Women steer big protests

Women steer big protests

They led political movements, called out sexual harassers and made sure their voice was heard this past decade

The last decade, especially towards the end, has been an eventful one for women in India. From protesting against shocking incidents of rape to keeping candlelight vigils at Shaheen Bagh during the anti-CAA protests to calling out patriarchal norms on social media, women all over the country are sending across powerful messages of resistance, revolution and rebellion.

Here are a few instances of when women led from the front, proving that the future might indeed be female.

Free the Nipple campaign

Though it has been around for quite a few years, the campaign, created in 2012 during pre-production of a 2014 film of the same name, caught on in India in the last few years.

This was primarily due to the emergence of women’s voices on social media and consequently on the streets of the country. Singer Anushka Manchanda, known for strong vocals and for being part of India’s first pop-girl group ‘Viva’, is a staunch supporter of #FreeTheNipple. Actress Saloni Chopra and Bigg Boss 9 fame Priya Malik also supported the cause.

The campaign advocated for women’s rights of being accepted topless in public like men, without it being considered sexual or indecent.

Though not related, a similar campaign to remove the stigma around breastfeeding was kicked off in the country when the cover photo of actor Gilu Joseph breastfeeding in a Malayalam magazine named ‘Grihalalakshmi’ stoked a huge controversy.

‘Women want to be independent’

Sophia Sharon, assistant lecturer (sociology), Mount Carmel College, says that young woman today want to explore, experience and challenge themselves and they are rejecting all old notions which might come in their way of achieving certain things.

“They are turning away from all the stories that their mothers and grandmothers might have told them, about being brought up in a certain way and being expected to behave in a certain way. They want to take part in decision making, they need to have their own choice, they want to give a challenge to the opposite sex in many matters,” she says.

It comes from their desire to lead and to be able to lead a successful, independent life without support from men, she adds. “And of course, hearing about incidents of rape is emotionally disturbing for any woman; she will not tolerate this because she knows there are laws to help her. She can voice out for a cause and she can win this time, because justice is available.”

“Once upon a time, women were scared to come forward for any kind of protests or even a silent march. But today, with the support of like-minded women, they are able to come forward, especially when it’s to get justice or for a rightful cause,” she says. 

Sophia also highlights the need to be watchful and careful because the plethora of laws and amendments giving confidence and assurance to women are also sometimes misused by a small minority.

#SareeTwitter

Women from all over India, and the world, shared pictures of themselves draped in saris and complemented each other on how they looked. Lending a much needed touch of love and gracefulness to the micro-blogging site, actresses, politicians and hundreds of women from all walks of life shared graceful pictures of themselves. While aesthetically pleasing, the trend also highlighted the need to conserve one’s culture.

#MeToo campaign

Feminism had its defining moment when the #MeToo campaign caused hundreds of women to call out sexual predators and molesters, causing many big heads to roll.

In a series of articles that Metrolife did on the online movement, sociologists and counsellors spoke about how women were finding safety in numbers on social media and were encouraged and empowered by the courage, reach and sometimes anonymity offered by online platforms. Many called it a culmination of all the women’s movements that had been happening over the years.

Anti-rape protests

From the 2012 Nirbhaya case to the recent gang rape of a 27-year-old veterinarian, cases of horrific sexual violence against women prop up with alarming regularity in the country. While the situation shows little chances of improvement, more and more women are taking to the streets to voice their anger and anguish about such incidents.

Thousands are taking out protests, marches and rallies to press for a safer environment in the country.

In fact, it was after the 2012 incident that women’s participation at demonstrations grew with the help of women-led movements.

Encouraging body positivity 

Though not an organised movement, it is one of the biggest changes sweeping through the online world. Women all across the globe are sharing pictures, stories, posts and personal anecdotes about the need for body positivity and stopping bullying and body shaming. From actresses like Emma Watson and Jameela Jamil to pop icon Lizzo and singer Demi Lovato, many are batting for this cause, slamming cosmetic companies and the entertainment industry on the way.

In India, singer Sona Mohapatra recently posted pictures of herself in a bikini and after a barrage of slut-shaming comments, defiantly posted more pictures from the same shoot, pointing out that she refused to conform to the people’s idea of a ‘worthy woman’ and refused to suck in her ‘well-earned belly’.

Before this, actress Sai Pallavi received a lot of acclaim when she turned down a lucrative offer for a fairness cream advertisement.

Protests against CAA, NRC

When the anti-CAA and NRC protests rocked the country recently, some of the most striking images that emerged had women at the forefront. A group of female students shielding their classmate and defiantly arguing with policemen, thousands of women braving the coldest winter Delhi has seen to register a peaceful protest in Shaheen Bagh, protesters handing out roses to the cops, calling out slogans from atop vehicles and walls, leading marches from the front — the energy was palpable.

“It is not true that we are just starting to come out; women have been protesting against injustice and patriarchy for many decades but the visibility is much higher now,” says Teresa Braggs, a Bengaluru student who was at the forefront of some of the anti-CAA protests. 

She adds that having studied in an all-women school and college, she felt it is not surprising to see women standing up for each other or others. “I have seen it all my life.”

“During one protest in the city, some women instinctively formed a human chain around protesting students, as it is difficult for male cops to heckle them. No one told them anything, it was a natural understanding. It was a defining moment of a protest which had been initiated by women,” Teresa added

 

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