Many Indian celebrities are posting their photos on Twitter, posing with a sanitary pad to break the taboo around menstrual hygiene. With the release of the film PadMan closing in, some are calling it a publicity gimmick. However, the intention here has been to start a conversation around the tabooed trifecta of women - menstruation and pads. Publicity or social awareness, does this social media campaign help the cause of spreading menstrual hygiene?
A bold initiative
Many Indian celebrities are posing with a pad in hands, as a part of the #PadManChallenge.
The idea here is to use the wide fan base and reach of these celebs, to break the taboo around menstrual hygiene.
Just hanging around in the gym.. with a pad :) no biggie! Thank you @akshaykumar for the challenge.. I shall challenge my fellow gym-ers @YasminBodyImage @Sophie_Choudry & @impoornapatel #PadManChallenge pic.twitter.com/xHLaSwt39Q— Alia Bhatt (@aliaa08) February 2, 2018
Many Tweeples have also taken up this challenge and have addressed issues like not working in the kitchen during periods, or men buying pads for their sisters or wives. Which is indeed wonderful. You do not come across many men who are willing to talk about menstrual hygiene, and that perhaps is a big part of the problem.
#TeamMidday, @mid_day takes part in the #PadManChallenge! We now nominate #TeamJagran, @JagranNews, #TeamRadioCity, @radiocityindia and #TeamRadioCity.in, @planetradiocity to participate! @PadManTheFilm @mrsfunnybones @akshaykumar @kriarj @sonamakapoor @radhika_apte pic.twitter.com/nHZHD7Kiuu— Mid Day (@mid_day) February 2, 2018
Bought these without newspaper/black paper bag. A group of men were starring at me while I was carrying this in my hand, but never mind I clicked a photo rather! Thanku @mrsfunnybones @akshaykumar @sonamakapoor @radhika_apte @PadManTheFilm for this confidence. #PadManChallenge pic.twitter.com/853EZXWMPg— Karishma Asoodani (@tweettokarishma) February 2, 2018
So in a way, this is a bold initiative to normalise periods and hygiene issues women face during ‘that time of the month’.
The initiative has a very superficial reach
Agreed that literate and urban Indian population also avoid this conversation. But with a movement limited to Twitter, how effective is this initiative? A report on Statista predicts that in 2018, we will have 30.4 million monthly active Twitter users.
When the targeted population is reduced to a mere 30 million of the 1.3 billion population, the initiative doesn’t seem as mass oriented as it should be.
Here then, Twitter comes across as a quick, economical and convenient option for the said campaign. So, if the people associated with initiative sincerely want to cause a change in the cultural stigma associated with menstrual hygiene, they need to look beyond the #PadManChallenge. They need to find a way to reach people who have no access to the internet.
The main target here should be villages, interior areas of our country with low literacy levels. These are the areas where women have no voice or say. Where women themselves do not understand the importance of proper menstrual hygiene.
The campaign merely concentrates on starting a conversation on pads
Also, we are not discussing the importance of vaginal hygiene during periods, clean bathrooms and how these things affect the well-being of women.
Celebs posing with pads thus, help creating a hype around the film but does not solve the issue. We need to educate women and men about why opting for hygienic options is important during menstruation. And how poorly washed cloth rags are a breeding ground for infection.
It is laudable that a film wants to create awareness on the issue, and popularize the story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, who made low-cost sanitary pads for the women of his village. How effectively it does so, will only become clear once the film releases. But for now, the Twitter initiative seems targeted towards a small group of people. It simply falls short of its target. That is because Twitter still doesn’t have as wide a reach as we urban dwellers and social media users think it has.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own