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

The Locker Room Has Existed For A While. You Just Ignored It

The personal has always been political, but the internet just seems to have woken up to it very, very recently. What I’ve noticed about awakenings that happen to people through a bunch of Twitter threads and IG stories, is that it lasts for a tiny duration, in comparison to the systemic violence it rages against. 

The irony of this article being part of the internet is not lost on me, I assure you. Before I was introduced to the actual power the world wide web holds for people to tell their stories, I was in school and at one point, had nine consecutive hate posts about my gorgeous self plastered on my school’s Official Confessions Page in 2013. 

But, this is not about me. Even though for the past 24 hours or so, I’ve been made to relive a variety of experiences that I’m sure every young woman who has ever gone to school has lived as well. To be honest, I’m not sure that all of this is about one specific thing anyway, so here’s a bunch of thoughts I had. 10 points for that Golwalkar pun. Reference to context: here

1. #NotAllMen 

Fool. If “not all men are like that” is the first thought that pops into thy head, then I bring thee news. Thou art parteth of the problem. Why and how, thou asketh? 

By saying, thinking and believing “not all men…” you’re missing the point. By miles. To begin with, no one is making any claims about all men in the first place. (Fellow Philosophy grads, pitch in!) The conversation is about how privilege that was awarded to a person on the virtue of their sex and gender creates a culture of no accountability and exploitation that’s quite literally based on a bra size and a waist size. Lots of fancy words, I know. Here’s a meme to sum it up: 

By saying, thinking and believing “not all men…” you’re missing the point.

I mean, teenage boys will use “Valar Morghulis ⚔️ as a caption for their 14th mirror selfie upload but not Google the meaning. (???) No hate though. You do you.

2. “Andi Mandi Sandi”

Might as well. For the uninitiated, this is a rager in Indian schools in regions where Hindi is the primary language. It goes, “andi mandi sandi, jo na ____, uski maa r*ndi!” It translates to, “andi mandi sandi, whoever doesn’t ____, their mom’s a whore!” The blanks can be used to insert any action that may be asked of – dancing spontaneously, laughing, singing, jumping, you get the point. 

When I first heard this in school, I was yucked out beyond belief. Not at the insult that was so aggressively being engineered through this great phrase, but at the conformity it was asking for. 

If you did not follow what came next in the command chain, you were the child of a whore or sex worker. That’s actually the nicer way of putting it. The syntax is important here. The implication that your mother is a whore has greater reverberations than implying that you’re her child. 

This is why I was obsessed with samaas (the closest thing in English I can think of is compounding words) while studying Hindi grammar. It’s not my first language, but this gave me ammunition when it came to understanding what people were saying and how they were saying it.

3. Boys Will Be Boys

Nope. This is biologically impossible and socially unacceptable. Light some candles, put on some peaceful music and introspect. Change is good, change is fun! Ask Gautama Buddha!

I mean, teenage boys will use “Valar Morghulis ” as a caption for their 14th mirror selfie upload but not Google the meaning.

4. Cancel Culture

…Is Toxic If It’s Irresponsible. Sorry guys, I know it feels great to say someone is cancelled and make #MyExIsOverParty trend on Twitter but it doesn’t work if you’re only doing it online and not in real life. It is VERY painful and difficult to engage in cancel culture when a perpetrator/abuser/harasser/violator/rapist is someone you know in person and not someone who’s been revealed. Often, the process of cutting off such people from one’s life requires courage and determination that has no safety net. 

Not to say that it shouldn’t be done. By all means, cancel locker room talk, but also cancel that uncle who stares at your midriff two seconds too long at every family event. The latter will involve a lot more than a screenshot and a repost though. But, do it. Kyunki… mamaji bhi kabhi locker room boi the (Because… your uncle was also part of that locker room).

