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

Popular Arguments Against Feminism That Only Reveal Our Ingrained Patriarchy

It would not be completely wrong to asseverate that we are living in an era where logical fallacies dominate a discourse more than substantial arguments. The internet has exacerbated the use of logical fallacies. The most dangerous aspect of their use is that it appears logical to those who are not much into the discourse, and that’s how propagandas are furthered.

There is a plethora of things that have been dishonoured and mortified. Feminism, just like caste-based reservation, is a favourite target. But in the case of feminism, this dishonour is even more severe. Women are coming forward and clutching what was earlier confiscated from them, and men are unable to accept this. This is a general trend pertinent across ideologies, and certainly not something that can be exclusively attributed to a particular ideology.

To put women’s movement to shame, men and some women as well resort to sophistic whataboutery. The range of these whatabouteries is pretty wide but fathomable. In this piece, I attempt to approach some of these whatabouteries.

Rate Of Conviction Of Violence Against Women Is Low

One technical argument says, “Only 15% of those implicated under 498A are real culprits, remaining are falsely implicated.”  This appears to be a very sensible argument, but it is flawed to the core. We all know how the legal system works in our country. If a woman makes an allegation, there’s barely any chance that she would be able to provide evidence.

Suppose, a woman makes an allegation that her husband is very toxic and beats her regularly. Who will bear witness against the husband? What evidence can she come up with? The man’s family will stand with him. There’s no chance that they would testify against him. Even the girl’s family would be reluctant to her filing a complaint and would try to pressurise her into withdrawing her complaint.

Jadavpur University students protesting against domestic violence
A protest against domestic violence by students of Jadhavpur University. (Photo by Debsuddha Banerjee/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Besides, most women are financially dependent on their husbands. This further aggravates the problem and forces them into tolerating violence and harassment. So, divorce is certainly not an option for them. And the tabooing of divorce worsens this even more!

There’s another way in which this argument can be punctured. If we go by that logic, then no politician in India is corrupt, for the conviction rate is even less than 15% in case of corruption. But we do know that this is not the case, there has been no conviction because the politicians are powerful and financially very influential. They use their money and muscle power to turn things in their favour.

Feminism Doesn’t Mean The Same Thing For All Women

Another argument often presented is, “The feminism professed by these snowflakes is not real feminism, it’s all faux and dangerous. It only promotes smoking/drinking.”

If we analyse this argument deeply, we will find that there lies this conceived belief that circumstances for everyone are same. Clearly, this is not the case.  For a girl living in a rural area, feminism, at its best, would enable her to go to school and get decent treatment in her family. But for a girl living in an urban area, this is not the case. The problems faced by her are altogether different.

The problems faced by girls in villages are not pertinent here. For example, a girl based in Mumbai/ Delhi doesn’t need to fight for going to school. Her brother or male friends are allowed to booze and roam around the whole night. So, she aspires to achieve the same degree of freedom. Clearly, the purpose of feminism would be different for  her. So, we can conclude from this that the role of feminism is different at different rungs.

I read a very beautiful line of late that summarises this ruction: “Feminism isn’t about promoting smoking, it’s about establishing the fact that smoking tarnishes a woman’s lungs, not her character.”

Debasing Feminism On The Bases Of One Fake Allegation

Third argument is, “Feminism is about defaming male gender and hurling fake allegations.”

Logical fallacies appear to be utterly logical and sensible, but if one digs deeper, we can see the hollowness that lies underneath.

Recently, a boy committed suicide because a girl had alleged him of raping her. The girl could not produce any evidence. The internet got rattled and it was projected as though rape has been normalised. In my opinion, it’s a fluctuation in the general trend. Women get raped every day, by strangers, their husbands, and they commit suicide because of harassment and molestation. But this doesn’t make much noise and the callous indifference goes on. But when the opposite happens, women are collectively abused and subjected to the harshest of obloquy. Why does this happen?

When circumstances go against men, they find that completely radical. They maintain their indifference to all incidents of rape and molestation so far because it has been normalised now. All it takes is one fake allegation for the male society to unite. For one fake allegation, all feminists are made to answer while men can shrug off their responsibility by saying #NotAllMen. And if we are to stress on statistics, here are some mind-boggling figures:

More than 32,500 cases of rapes were reported in 2017 only. That is 90 rapes per day.

More than 127,800 cases were pending by the end of 2017.

One can see how one fake allegation turns things topsy-turvy.

There’s an argument that I too had fallen prey to. It is premised on the point of generalisation and other implications emanating from it. It reads: “Feminists love to generalise men but get offended when someone generalises Muslims.” This argument is put forward in another parlance, “#NotAllMen argument is puke-inducing but #NotallMuslim argument isn’t.”

There is a very subtle absurdity and preposterousness in this argument. There are more than 1.8 billion practicing Muslims in the world, and only 1-2 lakh Muslims believe in the Wahabi ideology. To the contrary, almost every single man believes in patriarchy, either knowingly or unknowingly. We all practice patriarchy in our daily lives. This can be explicated by citing the fact that we all enjoy sexist and queerphobic humour.

In fact, sexism is the pillar on which queerphobia is premised. There’s a very popular trend among millennials, they love to use terms such as ‘chhakka‘ or ‘meetha‘ for tik-tokers. This happens because men are supposed to isolate themselves from any act that is purportedly feminine. Since dancing and singing are considered to have women’s monopoly on them, we use terms like ‘meetha‘ and ‘chakka’ for a male if he tries to break this stereotype.

We get irked when a woman wears a revealing dress or purchases wine. Why so? The crux of this explanation is that people who believe in patriarchy significantly outnumber those who believe in the Wahabi ideology.

This can be made more comprehensive if we look at the way two things are portrayed. Mainstream media is dominated by males. So, we don’t get to witness the severity of patriarchy because journalists can choose to show one thing as well as overlook the other.

Women are getting harassed and raped every now and then, but we don’t get to know much about this. To the contrary, the case of terrorism gets all the hype and noise because both sides benefit from that, i.e. the ones who unleash terror and the ones who use terror for their political gains.

Terrorists kill about 22,000-25,000 people every year, but this is exaggerated to an extent that people extrapolate that terrorism is the biggest threat to humanity. The concept of terrorism is based on theatrics. We can see how the plight of women is unable to prick our conscience, but the portrayal of terror makes us shiver with fear.

While talking about logical fallacies, one cannot ignore the role that WhatsApp has played. You can find justification for everything. I stumbled upon one such justification that read: “Girls are diamond and boys are iron, that’s why girls must be locked securely.” This is very farcical but it must be analysed too. They say that iron is pretty cheap while diamond is exorbitantly expensive.

Going by that logic, can’t one say that if a diamond is kept locked, what is the purpose of it being costly? Besides, the use of this metaphor reflects how plagued our way of thinking is. Women are considered fragile and friable ( Diamond is the hardest element but here it is not used in that sense). This speaks volumes about our cultural demagoguery.

Feminism isn’t selective. If anything, it’s lucrative for the male gender as well. It expands the range of colours/emotions/tastes for men that patriarchy tends to limit. In other words, feminism is lucrative for everyone, and we must embrace it.

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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.

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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