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Kangana Ranaut Over The Years: The Anti-Feminist Icon We Really Don’t Need

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Kangana Ranaut has been permanently suspended from Twitter for violating the social media platform’s guidelines by posting hate speech. This is basically the second wave of venom we saw from Ranaut. Prior to her, her sister Rangoli made enough statements to get herself suspended.

After her departure, ‘Koo’ app founders welcomed her with their open arms. Was it because they agree with Kangana’s words and ideologies? Or was it an opportunity to get their app boosted?

What Kangana did is something that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP should be worried about, which is that she exposed his role (indirectly but visible enough) in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Something Modi and his followers vehemently denied over the years. Yet, we see the same followers defending her, demanding that her account be reinstated and more than anything else, ignoring the fact that her words should get her charged for sedition or UAPA.

The COVID-19 second wave did indeed bring out the worst in some people. Those with the privilege of not getting infected themselves could afford all resources they need to thrive during something crucial like a lockdown. While many of her colleagues (not necessarily as effective as expected) are doing what they can to bring attention to those in need of resources (like oxygen, hospital beds, medicines, food, etc) Kangana was seen whitewashing all the criticisms directed at the authorities for their handling of the second wave.

When Twitterati was heard screaming for their lives due to an oxygen shortage, Kangana conveniently made it about the lack of trees. She even ranted about people being “angry“.

Now that she is suspended for the same troublesome words we heard from her sister, one thing I think is for sure, Kangana will be that ‘fallen’ feminist icon one will read about.

When Kangana Became The ‘Icon’ Women Needed

I admired her a lot during her time in Bollywood, between Gangster and Tanu Weds Manu Returns. When women’s roles in films were reduced to love interests, plot devices, second fiddles, and eye candies, Kangana took daring choices by playing complex women with layers. As an alcoholic in Gangster, a schizophrenic in Woh Lamhe, a fallen diva in Fashion, etc, she took on roles that gave her the opportunity to exploit her talents.

She made a niche for herself with her tremendous success with ‘Queen.’ Critics have lauded her for starting the trend of women-led stories in Bollywood, which became more prominent after 2014, although the crown truly belongs to Vidya Balan who made ‘sheroic’ films before her. Amidst all this, she said things that makes one stand up and cheer. She spoke out on pay parity, misogyny, sexual harassment, casting couch, sexism from media, and last but the least, nepotism.

In an interview with Barkha Dutt, she talked about how people are wrongly injected with the idea that the audience doesn’t like to watch women on-screen, especially beyond a certain age. How it was wrong to give her male co-stars triple her salary even if their brands didn’t generate that much at the box office.

Yes, Kangana’s background also made her a hero at the time. She was born to a family in a society with son-preference. Her father had mentioned how her birth was like a funeral. “People used to tell me, ‘thank god there is a brother after you.’ I used to think, ‘really?’ I am bringing home something,” she had talked about son-preference in an interview.

She came to Mumbai against her parents’ wishes to live her dreams. She is said to have survived exploitation and intimidation. Mocking and rejections. She was mocked for her English and long curly hair. Aditya Chopra had mentioned that she will reach nowhere in five years. Her eventual success was a big shut up to him and Karan Johar.

When her sister was attacked with acid, Kangana said that she worked very hard, doing multiple projects so that her sister can get the best treatment in India. Rangoli also had inspiring words to say about surviving an acid attack. So when ‘Manikarnika’ was announced, I thought that she was the perfect choice for the role.

Maybe that’s why her fall from grace is disappointing. It hurts in a way too. Everything Kangana said or stood for today had been everything that was against the very section of people who idolized her. At this point, it is certain beyond any doubt that Kangana is anything but a feminist. If anything, I feel she is an anti-feminist.

Kangna Ranaut

When Urmila Matondkar expressed her disagreement with Kangana, she responded by referring to her as a “soft-core porn actress“. It was her way of disregarding or disrespecting someone who also happens to be an award-winning actress. When Rihanna expressed her concerns about Farmers’ protests in India, Kangana put out several tweets slut-shaming her.

She ‘conveniently’ pulled down Deepika and Katrina with the “naachenwaali” (Dancers, meant in a derogatory way) label when a politician slammed her. Technically, she used the ‘hypersexualisation process’, which is a commonly used method to silence and shame some, and we have seen that with right-wing trolls, the sexist media, etc. Women are reduced to their bodies and sexuality, because, the notion of honour, purity, and chastity is always attached to women. Kangana herself has been at the receiving end of this. Then, she went to attack the likes of Taapsee Pannu, Swara Bhaskar, Alia Bhatt, Anushka Sharma, and others.

