My Male Colleagues Are ‘Well-Educated’ And ‘Settled’ But Their Jokes Sexist And Filthy

Some of the quips I hear when people crack jokes are: “take it lightly”, “it’s a joke” or anybody’s not serious. Really? How are these excuses even plausible? After all, it has been scientifically proven that jokes are also a part of our sub-conscious minds. Today, however, social media channels like WhatsApp are filled up with these kind of filthy remarks, excuses and comments.

Here, I would like to share some incidents from my life to show that these aren’t just my personal observations, but also the reality out there. I have more male colleagues than female. Predictably, they share jokes and sexist remarks about female behaviour, body language, intellect, capabilities and other different issues. Although all of them are from well educated and settled backgrounds, they can’t understand the reasons behind their insecurities against women.

They have generalised views about women, and laugh about these needlessly. A few days back, I was standing at a a bus stop. While waiting for a bus, I saw a girl who just fell off while running after getting tangled up in her saree. She fell on her knees – and immediately, the people, instead of picking her up or offering some water, started laughing. The women around felt embarrassed after seeing this reaction from the bystanders.

Here, I can recall another incident from my college days when low-waists were fashionable among youngsters. One of my friends (a Tibetan), who was wearing a very low waist jean, tried to catch a bus after running for some distance. He was able to do so after reaching up to the gate with a short but high jump. But while attempting this, his jeans slipped from his waist. He looked all around to check if anyone had noticed this embarrassing moment. But surprisingly, no one laughed. All the men in the bus reacted in a very normal way, as though nothing has happened.

This makes me wonder what was different in the incident I witnessed a few days earlier. How did that transform into a comedy circus for all?

I remember another incident during the arguments between my co-workers. One of my experienced colleague remarked and recalled Draupadi in one such conversation. Furthermore, every time a girl makes a decent point in the conversations between two boys, they mostly respond by saying that, “Yaad hai na dost, Mahabharat ki ladaai kiski wajah se hui thi (My friend, you do remember what led to Mahabharat war, right)?”

Is this really true? Have your heard the undertone of this comment?

Who doesn’t know that the evil intentions of the Kauravas led to the start of the war! Their greediness, the unsuccessful attempt to make out with their own sister-in-law and the insecurities about their own leadership qualities – there were many reasons for the war. Then, what is the need to target that single lady who supposedly suffered the most, each and every time?

People need to realise that targeting all the women in a derogatory way won’t make them better persons. Neither will it bring out their best in professional capacities.

Recently, we decided to bring a surprise cake for one of our teammates’ birthday. To this end, one of my female colleagues started collecting money from every member. But one of the men refused to contribute, because “ladkiyan paise lete huye achhi nahi lagti (It’s not decent for women to collect money).” This is how he taunted her while refusing to give his share. It was pathetic. I cannot relate to this kind of mentality at all. I feel disconnected in this setup, but what can I do?

Should I start speaking about the most-derogatory things my decent and understanding male team members have had to hear? What if I retort by speaking up in a similar manner? Will this help end these jokes and attitudes? I believe reverse sexism is a notion which tells you to retort to the people who ruthlessly criticise you, in exactly the same terms. It’s a ‘gender war’ kind of a thing. But do we really need this? No. We should just expect and seek some basic human values, unbiased against any gender. Dominant people can easily create their slang, jokes and values which they expect the other gender to follow. But my point is, what if I do not give-in to this?

In this case, I firmly but bluntly refused to interact with my so-called ‘funny’ team members. But how am I supposed to work then? I have restricted myself in my interactions, and I choose the people with whom I want to interact. But honestly, I don’t feel good this way. It is affecting my own sensibilities and thought processes. It felt like damaging your own self by keeping your mouth shut. Now, I am wondering if I have made the wrong point. How can the world be at so much peace with such perplexed people?

I am eagerly waiting to recollect myself creatively.

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Featured image used for representative purposes only.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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