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

“Super Woman”: Why We Need To Stop Gaslighting And Glorifying Women’s Painful Experiences

ReimagineTogether logoEditor’s Note: This article is a part of #ReimagineTogether, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with UNICEF India, YuWaah and Generation Unlimited, to spark conversations to create a new norm and better world order in the post-pandemic future. How have you and those around you coped with the pandemic? Join the conversation by telling us your COVID story and together, let's reimagine a safer, better and more equal future for all!

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of the partners.

A recent social media post once again brought the increasing misogyny of online communities to the fore.  Someone had posted a photograph of a woman patient slaving away in the kitchen cooking food while wearing an oxygen mask with a tube attached to the oxygen tank. This dangerous act was being glorified with the caption “Unconditional Love = *Mother* She is Never Off Duty.”

The use of toxic praise could be seen in this instance as a way to manipulate a person or a group to work to their detriment. In this case, however, the social media users were quick to call out the post and people started searching for the original poster on Twitter (albeit unsuccessfully).

Unconditional Love of Mother Twitter Post
Representative image only.

This was an example of toxic behaviour that is not highlighted enough. In the case of the woman, one saw the use of toxic praise — praise used for the purpose of manipulating people to getting a person to sacrifice something (e.g. one’s essential to care) or to obey. We see the use of toxic praise everywhere in the offline world when girls are told that they should do cooking without equal participation of their brothers because it will make them better wives in the future, or that they should be obedient because it makes them well-behaved. 

Toxic praise is not the only problematic behaviour found in the online and offline world. People seem to hit women with one trick after another to get them to compromise, sacrifice, adjust or take a weaker position.

How Society Controls Women By Gaslighting Them

Gaslighting is one of the major tricks used by relatives, friends and neighbours as a way to control the behaviour of girls. It may present itself when a girl complaining of a problem is called difficult or when a girl not wanting to marry is regarded with suspicion. In the online world, we see virtually anyone being tarnished as being a “feminazi”.

Feminazi as a gaslighting term -- picture from Pinterest
Feminazi as a gaslighting term. Representative image only.


Gaslighting Is Not Displaying “Concern”

People doing gaslighting may present it as constructive criticism or simply being truthful and as an example of ‘caring for you’. But it actually is the opposite of these. 

Dr Safiya Amer (name changed upon request) mentions that despite being a monetarily successful physician, her in-laws are always trying to run her down. “There is always subtle verbal abuse like the food they made was not tasty or something about the child’s intelligence or good manners comes from the inlaws.” Relief from nasty comments cannot be expected soon as even a judge has remarked that taunting is part of married life while hearing a case where a woman alleged harassment including not being able to meet her parents and being given stale food.

Gaslighting is combined with not only toxic praise but also with other manipulative tricks such as infantilising and love-bombing. In infantilising, the girl is told that she doesn’t know enough or is not mature enough or capable enough or old enough. This has been observed with girls being told that their life decisions have to be made by elders or have to be approved by elders. 

Love-bombing refers to grandiose gestures depicting love meant to overwhelm the person from having any negative feelings. This might be a range of lavish gifts by a fiance or his parents, grand parties in luxurious settings, cruises, holidays, treats, etc or simply pretending to agree to all ideas and statements so that the person feels they are on a honeymoon period even though there has been no marriage. In the online and offline dating world, it may take the shape of excessive compliments, emojis, love messages, and promises.

After the person or group doing love bombing has been successful in getting the girl to commit or marry, the behaviour drastically changes. Some of us might remember a famous case reported in the media is that of Marilyn Manson (alias Brain Warner) who love-bombed Love Bailey in the early days of their relationship.

Samira Khan (name changed upon request), a teacher, who lives in a joint family after her marriage says,  “The biggest problem for women is patriarchy. It is the entire system that prevents women from being their most independent version of themselves. It impacts what you are allowed and not allowed to do because you are a woman. Just because you are a woman you are supposed to do household work even if you are working. You are also expected to always make sacrifices.”

In other words, one cannot expect any solution to this problem any time soon. However, the current focus on these toxic behaviours via social media is definitely a promising beginning.

You must be to comment.
  1. Dr. Praveen Dube

    Superb writing really a great point of view got unnoticed. A great perspective and deep analysis.

More from Shahnawaz Islam

Similar Posts

By Ayush Kumar

By vishal

By IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below