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Slowly Breaking Patriarchal Norms Of Masculinity: Portrait Of A Metrosexual Being

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Editor’s Note: This post is a part of What's A Man, a series exploring masculinity in India, in collaboration with Dr. Deepa Narayan. Join the conversation here!

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When you have to share your feelings, who do you usually turn to?

Metrosexual is a portmanteau of a metropolitan male of any sexual orientation who spends time and money on their external appearance, cultivates an aesthetic lifestyle, and won’t hesitate to burn a hole to get that Prada suit. This term was first used by British journalist Mark Simpson and caused a stir in the marketing industry that used it to appease fashion-attuned men to mint some green. In the early 2000s, David Beckham was epitomized as ‘the biggest metrosexual man of Britain’ owing to his voguish lifestyle.

The term has been metamorphosed several times to suit cultural approbation attached with sensitivity towards gender and sexual identities. It was not uncommon to browbeat a man for his clothing choice if it were anything out of the spectrum of their lumbersexual peers, nevertheless donning a hot pink tie today does not end with a black-eye from the neighborhood bully.

Source: Pinterest

Tale as Old as Time

It must be noted here that dressing up in a certain way would generate insensitive slurs from disgruntled homophobes a decade ago (which happens even now). Still, a few centuries ago, a well-groomed man was a matter of pride. Louis XIV, the king of France, was known for his flamboyant lifestyle. His portrait paints a picture of a man who left no pumice stone unturned to look like the sun shines for him even though his vanity came at the cost of exaggerated taxes from peasants until they were siphoned dry.

The label of metrosexuality might be relatively new. Still, the facts that sit on dusty old encyclopedias that high heels were an invention for men is proof enough that it was living in its element since time unknown. Wigs have been a part of judicial and aristocratic fashion and continue to be even now. We might point fingers at archaic beliefs for keeping tabs on men’s fashion and narrowing it down to a few acceptable plaids and checks, but it is not plausible when Yester time was blooming with ‘Style for Men’.

Source: Healthline

A Fashion Whodunnit: Myth Or Market

Devout flag bearers of ‘Manhood’ brandished the sword of fanciful and tagged metrosexuality as a myth, a make-believe fantasy that exists only in the head of people to justify their ‘action’ that goes against being a ‘man.’ It is also well believed that the word was coined for filling the silk-lined pockets of beauty and fashion corporations and was a marketing marvel.

Under the pretense of metrosexuality, shelves were stocked with grooming essentials that could burn one’s masculinity, or so says all the wuss. This venture experienced a few hiccups as well-dressed, and good-smelling men were attached to homosexual stereotypes; men ‘feared’ getting hit on by another man.

Metrosexual men were and still are egged on by their more ‘manly’ fellows to suppress their need to look, smell, and feel good; otherwise, it will get gaydars running. The good news is that all this balderdash did not stop GQ and Esquire from advertising Nivea for Men.

Treat Yo’ Self Telly Style!

Rajesh Koothrapali from Big Bang Theory was ridiculed for his self-care regime and spending dollars and minutes on eye creams and moisturizers. What is the harm in hydrating one’s epithelial layer, especially when they get your toddler a Gucci cape? Parks and Recs’ very own Tom Haverford was on the other end of the line from Ron Swanson, with his prim and proper swag and his Vogue cover model appearance, but why was this seen as weird rather than being completely normal. Ken in Toy Story 3 had an elaborate walk-in closet, and he wasn’t bashful about showing it off to Barbie.

All of the above are examples of metrosexual characters we have seen on television, but all of their personalities are boiled down to be shown as creeps; why are desperation and patheticness saved for the metrosexual character explaining their shopaholic tendency as a fruit of their forlorn destiny. Being a metrosexual is passed off as eccentric behavior, which further incites viewers’ negative reactions against those who indulge in a little retail therapy.

Source: Pinterest

Prince Charming: Keeping the Glass Sandal

Self-love and acceptance are being preached everywhere in the 21st century and they have acted as a matchstick to burn down toxic images of manhood that encircled men who hoarded fashion paraphernalia, hoping to extend the territory of approved lifestyle for men. Disgust has turned into flattery when one is approached by another man.

Paychecks of single men are singed for cosmetics, pink ties, and Versace Barocco satin prints in addition to beer, PlayStation, and sports tickets. Many social media influencers post makeup tutorials for urban living and about major fashion trends for every season. Even though metrosexual men are nowhere near the end of the pernicious forest of ‘manhood,’ they have transgressed milestones barbed with lumber sexuality. Breaking walls of long-gone times is not a well-paced process, but that is how the cookie crumbles.

Until then, exfoliate judgment, trim away your fears, wash off venomous thoughts, hydrate with power, and moisturize with love.

Written by: Noor

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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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