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What Are Some Common Counter-Narratives To Feminism?

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Patriarchy (noun):

  •  A system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is reckoned through the male line.
  •  A system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.

Misogyny (noun):

  •   Dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.

Feminism (noun):

  •   The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.

It is important to start off with these basic terms as these will be the primary focus of this piece of writing, or ‘rant’, or ‘whining against men’; as people would like to call it. The incident of ‘Bois Locker Room’ has made quite some noise and inevitably, ‘Girls Locker Room’ examples have also come up. What is curious here is that almost never do incidents like the latter come up. However, the former surface to pacify or justify the entire situation.

Boys Face Harassment Too

The question that arises here is why is it always “boys face harassment too?”, and almost never a single incident of a man getting sexually harassed or rape threats, or anything close to unwanted sexual advances on a constant basis that comes up independently? Almost all the stories of guys getting harassed that make it to the news have surfaced after certain accusations were made against the male community. Only after that, a handful of boys come up with their harassment stories or even worse, come up with examples of females falsely accusing guys of sexual offence.

This trend has been surfacing for quite some time now, and the majority of society has made itself comfortable with it. If a girl is bringing in an accusation against a boy, it is met with frowns and people prepare themselves to jump at any tiny bit of news/propaganda that tries to prove that the accusation is false.

When a woman is accusing a man, she has to take responsibility for all from her gender. She has to bear the load of the fact that a certain percentage of women bring false accusations against men. Despite the fact that a negligible percentage of women have access to the resources needed to complain against male violence, let alone falsely complain, society seems to lose their mind when a woman shows the audacity to take a step forward and complain. When a woman is deciding to complain against a man, her entire community has to be the epitome of virtue.

A common narrative regarding this is because of such women, women who actually face male violence are not taken seriously. This narrative disregards women with statements like “Girls/women are mongers of publicity and are there to taint the reputation of men.” Yet, when a man is actually harassing a woman or doing something equating to that, it is “men will be men.” What is astonishing is that this is uttered with a sort of fondness that comes nowhere closer to the scorn associated with “girls/women are publicity mongers.”

When a man is accused, it means not all men are the same. But if a woman brings a false accusation, the entire history of women’s oppression loses its value, hence jumping to the conclusion that women cannot be trusted. It seems that even criminality is the sole property of males.

Criminal traits give a sense of power to the minds of those who commit crimes. Their distorted sense of hovering over mortals and defying the rules of law and order gives them an ego boost that takes them to a different high. No wonder society wants to ascribe this crooked sense of getting high at others’ expenses to men and boys only.

How can a woman even dare to get high on anything, let alone at the expense of others? How can a woman dare to think of her ego getting satisfied? Is she even allowed to have one? People tend to forget that crime is a human trait that needs correction. Gender is not something that needs to be ascribed to the crime. A crime is a crime. No matter which sex does it, but society doesn’t work like that. Does it?

The first reaction of society towards a crime committed by a woman is highlighting the gender of the criminal. Fingers are pointed, for now women have become like this due to the freedom they are getting, or a typical astonishment directed not exactly at the nature of the crime but more on how a ‘woman’ being a mother or a sister or a daughter could commit such a thing.

Men, however, do not face such scenarios. Their roles as fathers or brothers or sons are not questioned with regard to their crimes. They do not face additional scorns from society for being a man and committing a crime. In simpler terms, when ideally no one raping or sexually offending anyone should be tolerated, a man raping is a normal crime (or something that men do as they are men only, as a certain minister had once said), which can be done away with slut-shaming and making the woman responsible for exciting men to force them onto her. But a woman sexually offending a man cannot be looked through the same glass as men cannot be asked to behave themselves. Also, because women are only supposed to be forced, not the other way round.

Feminism Doesn’t Mean The Same Thing To All

It’s really shuddering to see how gender works over one of the most heinous crimes and provides a cringe-worthy privilege to the men. What the majority of people are blissfully forgetting here is that an extremely low percentage of women have access to modern resources like the internet and smartphones that give them a window to the outside world or makes them able enough to stand up against male violence.

In a country where marital rape is still legal, many women probably consider getting raped a completely normal occurrence. Neither do they know the word consent, nor do they believe that they can actually say a ‘yes’ or ‘no‘ in any situation. A huge percentage of Indian women believe that all their life’s decisions are to be taken only by their elder/younger male family members. The few, who despite not having proper resources try to stand up against it, make it to the news — mostly as dead bodies and only a few as winning against the universe.

