Rosies of Color. Happy International Women’s Day.
What constitutes “chilling” behavior? A teacher calls on the boys in class more than the girls. A CEO ignores what a woman says in a meeting but listens intently when a man makes the exact same point. A conference emcee mentions a female speaker’s appearance rather than (or in addition to) her accomplishments, but feels no need to comment on the appearance of male speakers. A guy at an atheist/skeptics meeting hits on a young woman in an elevator at 4 AM, ignoring the fact that she just spent the evening talking about how she hates being objectified at such gatherings.
All these sorts of things seem tiny and insignificant by themselves, but they add up, and this produces a cumulative “chilling” effect that makes women feel unwelcome, like they don’t belong. That’s a “chilly climate.” The effect is subtle; sometimes we’re not even consciously aware of it. We just have that nagging feeling of being “less than,” unable to put our finger on why we feel that way."
After spending years developing a simple machine to make inexpensive sanitary pads, Arunachalam Muruganantham has become the unlikely leader of a menstrual health revolution in rural India. Over sixteen years, Muruganantham’s machine has spread to 1,300 villages in 23 states and since most of his clients are NGOs and women’s self-help groups who produce and sell the pads directly in a “by the women, for the women, and to the women” model, the average machine also provides employment for ten women.
Muruganantham’s interest in menstrual health began in 1998 when, as a young, newly married man, he saw his wife, Shanthi, hiding the rags she used as menstrual cloths. Like most men in his village, he had no idea about the reality of menstruation and was horrified that cloths that “I would not even use… to clean my scooter” were his wife’s solution to menstrual sanitation. When he asked why she didn’t buy sanitary pads, she told him that the expense would prevent her from buying staples like milk for the family.
Muruganantham, who left school at age 14 to start working, decided to try making his own sanitary pads for less but the testing of his first prototype ran into a snag almost immediately: Muruganantham had no idea that periods were monthly. “I can’t wait a month for each feedback, it’ll take two decades!” he said, and sought volunteers among the women in his community. He discovered that less than 10% of the women in his area used sanitary pads, instead using rags, sawdust, leaves, or ash. Even if they did use cloths, they were too embarrassed to dry them in the sun, meaning that they never got disinfected — contributing to the approximately 70% of all reproductive diseases in India that are caused by poor menstrual hygiene.
Finding volunteers was nearly impossible: women were embarrassed, or afraid of myths about sanitary pads that say that women who use them will go blind or never marry. Muruganantham came up with an ingenious solution: “I became the man who wore a sanitary pad,” he says. He made an artificial uterus, filled it with goat’s blood, and wore it throughout the day. But his determination had severe consequences: his village concluded he was a pervert with a sexual disease, his mother left his household in shame and his wife left him. As he remarks in the documentary “Menstrual Man” about his experience, “So you see God’s sense of humour. I’d started the research for my wife and after 18 months she left me!”
After years of research, Muruganantham perfected his machine and now works with NGOs and women’s self-help groups to distribute it. Women can use it to make sanitary napkins for themselves, but he encourages them to make pads to sell as well to provide employment for women in poor communities. And, since 23% of girls drop out of school once they start menstruating, he also works with schools, teaching girls to make their own pads: “Why wait till they are women? Why not empower girls?”
As communities accepted his machine, opinions of his “crazy” behavior changed. Five and a half years after she left, Shanthi contacted him, and they are now living together again. She says it was hard living with the ostracization that came from his project, but now, she helps spread the word about sanitary napkins to other women. “Initially I used to be very shy when talking to people about it, but after all this time, people have started to open up. Now they come and talk to me, they ask questions and they also get sanitary napkins to try them.”
In 2009, Muruganantham was honored with a national Innovation Award in 2009 by then President of India, Pratibha Patil, beating out nearly 1,000 other entries. Now, he’s looking at expanding to other countries and believes that 106 countries could benefit from his invention.
Muruganantham is proud to have made such a difference: “from childhood I know no human being died because of poverty — everything happens because of ignorance… I have accumulated no money but I accumulate a lot of happiness.” His proudest moment? A year after he installed one of the machines in a village so poor that, for generations, no one had earned enough for their children to attend school. Then he received a call from one of the women selling sanitary pads who told him that, thanks to the income, her daughter was now able to go to school.
To read more about Muruganantham’s story, the BBC featured a recent profile on him at http://bbc.in/1i8tebG or watch his TED talk at http://bit.ly/1n594l6. You can also view his company’s website at http://newinventions.in/
To learn more about the 2013 documentary Menstrual Man about Muruganantham, visit http://www.menstrualman.com/
For resources to help girls prepare for and understand their periods - including several first period kits - visit our post on: “That Time of the Month: Teaching Your Mighty Girl about Her Menstrual Cycle” at www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=3281
To help your tween understand the changes she’s experiencing both physically and emotionally during puberty, check out the books recommended in our post on “Talking with Tweens and Teens About Their Bodies” at http://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=2229
And, if you’re looking for ways to encourage your children to become the next engineering and technology innovators, visit A Mighty Girl’s STEM toy section athttp://www.amightygirl.com/toys/toys-games/science-math
Patriarchal justification for excusing the monstrous actions of men in order to punish women who did not tame them because they followed their own agenda.
