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Feminist Media As An Alternative Mainstream Media

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Lessons And Way Forward Amid The Pandemic

Media plays a huge role in shaping the perception of ourselves and of the world we inhabit therefore it is of critical importance that we concerned ourselves with media messages and how it impacts our thinking and perspective of the world. Women have been using media to mobile mass campaigns and movements for social justice. They transport their messages through different mediums to disrupt social orders and spin novel social processes.

Feminists have long recognised the importance of self-managed, alternative media and hence increasingly media production is being managed by women. Through new emerging communication technologies, women have started to campaign for feminism.

In a webinar organized by Gender Impact Studies Centre at Impact and Policy Research Institute, Delhi Post News and Gender Centre for Research and Innovation, Gurugram, Jaspleen Pasricha, Founder, Director and Editor in chief, Feminism in India (FII) highlights the constructive media in which news is influenced by the reporter’s social location and choices are based on certain editorial decisions.

Japleen Pasricha_Feminist Media as an Alternative Mainstream Media_ Lessons and the Way Forward amid the Pandemic

The different mediums use creative language which evokes certain feelings that impacts the way the subject is perceived by the public. Thus, being aware of such language can reduce people’s susceptibility to messages and increase their appreciation for the creative process. She also points out that media stories are value-laden and carries the message regardless of their impact on public opinions.

She opined that media is created for profits and hence it is important to make sponsors, channels and advertisers accountable for misinformation. It is being observed that certain media houses deliberately spread fake news for Television Rating Point’s (TRP) and they align it with certain political agendas hurting the sentiments of people. Thus, as media consumers, its people’s responsibility to cross-check and fact check every news item.

She defines alternative media as anything independent, distant, radical, underground, subversive, non-cooperate, progressive, small and falls outside the perspective of mainstream media. It differs from established or dominant forms of media. She says this form of media is booming simultaneously with digital media. It uses a wide spectrum of communication, technologies and formats like Facebook, YouTube or Instagram or media platforms based on newsletters.

Further, Pasricha points out the issues of lack of Indian women and minorities’ representation on the internet, increasing online abuse and gender-based violence, online harassment faced by women and minorities often, spreading patriarchal ideas through fake news and misinformation. This stems from the need for feminist media.


She says that the discourse around the scale of gender-based violence has been gaining momentum all over the world especially in India, however, the problems persist on how the reportage heinousness of crimes such as rapes, sexual harassment, sexual violence is being carried out in media along with the kind of language used.

Pasricha highlighted how ‘spooky’ headlines are made to invoke horror and shock among people, which are generally insensitive and problematic. The featured images are often insensitive depicting the victim’s helplessness and misery throughout her life. The language used, highly blames victims by putting them in bad light ignoring the perpetrator completely. This whole wrong use of speeches influences the thinking of the public. Thus, it is important to shift the media focus from victim to perpetrators.

She condemned media for not including women’s perspective in COVID-19 related policy documents, advisories, news coverage, scholarly articles. The women issues have not been covered properly, bringing women at a greater risk of being marginalised within societies given the global health crisis.

Citing an example to elucidate her point she says accessibility to menstrual products, the crisis of disposable pads were completely ignored from media coverage. She further adds that the media has been ignorant of sexual health for women especially regarding abortion which is a stigma and a challenge to safe and confidential abortion services even in regular non-pandemic circumstances.

Image source: Sunidhi Kothari/Feminism In India

With the current public health emergency where facilities have been repurposed for COVID-19 management, there has been a shortage of abortion services. This shows how COVID-19 has ignored women’s health. Pasricha further emphasised the need for telemedicine to support people without exposing staff to viruses/infections in times of such outbreaks.

It is important to have alternate forms of media too bring a diversity in the media ecosystem and to hold mainstream media accountable,” says Pasricha. Further, alternative media platforms are led by citizen journalism which better report in areas where mainstream media is unable to reach. Thus, alternative media empower citizens and be vocal about their issues. Social media empower alternative media by giving power and autonomy.

“Whether we promote women rights in media or we continue to sell the stories of their sufferings is a hard choice which we have to make.” Says Dr Simi Mehta, CEO & Editorial Director at IMPRI and Fulbright scholar, Ohio State University, USA.

The feminist media industry needs to be encouraged to produce gender-transformative content and to develop self-regulatory equality policies, including access to decision-making positions thereby creating gender equality in content, workplace and management.

Acknowledgements: Nishi Verma is the research program assistant at Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi. 

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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.

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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.

        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.

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        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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        Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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