In a number of recent posts related to the ‘Bois Locker Room’ incident on social media, a certain trend has got extremely blatant. A number of men and women, who claim themselves to be somewhat of social activists and extremely socially-aware people, are claiming that boys do not get justice in this world, or to translate their words, “No one listens to boys in this country.’” Such posts and comments under them are enough to send shock waves down our spine.

In a country where detecting the sex of the child inside a mother’s womb is a crime because that poses a deadly threat to the unborn baby, how can people actually claim that society does not listen to men? What is astonishing is that such posts get huge number of shares and, in most of the cases, no one in the comment section actually stands up against such propaganda. The bottom line of such posts is only highlighting how women ‘too’ have groups like ‘girls locker room’, and thus underlining not the crime but the gender of the person who committed it.

A protest by the students of Jadavpur University against domestic violence on women has taken place in front of the main campus of Jadavpur University. (Photo by Debsuddha Banerjee/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In these kinds of narratives, where men’s rights activists protest against the daily turmoil of men, they knowingly, or purposefully, or maybe ignorantly cut off a huge section of women who belong to society. All their vengeance towards women and their apparent wrongdoings has a basis that consists of the apparently privileged and dominantly educated city girls. These girls have their basic amenities and are “allowed” to have some relationships with men, know them, form knowledge about society, and have enough resources to scheme and plot.

Whom these activists are blissfully cutting out here are the vast rural women population — women who have no access to education, women who don’t know what sanitary napkins are, women who do not have access to contraceptives or safe measures of giving birth, women who get killed as a result of falling in love, women from the Dalit community, women bound by rigorous religious boundaries, trans women, and women sex workers. All these women are kept out of the narratives of women ruining men’s lives, manipulating them or misusing their power. More than half of Indian women do not even have power — the word is an amusement to them, how can they even misuse it?

Patriarchy Among Men And Women

The problem here is patriarchy. Patriarchy that has engulfed both women and men alike. Patriarchy has made women and men enemies, but why are only a few men ready to fight it? Because patriarchy comes with its own set of privileges custom-made for men. These privileges are too good to let go of in comparison to the oppression men face. It naturally results in only a handful of men understanding the situation and thus actually actively fighting patriarchy.

On the other hand, why do many women not fight patriarchy? Because they have been very systematically made to understand that it is patriarchy that helps the women race sustain. It is patriarchy that is keeping them safe; financially, emotionally and physically (from other men only). They believe that it is because of patriarchy that they have whatever they have. Without patriarchy, they would be left with nothing, because if women start wanting, desiring and questioning, how will patriarchy keep its nuts and bolts intact?

People utter the word feminism in a way as if it is a disease, a blight. People are often heard saying that they are not feminists, but they are in support of equality. It is really hard to understand what this statement means. In light of the locker room incident, it has again been proved that society does not want to face reality, it just wants something to shut it down.

What is the best way to shut it down than bringing up a counter-narrative? One that accuses a girl who is not even related to the main incident or who shows signs of deep-rooted traumas? Well, when you have a woman to blame, you should not ideally lose any time in doing so.

 

Men and women are supposed to co-exist in a way that will help both of them grow. However, with each passing day, it gets clearer and clearer that society has failed us and we as individuals have failed each other. To quote Laurie Penny, who in her Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution says, “Gender works us all over, makes enemies of the people we’re supposed to love, and it works women over the most. We are the ones for whom biology is not just destiny: it is a catastrophe.”

It is indeed a catastrophe. Feminism is not a fixed ideology. It is an ongoing process (again Laura Penny) and people are constantly failing to understand it. Men have become so comfortable in patriarchy that they are not ready to try anything else that might actually make their lives even better. Women, on the other hand, are so scared that they cannot think anything beyond patriarchy.

There is a sense of a false belonging of being in control, owning a family, being the caregiver, being irreplaceable, being a mother, a sister, a wife, or a daughter who shows the courage of giving the labour of love. Love that cannot even buy a woman a good night’s sleep or peace and will vanish the day she stops doing things she has been doing without asking for anything in return.

This is what patriarchy has done — made women scared and men so comfortable that nothing moves forward, and we keep living in a state of limbo. The way things are shaping, it is high time that more and more people unlearn what they have internalised through generations. It should start with unlearning family values that essentially promote oppression and any kind of discrimination. The moment one starts to unlearn what tradition has been teaching them, the road to betterment opens up. The sooner people understand this, the sooner society will start getting greener in the true sense of the term.

In this world where hate, oppression, discrimination and violence are radically engulfing society, it is almost a now-or-never situation to start the process of unlearning. There is no other way to do it and there is no time left in hand to start the process.

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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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