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How Feminist Books And Films Helped Me Understand My Privilege

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As a man, I firmly believe that being a feminist comes with responsibilities. The first and foremost responsibility is acknowledging my own privilege, and this privilege comes from a wide variety of structures—of gender, class, caste, religion, language and ability. Acknowledging my privilege comes with its own duty, the duty of stepping down from the stage and letting others who have been oppressed historically speak. It also involves educating oneself because the structures of oppression are normalised so much that they often seem invisible.

There are a lot of ways you can educate yourself—from books, films and even Instagram accounts. I will give here, a list of things which I did and I continue to do to understand feminism and bash patriarchy! But before that, here is a quote which will be a huge guide:

“Men who want to be feminists need not be given a space in feminism. They need to take the space they have in society and make it feminist.” – Kelly Temple

Book: Seeing Like A Feminist

Credits: Feminism in India

Author: Nivedita Menon
Genre: Non-Fiction

Nivedita Menon is a feminist professor of political science at Jawaharlal Nehru University who previously taught at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi.

You do not need to be well-versed in feminism; you just need to keep an open mind while reading this book. Even for those who are students of feminism, this book can be an eye-opener because of its intersectional approach. The book talks about everything that is unequal and how oppression is layered. It talks about specific laws, understanding gender and sex, sexual harassment at workplace, marriage and how capitalism and casteism are tied together and how their oppression is also gendered. It will shock you, and even, surprise you. You will learn new things and also unlearn many well-normalised old social structures.

While reading the book, you will surely find many things wrong about yourself, and understand how certain structures and beliefs made our upbringings flawed. This book is a must-read to reform yourself and see the world using a feminist lens that lays bare the patriarchal social, political, economic and cultural structures.

Books (Trilogy): The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Author: Steig Larsson
Genre: Fiction

Credits: Paste Magazine

Steig Larsson was a Swedish author born in 1954 and a journalist by profession. He was the editor-in-chief of the magazine Expo from 1999 and had also worked at other major news agencies. He was one of the world’s leading experts on anti-democratic, right-wing extremists and Nazi organisations.

After submitting the manuscript of this trilogy, he died suddenly in 2004. Steig Larsson’s portrayal of women character in his book is great. He builds each of his characters as strong and independent figures who go through a lot, fighting in the workspace and their personal lives, to emerge victoriously. Although the female characters have male friends, colleagues and family members, they are never portrayed to project that a man is always behind a women’s success. Rather, they are fiercely independent.

The character, Lisbeth Salander or “The Girl” is a computer hacker who lives her life on her own terms. In the novel, she is a rape survivor who comes back fiercely at her rapist. The crime novel also shows how powerful men shape the world around us. The novels portray how the patriarchal world is shaped and how everything is normalised. The novels are chilling with complex plots and twisted ends, and you can surely learn about a lot of patriarchal structures.

Website: Feminism in India (FII)—Intersectional Feminism—Desi Style! 

Founder: Japleen Pasricha

Japleen Pasricha is the founder and editor-in-chief of Feminism in India, an award-winning digital intersectional feminist media platform. She is also a TEDx speaker and UN World Summit Young Innovator.

Feminism in India is the best source of intersectional feminist news in India. If you are an avid news reader and also like to see them using a feminist lens, then this website is the destination. You can learn the 101 of feminism and get a better understanding of intersectionality. (For me, I learned a lot and I am really very grateful. Such a wonderful site!)

The site has various sections on culture, history and society. Many writers write for the site, and you must look at the amount of research done for each article. Some academic essays discuss feminist books. If you are serious about feminism, then you must visit this website and read the articles. They also have an Instagram profile, and you can subscribe to them on Telegram and WhatsApp. They post feminist graphic explainers that break social taboos, myths and promote feminism 101.

Humans of Patriarchy

Humans of Patriarchy has an Instagram profile and also a Facebook Page which features posts on intersectional feminism, politics and culture. It posts user-generated tweets and Facebook posts that bash patriarchy. It is a nice companion during your daily commute or late at night.

Netflix’s Sex Education

Scene from the webseries Sex Education|Credits: The Mighty

Netflix’s Sex Education was released on the platform back in January 2019, but it was not until February of 2020 that I started watching the show. It is a British comedy web series created by Laurie Nunn. The show’s episodes start with a sex scene consisting of a particular sex-related problem. The rest of the episode deals with that problem and how it can be solved. The show simultaneously features running love stories.

At the same time, it shows how to deal with issues regarding gender, relationships, inclusivity, friendships, sexual harassment and sex education at school during the teenage years. The show features Otis Milburn, played by Asa Butterfield, who is the son of a sex therapist. At school, he starts being a sex therapist and runs a sex therapy sessions with his friend, Maeve Wiley.

The show normalizes the concept of teens asking questions about their bodies and relationships. It stresses on healthy sexuality and relationship issues – issues that are unfortunately not dealt with in sex education classes. It also shows that intersectionality is important because people have multiple identities, and these play a role in sexual relationships, which is much more than a physical act. The show is a great start for everyone no matter what age to learn more about issues relating to gender and other identities.

I am a student of Political Science, and I mostly learn about feminism as part of my syllabus or through my experiences at my university. However, if you do not belong to any related subjects like sociology and philosophy, please do not feel left out. This is a very small list and certainly not exhaustive. I planned to read classic feminist texts, but I always find myself busy, not finding enough time to fulfill my reading goals. However, you can use this list as a start to understand and learn about feminism.

You must be to comment.
  1. Jyolsna N.R

    Very informative. 👍 Gender sensitivity subject should be in every school

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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 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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