The maid did not say she could spin straw into gold, but she’s the one who is expected to figure out the situation simply because she was trying to provide for her braggart father and the story rewards her with a demonic mad-with-power-prince and places the responsibility of saving lives on her, it is her job to figure out Rumplestilskien’s name.
It is not the maiden’s fault her father fell in love with her, but it’s still her responsibility to chop off her own hands lest they cause sin.
It’s not Cinderella’s fault her father married another and dies, and yet she’s expected to work without complaint and suffer quietly and eventually be rewarded for her good behavior.
Little Red Riding Hood doesn’t follow the rules and so, of course gets eaten. You make a perfect utopia with creatures of intelligence, made after your curious image (since, after all, you felt the need to create someone and change things.) and then give them one forbidden object and expect that, at some point, it will not be sampled?
What’s in the room and what’s in the tree and what is in the box and what is in the basement and what is in any forbidden book and object is the same. Justification for pain that was going to be delivered on the disenfranchised regardless for one thing or another, if not by men or monsters, then by Gods or devils. If you’re a woman in a fairy tale everything is trying to punish you, kill you, fuck you, or give you their version of a reward.
Just last week, a 7th grader with a curvy build came home upset about this. She had worn an outfit with a skirt and leggings, and in the morning, a teacher had said to her, “Cute outfit.” But then her homeroom teacher pulled her aside at the end of the day and said, “You know, another girl could get away with that outfit, but you should not be wearing that. I’m going to dress code you.” Juliet Bond and the child’s mom were discussing the incident, not certain if the message to the child was ‘you’re too sexy’ or ‘you’re too fat.’
The kids also report that the teachers have been discussing ‘appropriate body types for leggings and yoga pants and inappropriate body types for yoga pants and leggings.’
Bond says, “This is concerning because it is both slut shaming and fat shaming. If a girl is heavy or developed, the message is that she cannot wear certain clothes.” Neither is acceptable. We should not be sexualizing kids, nor should we be making them feel that they can wear leggings as long as they remain stick thin. Bond asks, “Why are the girls being pulled out of class to have assemblies on whether they are wearing the right clothes, while the boys remain in class, learning and studying?”
I don’t have a problem with a school having a dress code; in fact, I attended a school that didn’t allow jeans or shorts or shirts without collars, but I do have a problem when the dress code is discriminately based on gender and body type. There is a big difference between telling all students to dress respectfully and telling curvy girls to dress in a way that doesn’t distract boys."
I was asked in an interview once: You’re writing another book with a female lead? Aren’t you afraid you’re going to be pigeonholed? And I thought, I write a team superhero book, an uplifting solo hero book, I write a horror-western, and I write a ghost story. What am I gonna be pigeonholed as?
Has a man in the history of men ever been asked if he was going to be pigeonholed because he wrote two consecutive books with male leads? Half of the population is women. I lose my temper here. And it’s certainly not at you. It’s just this pervasive notion that “white male” is the default. And you have to justify any variation from it."
on one hand feminism does help men but on the other hand i want men to finally get it through their heads that a social movement doesn’t have to be aimed at benefiting them to be worthwhile
After the 2012 Grace Hopper conference I wrote a post in which I raged against the company that had the audacity to put branded fingernail polish in the swag bag. My exact quote:
“Nail polish? For attendees of a technical conference? Just… Fuck you. This is so very, very inappropriate The thought that someone out there assumed that I, as an attendee of the Grace Hopper conference, would appreciate nail polish as a free gift, is incredibly insulting. It completely ignores the intellectual, technical side of me, and reduces me to someone who cares primarily about upkeeping my physical appearance.”
I had a brave friend who talked with me about this afterwards, saying she felt a bit hurt and alienated because she routinely paints her nails. The fact that she would have appreciated getting free nail polish made her feel that I was reducing her to someone who cares primarily about upkeeping her physical appearance.
Men aren’t the only ones to buy into the myth that feminine presentation is inferior to masculine traits. Women also receive these messages, and reinforce them.
"In short, it’s bad to assume that just because someone’s a woman that she wants nail polish. It’s just as bad to assume that just because someone’s a smart, technical women, that she doesn’t want nail polish.
You can’t fight stereotypes by declaring everyone has to do the exact opposite of what’s stereotypical – that’s just creating a new enforced stereotype. To truly fight stereotypes we must detach the ideas entirely, not replace them with something else.
Nail polish has nothing to do with technical intelligence. (It has nothing to do with gender either, but that’s a bigger battle.) It’s just a colorful paint that you can put on your nails. Some people like to use it. Some people don’t. That’s all, everyone go home now, we’re done.”