Gender benders on your FB wall

Two 20-year-old students are fighting against gender inequality and patriarchy through art and a Facebook page, finds Parvathi Benu

Published: 27th February 2017 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th February 2017 11:44 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

That’s not how a man walks,” “Are you sure you want to wear that short dress with those hairy legs? Get a wax!” We’ve all come across these stereotypical rants from different corners of the society. Secretly, we choose to embrace them. Without our consent, society’s conservative side has taught us the ‘correct’ way to sit, stand, and dress. Also, we were taught that biologically, there are two genders.
But one day, two 20-year-olds from Delhi had heard enough and they got their creative cogs turning to start Gender Pages Project, a platform for people to come together and redefine gender identities through art and photography. Besides this, Vanika Sharma and Shirin Choudhary, founders of the Facebook page, have also created modules for students and take lectures on gender studies.

The idea struck these girls when they were volunteering for an NGO, The YP Foundation (The Youth Parliament), on a project called Know Your Body, Know Your Rights. What began as accumulating artwork from people for a magazine in July 2016, grew exponentially. The concept’s freshness instantly attracted the attention of many youngsters. An excited Vanika tells us about a seven-day photo series submitted by her friend Suvrita Bhatia. “She submitted photographs of herself taken every day for a week showcasing how she would dress and behave if there weren’t any restrictions,” explains Vanika. These photographs were exhibited at Namma Pride in Bengaluru.

Suvrita’s series is one among many. The photographs of crossdressers, girls with unshaven legs, women sitting with their legs apart, or showing their armpits would be an eyesore for the preachers of conservatism and homophobia. Obviously, they didn’t fail to voice their hatred on the Facebook page.
“There was a photograph of a girl in a park with hairy legs. She spoke of how she wanted to bring about a change in society. Some commenters said that there were just two genders, even biologically. There were many violent and vulgar comments made as well,” says Vanika.

Getting people to submit their work was a hurdle they faced. “Some of them were not very comfortable to occupy public spaces the way they wanted to. Others were ashamed of their identities. A few were just lazy,” she says. As the project gains popularity, they collaborate with the gender studies department of different colleges and conduct workshops. “We created modules on gender roles and identities. Fast-forward seven months, we have conducted workshops in St Stephen’s College, Ramjas College and World Vision India,” says Vanika.

Reach Out: www.facebookcom/genderpagesproject/

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