Pads Against Sexism 3 Favorite 


Mar 31 2015


Worldwide, India

The latest in street art activism is confronting sexism in an unconventional, but wonderful, way.

Street artist, Elonë, from Karlsruhe, Germany, is paving her city with messages against sexism, street harassment and sexual abuse — all printed on menstrual pads.

Using the unfairly taboo product, Elonë achieves maximum eye-catching effect for her messages. It's already resonating: In two days, photos of the pads went viral on Instagram and Tumblr, amassing over a 100,000 hits, according to BuzzFeed.

"Imagine if men were as disgusted with rape as they are with periods," Elonë wrote on one pad, quoting a tweet. This particular message embodies the project's aim: On one hand, women's bodies are vandalized, harassed and objectified. On the other, they are often erased when it comes to the reality of menstruation: Blood turns blue in commercials, girls are encouraged to keep their periods private and this natural process treated as something embarrassing or shameful. Period-shaming is real; in fact, one of the biggest stories at this year's Australian Open involved a player alluding to her period as a factor in her match loss.

The pads are striking images that force viewers think about women's bodies in nontraditional ways — primarily, as human bodies instead of sexualized objects of desire.

Since then, the project has gone viral over a number of university campuses in India where sexism is an everyday reality.

A group of students at Kolkata's Jadavpur University, who have now adopted pads-against-sexism movement', peppered the campus with sanitary napkins. The napkins were inscribed with slogans related to gender sensitization and the stigma of those raped or molested. The movement was started by Germany's Elone Kastratia on Women's Day.

The first stop for the protesting students was the portico of the university's administrative building, Aurobindo Bhavan, where the first sanitary napkins went up on Tuesday.

"It is not a socially acceptable means of registering a protest," says Vice Chancellor Ashish Swarup Verma. "I am not against the protest, it is their democratic right. We should understand what we should display what we should not display." He has now set up a panel to identify those responsible and take action.

He says they have been campaigning for a long time on the issue, "The difference is that we are using sanitary napkins this time instead of paper, everybody is interested about it, everyone has something to say about it."

Leading the movement from the front is Amruta Mitra, a second year student of Philosophy. "Basically what we are fighting against is continuous victim blaming and shaming. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the Park Street rape case was a made-up story even before the case was filed. This victim blaming has to stop," she said.

Similar protests at Delhi's Jamia Milia had reportedly led to four students being show caused. But here the students are unfazed. The protesting students believe the campaign is working. "It stopped in Jamia but it has started here in Jadavpur and it will go on."

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