5. Galti Se Mistake

Don’t condone this. Hold your guy friends accountable. They will accuse you of ‘overreacting’, ‘taking things too far’, and ‘being a spoilsport’. Pull a Pooja Mishra and then say, “I did it by mistake.” If that still doesn’t get the point across, move on. 

Don’t let things become a Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake at the Superbowl

6. One Of The Boys

It’s been years and I still don’t know why Katy Perry has an album by this name. 

Being one of the boys is not as great as movies tell you it is. And I don’t mean it in the Kuch Kuch Hota Hai context. I mean it in a very real-life context. If your guy friends are making you choose between social security based on if you laugh at dick and boob jokes and thinking that all human beings deserve respect and that their autonomy should not be violated, pick the option that’ll let you sleep at night.

Yet, this is not a binary. Most things about gender never are. I guess what I’m trying to say is, Neville Longbottom it. If this reference flew over your head, I’m gonna give you my favourite piece of advice: read!

7. Send Nudes

Remember when Jennifer Lawrence was among 300 people whose iCloud storage was leaked, and the whole world jumped to conclusions about how loose actresses are? Yeah, pretty unforgettable.

Yet, no one asked why the hacker felt compelled to violate someone’s privacy the way he did. All comments were directed straight to Lawrence who had to be a slut to have taken nude photos of herself. Some even said that she was ‘practically naked’ when she played Mystique, so why was this such a big deal? 

Enter consent. I personally love it when consent enters a discussion. It’s a great way to equalise a room. 

For a country whose pornographic demands rest heavily on violation and abuse, it should come as no surprise that there exists an entire subculture of hoarding, sharing, and misusing nudes without consent.

Let’s go back to a particular pivot in the Mahabharata when Draupadi was dragged to a full-court and stripped of her clothing because… some men wanted it to be done.

And yet, it is her pride that is often blamed for a war that only men called for, fought and died in. 

8. Boyz II Men

Someone had once told me that I was the “type of girl one gets married to.” I have never taken a deeper offence to anything else I was told. I never asked this person to describe me or give me a palm reading for my future. I was someone to get married to as opposed to what exactly? 

I never got my answer but I had more questions. Who decides who is marriage-able and who is not? Why was this thought in his head when we were 16 years old? Why is he thinking of marriage? During physics? I literally do not know how to do this numerical? And he is thinking of shaadi? E=shaadi square? Should I ask him to watch The First Wives Club?

9. Dear Admin, I Have A Confession To Make

Official [insert school name] Confessionz Page. Ask.fm. Never forget.

Boy, did this ruin lives, friendships and relationships in school. All identities of submissions rested with page admins on Facebook. If that didn’t scare children, why should a group chat and the availability of changing your username on IG? 

People didn’t think twice before violating their classmates in disgusting ways online. Then, they graduated with the same classmates like nothing had gone wrong. Like they had not participated in a shit show of the lowest order and gotten nothing but a warning from the school administration for their actions.

It’s the most unfair part of being on the internet, really. Your perp always has the option of walking away scot-free. The veil that social media provides is perfect for malice and horror to flourish. But, at least you can say that you lived during the time Harvey Weinstein went to jail because one woman decided to share her story. 

10. The F-Word

You knew this was coming sooner or later. Basic equality between the sexes is nearly not as bad as you think it is. Imagine if Jai-Veeru was a female friendship. Those are real tight. We’d die for each other too.

As far as this one group chat is concerned, to be honest, I am not surprised. Disappointed, but not surprised. The only thing apparent to me is how long the fight is and how excluding men from the conversation was clearly a disastrous idea. 

Content and conditioning all around you is telling you to vilify your fellow woman. Don’t fall for it. It’s a nasty trap. Take it from me, a safe space with other women—not even McDonald’s fries come close. 

I shall now give you my final example.

My mother had once made this very wise quip, “Take Malala Yousufzai and Monica Lewinsky. Both lead lives that have been irreversibly scarred by men. Yet, why is Malala a hero and Monica not?”

Featured image for representation 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.

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.

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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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