Reclaiming Words, Safe Spaces by Amrita Tripathi

Everyday Sexism

So much of what we read, imbibe, tweet, even write is sexist. The Anushka-fans of Virat episode is only the latest. Trolling of women descends so quickly into vitriol and threats of sexual violence that it is staggering. And something that we see across the world.

Of course we have to call it out. We have to keep fighting for collective safe spaces for conversation and interaction. We have to unite against the collective bullying that takes place — sometimes it’s best to ignore or block, but sometimes you have to escalate matters. If not for those who bravely retweet the horrific insults and threats and those who take legal action, there would be far more people acting with impunity, wouldn’t there? Deterrence is important.

Everyday Sexism

Everyday Sexism: Picture Credit Feminist Times


Equally important for us is agency. Take ownership of what you say, post, tweet or how you judge. There are words, that personally I think shouldn’t be used at all. Barren is one, spinster is another. (The combination of ‘barren spinster’ must have been the insult of insults before the usual four-letter words came into popular culture.)

I hadn’t thought about it until I read a quote somewhere, but ‘seminal’ is also a sexist word. How many times have you heard (or used!) the phrase ‘seminal work’? Well the origins of the word aren’t that hard to guess.

Maybe another word we should think about before bandying around is: fat. Or maybe remove the judgement and leave it value-neutral? 

The old saying Sticks and stones …is far from true.

Today, the post that has stayed with me is by actor and Prison Break star Wentworth Miller. 


We’re so used to fat-shaming being something that’s done to celebrity women, that we rarely consider that it is gender-neutral. (Harassment of stars by the paparazzi may just be a gender-neutral sport, though we hear more of body image issues and sexist statements in a female context).

Say No To Fat Shaming

Say No To Fat Shaming

In this case, Miller talks about a cruel post – which has since been taken down, apparently – how he was suicidal at the time, in grave condition re his mental health, how the meme initially felt devastating, but how he’s rallied and looks at that smile on his face and assigns a different meaning to what was meant to be a public shaming.

He reflects on the strength and perseverance that have seen him through.

Read Wentworth Miller’s post here

That’s inspiring. What’s not is how all of us — the media and non-media alike — think it’s okay to judge, make fun of or insult those that don’t conform to our collective ideas of beauty. Or fitness. 


Speaking of safe spaces, and that post, maybe it bears repeating that mental health issues affect every one of us. There was a WHO estimate that 1 in 4 people would have some sort of mental health issue in their lives. Look around you. Whether it’s us, or someone in our circle — there are people who need a helping hand, or an ear, or a safe space to be.

Some will need professional help and while the state of India’s mental health support is beyond the scope of this post, and not the most heartening, help is out there. I wrote about this earlier here on IBNLive… 

While being there sometimes is all that’s required… there are also times when we must encourage our loved ones to seek help.



Sneha Crisis Line: 044-2464 0050 | Email: [email protected]


Lifeline: 033  2463 7401 / 7432


Samaritans: 022 6464 3267 / 022 6565 3267 / 022 6565 3247 (3 to 9 pm daily)


Sumaitri:  011-23389090 (Mon-Fri 2PM to 10PM and Sat-Sun 10AM to 10PM),