for their man to free them from the castle, taking them away from their homes (mujhe le chalo Raj, remember DDLJ!), being all ‘honourable’ and ‘chivalrous’ doing things for their women.

Whatever happened to the girl that perhaps wants to initiate a kiss, propose to that cute kid in the class and take her man out on a date. In a short film, “Go Dutch” Gul Panag slays all these stereotypes in – ironically – on an arranged date. A lot of this is perhaps odd, new and quite unsettling. But won’t it be so much more fun if all the doing pressure was not just on men!

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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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