This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Isha C. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Are You Sexist? Get Your Diagnosis and Cure Here

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Ever made a joke at the expense of a woman just because she’s a woman? Ever interrupted a woman and then explained to her what she already knows? Congratulations, you’re a sexist. Don’t worry, although there’s a solution, you’re going to have to read another “feminist rant” by a woman to get to it.

“Oh, please don’t make this into some feminist issue! It has nothing to do with gender,” I’m often told when I call out men for exhibiting obvious sexist behaviour. Sometimes, it angers me. Sometimes, I try to rationalise that even an adult, 40-year-old man can say something sexist and a huge part of the blame would be on the environment surrounding him—his education, his upbringing, his family, the company he keeps and the content he consumes. However, we’ve also seen men working in the social sector to safeguard human rights being accused of sexism, so that leaves us here. It is the responsibility of every man to educate himself about his sexist behavioural patterns and work towards creating a safer environment for women, irrespective of what his upbringing was like, what his conditioning was like. Ignorance is not an excuse anymore.

I’m a strong believer in the fact that people can change. Often, harmful ideologies, ideas and thoughts evolve into something dangerous and disruptive because there was nothing that questioned the path they took, nothing that called out the way they evolved. Along with calling these behaviours and patterns out, I also want to provide a solution, whose implementation starts with self-awareness. Observing your own behaviour,  its patterns and origins and how you naturally react to certain situations and people is a very obvious first step in stopping any behaviour, including sexism.

Here are three kinds of behaviour that all of us should keep a lookout for and consciously work on changing:

1. Interrupting Women While They Speak

Lovingly known as manterruption, this is one of the most common and most annoying things women have to face on a daily basis. There is research to prove that men interrupt women more than they interrupt men. If I donated a rupee for every time a man has interrupted me while I am speaking, the amount of times a man has held a hand up to my face to stop me from speaking, and the amount of times I have seen other women being interrupted mid-sentence by a man, some non-profit in this country would be flushed with funds and could finally afford an air conditioner in their office. The point is, nobody likes being interrupted while they’re talking, especially when they have a valid point to make. Heck, even if there isn’t a valid point being made, it is high time that women are simply heard. Interrupting women over and over again stops them from expressing themselves freely, and that is the last thing we need at this moment.

The worst part? Men deny that this ever happens. It happens so often that some women decided to create an app that detects when a male voice interrupts the female user and tells the male user of the app when they interrupt a female voice. Meet Woman Interrupted; you’re about to be best friends.

The Solution:

LISTEN. Make a conscious decision to not say anything until a woman is done with her sentence. If you must interrupt, make sure she has the floor again after you have clarified what you wanted to clarify. The whole world has always been run by men and honestly, look at where we are. Time to hear, and completely hear, without interruptions, what women have to say.

2. Explaining Things To Women That They Already Know About/Know More About/Didn’t Ask An Explanation For

Image source: imgflip.com

Hello, mansplaining. I think this word triggers a lot of men into defending themselves and rationalising their behaviour. One of the platforms where this happens to me the most is Instagram DMs. Men slide into my DMs like their life depends on it every time I speak about . . . well almost anything. Plastic pollution? I’m probably wrong. German history (my honours subject in university)? I probably have it wrong. I didn’t find a clean bathroom for myself? I probably didn’t look in the right place. Criticising the government’s actions? I’m a “stupid bitch who doesn’t know anything.” All of these are 100% true, I promise.

I love this definition of mansplaining from this brilliant article in Men’s Journal, “It’s about treating someone as less than you, and needing of your guidance, for no reason other than their age or gender.”

The other great place where mansplaining breeds? Face to face conversations. I have witnessed the confident execution of the cringeworthy act of mansplaining followed by complete annihilation of the male ego multiple times and it’s a show I would pay to watch over and over again. It’s almost like—some men think women just cannot KNOW things or have valid experiences. There have also been instances when men have explained to me how I should be experiencing a particular thing which only women face and honestly, that is the level of unabashed confidence I really need to achieve. Do you know what having someone invalidate your opinion over and over does? It makes you shut up and question yourself a million times over before you open your mouth.

The Solution:

Understand and accept that a woman can be an expert on a topic, and can know more than you do. Actually, go ahead and assume it. Darr ke aage jeet hai! Don’t automatically assume that you know better. If a woman tells you’re mansplaining, don’t mansplain mansplaining to her (again, based on real-life experiences). If you do need to correct a woman, use an empathetic approach and not an arrogant one. Need help with figuring out whether you are mansplaining? Here’s a flowchart for you. Frame it and put it in your office, as this company did.

“I have had more than one male colleague sincerely ask whether a certain behaviour is mansplaining. Since apparently this is hard to figure out, I made one of them a chart.” | Via Kim Goodwin on Twitter

3. Making Seemingly Harmless Jokes Which Are Actually Sexist and Disruptive

“That’s what she said.” Well, here’s what I want to say to all the men and woman out there: STOP MAKING JOKES THAT ARE DEROGATORY TO WOMEN. The more you make jokes which belittle women, the more you normalise shameless sexism and violence against women. If you’re under the impression that jokes at women’s expense are harmless and couldn’t possibly lead to a bigger problem, think again.

In this study of rape proclivity, which is the measurement that demonstrates a man’s willingness to rape a woman as long as they wouldn’t be discovered, males exposed to sexist jokes reported higher levels of rape proclivity in comparison to males exposed to non-sexist jokes. This is scary stuff. Research has shown that exposure to sexist humour results in more tolerance of sexist discrimination, as opposed to non-sexist humour. (Ford & Fergusson, 2004)

What qualifies as a sexist joke? To make it simple, any joke that belittles a woman, objectifies a woman, has a derogatory connotation of what it means to be a woman based on stereotypes and biases solely based on gender, is sexist. A joke about how women can’t drive? Sexist and untrue. A joke about how a woman is an item? Sexist and disrespectful. A joke about how a woman shouldn’t be working and should spend her life in the kitchen? Sexist and you need to watch this video by Lilly Singh. Rape and sexual assault jokes? Sexist and downright unacceptable.

The Solution:

STOP MAKING JOKES THAT ARE DEROGATORY TO WOMEN.

Be aware of your inherent patriarchal prejudice and idiotic beliefs about women and challenge them. Understand that they aren’t true and you are not entitled to make jokes about women based on your very limited, closed-minded experience of life.

Want to go one step further? STOP LAUGHING AT JOKES THAT ARE DEROGATORY TO WOMEN. Stop encouraging men and even women to make these jokes by validating them. Instead, tell people they are being sexist and disrespectful and that it is not okay. Be an ally, not an accomplice.

Every single woman you know has faced sexism at some point in her life. If you don’t believe me, ask her! Due to the patriarchal system of our society and the number of men who have gotten away with disrespecting women, unfortunately, it has become normalized. It’s up to every single person to take small steps, albeit on an individual level, to bring down the incidents of sexism and stop it from being so casual and normalized. Time to smash the patriarchy!

You must be to comment.
  1. Fregoli Delusion

    I can’t believe I actually read this feminist drivel.

    1. Isha Chitnis

      You saw the title, opened the link and actually read it and then also posted a comment! Thank you for increasing the views on my article. 🙂 Happy day of non-violence to you, sir!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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