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Women Bloggers Face Misogyny And Sexism By Male Influencers In The Garb Of Empowerment

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As I was scrolling through YouTube, I was struck with the thought of the evolving rhetoric concerning femininity, the notion here being how a society changes its landscape from culture to culture, puts a certain weight scale to measure women and her abstract purity. A majority of communities across the world is scared of the beauty of femininity, or a woman trying to celebrate the beauty of her femininity. She is always under the preying eyes and constantly attempting to dodge the patriarchal tunnel vision being enforced upon her.

This notion of femininity comes up in a recent trend of roasting Instagram blogger named Sofia Ansari, who is popular for her reels. The aspect that she is getting roasted for is her choice of outfit when she dances in front of the lens to make Instagram reels. Her fault was simple and justified by some YouTuber Ashleelta. Sofia’s Instagram page is filled with lewd comments.

A YouTuber, who goes by the name Anupam Rajput, brutally roasted Sofia and later apologised, yet justifying how Sofia’s clothing was wrong. Anupam slut-shamed her and said that Sofia was “triggering” men by her choice of outfit. He said he women, but not of ‘her type’. There are multiple videos online of Sofia being roasted for spreading ashleelta (indecent) for the ‘skimpy outfits ‘ she is wearing.

Image has been provided by the author.

The most important point that can be unearthed here is that women empowerment and respect for women are layered concepts.

A huge population of India feels entitled to put out different apparatuses to measure the character of women. A woman getting educated and becoming an IAS officer is a celebration for a lot of people, yet, when she wears a skirt or an outfit termed as ‘skimpy’, she instantly gets denounced, rejected and loses all her respect. Her clothes overpower all her talent and achievement she has displayed so far. Suddenly, she is labelled as a false figure of inspiration for women.

Again and again, even in the garb of women empowerment, women are pushed to fit the ‘good girl’ stereotype till society approves of her, constantly ensuring that she doesn’t “cross the line”. Once she does, she becomes a ‘bad girl’. The same moral police groups will repeatedly perpetuate how they respect women and believe in gender equality. But they are just a well-oiled part of the rape mentality machinery running smoothly in society.

A roast video justifying how it’s a woman’s fault for triggering men on Instagram by wearing certain outfits is made by this rape-mentality machinery. Just a part of exposed skin of a person is met with such strong resentment.

But the question here remains whether this moral police can ever provide a justified logic as to why one shouldn’t show their skin. Words such as diva and babydoll are used to bash women. Is the moral police scared of someone showing bare skin, making men angry or triggering them? How is it harming anyone?

Normalising something reduces an over-reaction against it.

Watching a documentary called Liberated on Netflix showed how women in EDM and rave parties are harassed and groped by entitled men. According to these men, every girl is ‘asking for it’ and is a slut. Even if a girl is looking for sex, it doesn’t mean anyone has the right to mistreat her and touch her without consent. Similarly, even a discussion of sexual fantasies by women is met with disgust and grudge.

Image has been provided by the author.

Last year, OnlyFans, a content subscription service, was very much talked about for putting a price tag on someone’s skin. This isn’t the key to a sex positive environment. Many OnlyFans creators have revealed that they are paid to pose a certain way and take pictures for a certain fetish for its audience.

Humans beings are a product of the culture they grow up in. Hence, controlling women will not solve the problem. The root cause is here to stay. Normalising body parts, beauty of both male and female bodies or skin will create a healthier state. We must work towards building an understanding of the human body and see it for itself instead of labelling it as shameful.

Right from their childhood, kids are taught the word ‘shame’ when referring to body parts. Ordinary body parts like breasts are hypersexualised and women have to bear the brunt of it all. School girls are slut-shamed right from their childhood and are told to control and hide their bodies and behave like a decent ‘lady’. The difference between men and women keeps widening, but it’s all in our head. It’s all a perception that can be changed or moulded according to what we are taught.

We must change this outlook to a place where we can see the beauty of body. Change is difficult but necessary to contemplate the irrational thinking instilled within us by society. This change has to happen by teaching ourselves and our kids.

Start by simple things. It ain’t the fault of women. Her outfits and behaviour are not giving any wrong signal, it’s only society’s perception. She doesn’t have to justify herself all the time for her choice of clothes. Change is a small, conscious effort here. This can be a really small step, yet, speaks volumes.

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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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