When Deepika put out several posts spreading awareness on mental health and depression, Kangana unleashed a troll attack on her by mocking her as a “depression ka dhandha” (Depression has become a business). When Deepika showed up at the JNU protests before the release of her film ‘Chhapaak’, this became a tool of sorts for more social media attacks against the actress.
Kangana’s attacks on Deepika began since the latter didn’t support her films and for criticising the poster of her film ‘Mental Hai Kya.’

Similarly, she began trolling Alia Bhatt after she didn’t support her film Manikarnika. While Bhatt maintained dignity before the media, Kangana didn’t think twice before calling her a “mediocre” actress in an interview with Arnab Goswami. When Alia shared a childhood photo of hers, Kangana conveniently pitted her against Sushant Singh Rajput by calling Bhatt “dumb” and Rajput a “genius“. She taunted Taapsee’s status as a “B-grade” actress by stating how she has never delivered a solo hit. Unlike Alia, Taapsee did hit back at her.

Last year, after Sushant Singh Rajput’s untimely death by suicide, Kangana conveniently grabbed the opportunity to unleash another attack on Bollywood and make it about herself as well. Using Rajput’s status as an outsider, Kangana played victim by asking why Bollywood people are not supporting her or her films. Because he died by suicide, when there could have been a clear-cut conversation about mental health issues, Kangana trivialised mental illness with her horrifying argument which was slammed by a professional.

She even blamed Deepika’s “sudden” depression on her breakup when Deepika had clearly mentioned in her interviews that it wasn’t the case. She was at the peak of her career and had a good relationship. I feel that for Kangana, mental illness is something that is forced on people.

During the Sushant Singh Rajput ‘controversy’, Kangana also managed to take a dig at caste-based reservation. She eventually called for its removal in an eventual Tweet. As someone who wanted to end conversations on caste by revoking reservation, who claims that modern-day Indians have rejected the caste system, Kangana constantly took pride in her caste as Kshatriya and Rajput.

Calling Farmers Terrorists: The biggest social media flak she faced was when she called protesting farmers terrorists. She put an elderly woman participating in the rally in danger by mistaking her for Bilkis Bano from the Shaheen Bagh protests and Kangana claimed that she was ‘available for Rs 100’ to protest.

Looking Back At The ‘Hrithik-Kangana Controversy’

Kangana’s status as a controversial figure began when Hrithik filed a legal notice against her for calling him her “silly ex.” At the time, I didn’t pay attention to the controversy because it was important that their respective legal defenses worked out in proper judicial proceedings.

Kangana claimed that they were in a relationship and Hrithik was a possessive boyfriend who kept stalking and harassing her. Hrithik, on the other hand, claimed that they were never in a relationship and he was the one who turned down her advances. While Kangana kept attacking him in several interviews including the one ‘Aap Ki Adalat’ episode, Hrithik maintained a longer graceful silence, till it was too much even for him to take. In his words, his case against her is on.

The only proof Kangana managed to provide from her side was a supposedly photoshopped picture of herself with Hrithik. After all the trolling and gaslighting Kangana had been spilling on social media in the last year, one couldn’t help but side with Hrithik.
Actor Adhyayan Suman, when he opened up about the abuse he faced in her hands, said a crucial point. He felt triggered by Hrithik’s legal case against her. But, the media and netizens sided with her at the time.

What is striking is that the very section that voiced against Kangana during the Hrithik controversy, is the same section that is supporting her due to her right-wing views.

She is simply batting for a power structure to ensure her own survival. The same power structure provided her with Y+ security while visiting Mumbai over her war-of-words with Sanjay Raut, mind you, she refused to go to Mumbai to record a statement in the Sushant Singh Rajput case, citing the pandemic. That too after all her words “promising” her involvement in the case. Ranaut’s words about her cannot be justified in any manner but Kangana had angered many people by comparing Mumbai with PoK over a joke posted by the police.

Kangana’s confidence is fuelled by the right-wing support she is getting. And the media is also giving her publicity because she makes headlines every time she puts out a Tweet. The same confidence now drives her to throw more attacks on liberals and distractions from the ongoing pandemic and related repercussions.

Kangana could have been the icon women want to see and follow. That is visible in her choice of films. But, throughout her career, her idea of feminism and empowerment end up being skewed. As a self-proclaimed nationalist, her idea of partisan politics and toxic superficial nationalism only hurts more people. Because people represent the country, the same people buy a ticket to watch her movies.

Personally, I don’t expect Kangana to be more responsible or change her troublesome views and judgments. But, the media can prioritise the country by giving them time and space to whoever needs the resources during the crisis and focusing on what authorities can do to help.

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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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