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Here Are 15 Quotes From “Not That Bad” That’ll Stay With Me Forever

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This weekend I got to reading Not That Bad, a collection of essays edited by cultural critic and New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay and it turned out to be one of the most reflecting and profound reads of my life.

It was exactly what you would expect from a collection put together by Roxane Gay — the essays written are fierce, powerful and revolutionary and explore what it means to exist as a woman in this world and cost women pay for their existence.

Not That Bad.

The book deduces rape culture and talks about how it’s not just about the final act of rape, but the culture and how deeply it is entrenched in our society and how every single person out there contributes to it.

From child abuse, sexual assault, to victim-blaming and survivor’s guilt; from politics and suppression to strength and survival — this book will shock you, make you angry, take you on a whirlwind of emotion, but most of all, it will make you realise how important it was for you to read it.

The book explores and deconstructs consent in such minute details that everyone who reads it leaves with a wider, more accurate understanding of the concept.

These are the voices of women who were suppressed, oppressed, ridiculed, blamed — by the world and their own selves and the book comes like an all-powerful undoing of their trauma and power; empathy and understanding and finally gives them the authority and agency to tell us their own stories — a privilege the world often takes away from women.

The book empathises and encompasses the entire womankind because the women change, but the stories of injustice are ever the same. This book will always stay with me, probably looming somewhere in my reality and this is me making sure that it does with you too.

15 of the most powerful things/lessons that I came across in the Book

rape culture
Representative Image.

1. “Rape was not an act between an individual and an individual, hidden in a dark room — that was what my rapist wanted me to think. Rape was and is a cultural and political act: it attempts to remove a person with agency, autonomy and belonging from their community, to secrete them and separate them, to depoliticise their body by rendering it detachable, violable, nothing.”

2. “Sometimes people tell me that something bad happened to me, but I am brave and strong. I don’t want to be told that I am brave and strong. I am not right just because he was wrong. I don’t want to be made noble. 

“I want someone willing to watch me thrash and crumple because that, too, is the truth, and it needs a witness. ‘He broke me,’ I say to a friend. ‘You’re not broken,’ she whispers back. I turn my palms up, wishing I could show her the pieces.”

3. “We need to end the system where it is only white men who decide when a woman — in any position, ‘privileged’ or not — is deserving of power and agency.”

4. “Don’t ever use an insult for a woman that you wouldn’t use for a man. Say ‘jerk’ or ‘shithead’ or ‘asshole’. Don’t say ‘bitch’ or ‘whore’ or ‘slut’. If you say ‘asshole’, you’re criticising her parking skills. If you say ‘bitch’, you’re criticising her gender.”

5. “Rape and colonialism are not commensurate, but they are kin. When we talk about sexual violence as feminists, we are — we have to be — talking about its use to subjugate entire peoples and cultures, the annihilation that is its empty heart. 

“Rape is that bad because it is an ideological weapon. Rape is that bad because it is a structure: not an excess, not monstrous, but the logical conclusion of hetero-patriarchal capitalism. It is what that ugly polysyllabic euphemism for state power does.”

The Great Indian Kitchen
Representative Image.

6. “Not everyone gets sex when they want it. Not everyone gets love when they want it. This is true for men and women. A relationship is not your reward for being a nice guy, no matter what the movies tell you.”

7. “We speak of men and their rage as if it is laudable. ‘Men just get mad and push each other and it’s over’, we say. ‘Women are just bitches; they never let it go’. That’s because we never can let it go. Because where would we put it? What system? What faith? What institution has room? Has patience? Has understanding for an angry woman?”

8. “The only solution for female anger is for her to stop being angry. And yet, when Jesus flipped tables in the temple, his rage was lauded. King David railing to the heavens to rain fire on his enemies is lauded as a man after God’s own heart. 

“An angry man in the cinema is Batman. An angry male musician is a member of Metallica. An angry male writer is Chekhov. An angry male politician is passionate, a revolutionary. He is a Donald Trump or a Bernie Sanders. 

“The anger of men is a powerful enough tide to swing an election. But the anger of women? That has no place in government, so it has to flood the streets.”

9. “Anger is the privilege of the truly broken, and yet, I’ve never met a woman who was broken enough that she allowed herself to be angry.”

10. “Perhaps the most horrifying thing about non-consensual sex is that, in an instant, it erases you. Your own desires, your safety, and well-being, your ownership of the body that may very well have been the only thing you ever felt sure you owned — all of it becomes irrelevant, even non-existent. You don’t need to be a helpless, innocent child to be changed by that.”

11. “This is rape’s legacy; the countless deaths women die just trying to keep existing in the world as it is.”

12. “Rape is integral to the cultures of war, colonisation and forced displacement that has turned gender oppression and sexual violence into a global currency of desperation.”

13. “In our no-pain-no-gain dogma, the cost of something is often mistaken for its value.”

Representative Image.

14. “I survived.

“Raped children are supposed to die. What would the culture of the individual white cisgender male straight genius do without us? We are the predicate of their sentences, material for their dispassionate dissections.

“We are supposed to die prettily and vacantly so our rage doesn’t tear down all their certificates and awards and case files, trash their analysis and ram their face in the privilege that allows them to side with our abusers in silencing and killing us.

‘He has sometimes likened his style of writing to that of a medic performing a post-mortem on a raped child-whose job is to analyse the injuries, not to give vent to the rage that is felt.’ – Susie Mackenzie on J G Ballard.

“If Ballard’s is the model for the experimental, political novel, how is the undead raped child supposed to write, even if she survives?”

15. “If you survive, you have to prove it was that bad; or else, they think you are. 

“Surviving is some kind of sin, like floating up off the dunking stool like a witch. You have to be permanently écorché, heart-on-sleeve, offering up organs and body parts like a medieval female saint.”

So, if you read anything this week, please let it be this.

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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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