If there were to be a nomination for ‘The Week of Mansplaining’, I would choose the past week, hands down. In just one week, four incidents have occurred where certain ‘important’ men in the country have spoken out of turn about, for, and to women. In all of them, what was said has deeply misogynist roots and reflects poorly on not only these men of stature, but on the rest of us as well.
It’s no surprise why Akshay Kumar — BJP Poster boy, awake-r of the masses and the man who single-handedly carries the weight of the Swachch Bharat campaign on his shoulders — would chose to make a film about sanitary napkins. But the icing on the cake was the challenge…sorry…marketing move for the movie that asked for people to pose with pads to start a conversation about menstruation. As with celebrity-initiated-anything is in this country, hundreds of people (lots of men), who until this point did not realise that periods were ‘normal’, suddenly woke up to this fact, sourced a sanitary napkin and showcased to the rest of their social media feed that they are breaking the silence.
Exhausted by now with timelines filling up with new pads, women posted pictures of themselves with used pads, cloth pads, filled menstrual cups and tampons. The difference now - these have blood on them. Asked the women, “How exactly to break the silence around menstruation if we can’t be bothered by blood? And how must we, those who waste brand new napkins on celebrity challenges actually ensure ‘them’ women in rural parts of the country get access to sanitation?”
But men will not have it. They say now on their feeds, “We know you bleed so we don’t need proof of blood. Will you post pictures of s**t to prove you’re human?” Clearly, The silence must be broken without speaking about blood, and sanitary napkins are okay only as long as they’re sanitized. Face-palm.
If your ‘Acche Din’ bubble is still intact, more power to you, because this week another one burst. While responding to MP Renuka Chowdary’s laughter during Modiji’s speech at the parliament comparing it to a cackle from the 1980’s Ramayana, no guesses for witch character (forgive the pun), our PM forgot two things — that decorum applies to all and so does the right to happiness and the freedom to express it. What’s next in policing the behaviour of women? Lower your tone, sit with your legs crossed, speak only when spoken to, be poised, be lady like, smile more?
Next in line was Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, whose fear, it turns out, was women drinking beer. Oh, for the love of god! How many more pictures of women drinking beer, gin, vodka and wine should this man need to be reassured that adult women drinking responsibly are doing just fine?
Designer Sabyasachi followed suit, but someone first needs to tell him that shaming women is only going to hurt his sari business, and no woman needs to know to wear a piece of clothing because it’s Indian.
Once Akshay Kumar has received all the national awards he works so hard for, Modiji is convinced that people are only laughing at the stories that he cannily cooks up, Parrikarji has been to therapy for his fears and Sabyasachi gets back to sales instead of shaming (phew, that’s an exhaustive list) I’d be happy to host them…but only if they’re okay with sofas that may have a spot of blood from my period! I will, of course, cackle and use my teeth to open a can of beer and be dressed in clothing of my choice.
The writer is a city-based activist, in-your-face feminist and a media glutton