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Seven Reasons Why I Am Not Excited For The F.R.I.E.N.D.S Reunion

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If Joey ever asked me “Whatcha doin‘ ” my reply would be “not watching a  problematic sitcom for the sake of nostalgia.”

F.R.I.E.N.D.S. is one of the most popular American sitcoms that aired from September 1994 to 4th May 2004. The show has inspired lives, people and even cafes. Not having friends who love the series is very uncommon. The TV show co-created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman is still telecasted on channels like Comedy Central. It was a significant but problematic part of my childhood. I watched the first season of the series with my cousin and I found some of the jokes, comments and concepts spiteful. Now that I look back as an adult, I understand why I disliked F.R.I.E.N.D.S. right from the day I started watching it.

1.These Central Park Coffee Drinkers Have Always Been Central Jerks.

The men in FRIENDS could never be my friends because of their rampant sexualisation, fetishisation and homoph*bic behaviour. Whether it is Joey’s constant sexualisation of almost every woman he comes across or his consistent fetishisation of lesbians and women who prefer women, the men of the show seem to be misogynistic.

Sexist attitudes displayed by characters on friends is found in abundance through its 10 seasons. Representative image only.

Making fun of lesbians because of their sexuality is not funny, it’s disturbing, problematic and demeaning to the couples and the individuals themselves.

2.Fat-Shaming Monica And Making Fun Of Her Undiagnosed Mental Illness.

Monica was fat-shamed quite a few times throughout the show. Fat-shaming her former self and over glorifying her weight loss further made this series anything but funny. The scene of Rachel’s sister commenting about Monica’s former body or the love story of her and Chandler while Chandler only loving her when she was acceptable and thin give us a very wrong perception of weight loss and love. People who weigh more deserve love and affection like any other person.

Monica’s mental health issues too are laughed upon. Her compulsive behaviour portrayed as ‘quirky’, ‘relatable’ and ‘OCD’ makes it harder for any viewer to laugh because mental illness is serious; trivialising and demeaning it will not help the person.

3.Ross, The Misogynistic Palaeontologist

The dinosaur-loving nerdy man whom we were to relate with, expressed his idea of the binary gender spectrum, disregarding non-binary individuals. He was unfunny and people didn’t conform to his idea of being a man or a woman.

Be it his discomfort with his son playing with barbies or his presumption that a male nanny had to be ‘ gay’, his problematic comments stems out numerously throughout the series. According to Ross, not conforming to gender stereotypes makes you a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.

4.The Transph*bic Behaviour And Humiliation Of Chandler’s Dad.

Drag queens might not have been celebrated back then like they are now but that in no world justifies how these group of ‘friends’ reacted around Chandler’s dad with their condescending behaviour and trans humiliating jokes. Chandler’s Dad deserved better as a character.

Apparently, transphobia was very funny in the 90s. Representative image only.

5. Rachel Hired An Underqualified Assistant Because of Of His “Nice Butt”

Hiring an under-qualified assistant because he is cute and has a nice butt is wrong on a lot more levels. Not only is she objectifying the person but also demeaning his work ethics and skills. Although this wasn’t the only time the show has projected characters giving someone credentials because they were aesthetically appealing. Such incidents spring throughout the series.

 

6.Carol And Susan- The Lesbian Laughing Stock Of The Series

Remember when Ross pointed out about the books on homosexuality when he went over to his ex-wife’s house? Thank god she left him because being stuck with a homoph*bic man as a queer person is one of the biggest nightmares out there. 

The discomfort, the degradation, the demeaning of Carol and Susan showed us how being a lesbian in the sitcom was funnier than the jokes in the sitcom. 

7.Phoebe’s Harassment By Rachel’s Boyfriend.

The harassment of Phoebe by Paolo in Season One is hurtful and uncomfortable to watch and then the reaction of the friends is very dismissive as well.

Instead of acknowledging her assault and supporting her at first, what we see is how all of them are more involved in what Rachel would think of her boyfriend cheating. This scene dismisses sexual harassment at the workplace completely. The entire episode was uncomfortable and to an extent scary and unreal to watch and the nonchalant behaviour of the events afterwards only made it worse.

Along with these, the show proceeds to show us a lot more problematic things like the casual borderline sexual harassment, Ross trying to sleep with his cousin or Joey’s blatant sexism which can’t be ignored regardless of the time it was released.

This popular sitcom may be a  staple to many regardless of the problematic bits but as a queer individual, it seems to be distasteful and cringe-worthy.

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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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