breaking stereotypes


The Supreme Court of India recently released a handbook that deals with countering harmful language used in court that fosters stereotypes against women.

The language spoken and accepted in court may not directly influence the outcome of a plea, but it serves as a significant indicator of the values upheld and endorsed by a country. Taking a step towards countering inappropriate and harmful language used against women and gender minorities, the Supreme Court recently issued a 30-page handbook detailing alternative and preferred phrases to be used in legal matters. 

(…) the language a judge uses reflects not only their interpretation of the law but their perception of society as well.” -Chief Justice Chandrachud

The handbook tries to eliminate some disdainful language that promotes stereotypes. Some of the identified phrases include ‘career woman’, ‘obedient wife’ and ‘chaste woman’. Another stereotype that the handbook aims to do away with is the idea that women are inherently overly emotional and thus incapacitated to make decisions. It also acknowledges that assumptions made about women’s characters depending on their sexual history and clothing preferences tamper with the judicial assessment of sexual violence cases as they diminish the importance of consent in sexual relationships.

The handbook also wishes to implement the use of more dignified language towards the LGBTQIA+ community. Moving forward, ‘sex assigned at birth’ is stated to be the preferred phrase in place of ‘biological sex’.  

When announcing the publication of this handbook in court, CJI D.Y. Chandrachud said that he hoped this would mark a milestone in the journey towards a more equitable society.

Implementation of measures like this one, especially by a nation’s highest authorities, is crucial for driving a fundamental transformation in how women and gender minorities are perceived within a country. Such initiatives not only signal a commitment to gender equality but also play a major role in determining societal norms in the long run. 

By challenging these long-existing biases, the Supreme Court of India has contributed to a broader cultural shift that recognizes and respects the dignity and rights of women. Hopefully, there is potential in this handbook to inspire change not only within the legal system but also in society as a whole. 

Read also: Handbook on Combating Gender Stereotypes – SC 

Featured image credits: Boom Live

Arshiya Pathania

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Being skinny is not as ideal as it seems to a layman, read on to find out more.

From what society dictates- petite bodies, thin waists, skinny legs have been considered desirable. But even after spending eighteen years in this skinny body, it is safe to say that I have never felt beautiful. A common misconception among people is to generalise this concept of beauty. Beauty exists on a spectrum, we all perceive people and how they look differently. While there is a majority and minority perspective it is unfair to dismiss the problems of either.

The concept of skinny shaming refers to criticising people’s bodies for being too thin or underweight. People often talk about fat-shaming, but skinny-shaming is often invisible to many people. The reasons for this are obvious and understood. Being skinny does, to an extent, come as a privilege which is something one cannot deny. But the problem arises when we refuse to acknowledge skinny-shaming which could affect an individual’s mental and physical health, esteem and confidence, daily functioning and so on.

Today in pop-culture ‘thicc’ and ‘big booty’ has been popularised and equated to ‘looking like a snacc’ to spread love to all sizes, negative connotations have now been attached to those who do not look that way. Beyond song lyrics being offensive, such as in Anaconda by Nicki Minaj, to people who are skinny, several instances of antagonising thin people also arise.

A few weeks ago, I almost fainted in a mall, instead of helping me two elderly women pointed at me publicly and assumed “I had not been eating to become skinny like Instagram models”. Several remarks and comments become a part of our lives especially in Indian households and even by strangers, where skinny girls are told to eat more to give birth to healthy babies or to look good in their wedding dress. Most people are in fact ignorant to the concept of metabolism and oblivious to the idea of body issues.

Jokes on skinny people are endless. From “Arrey, hawa chal rahi hai kuch pakad lo, udd jaogi” to “I can hold your entire wrist with two fingers” to even “Don’t worry, not all boys like curvy girls”.  Being compared to sticks, scales, children in Africa are all experiences we face in school. Seeing other boys and girls become older looking and here you are still fitting into a t-shirt you bought in class nine.

Image credits: BodyLoveByEmily
Image credits: BodyLoveByEmily

The craze to become skinny has reached many highs- models eating once a day to exercising endlessly to even surviving on napkins. But it is normal to feel isolated in a place where curves are pedestalised and complaining is out of question. On the first idea, several body issues also arise out of being too skinny such as- on wearing jeans, people commenting how super skinny your legs are, wearing loose clothes, several failed attempts at highlighting your ‘shape’, staring at yourself in the mirror and hoping you were bigger in places by just a few inches. Being disappointed at not finding how-to-gain-weight-apps, trying mom’s nuskas of eating papaya, mango and what not, only to see no change and feel unhappy.

On the second idea, thin people are not even allowed to feel bad about themselves. Any dissatisfaction is dismissed with a “You are so lucky you are skinny” and every hurtful comment is hidden under the garb of “It was just a compliment ya”. These people are not even allowed to speak out about their experiences of facing body insecurities.

Skinny isn’t just beautiful. Skinny, fat, hourglass, pear, apple, fork and whatever other body category we are forced into are all appealing and attractive. No one has been a bigger critique of us than we are of ourselves, we cannot mold ourselves into what society dictates next but can try to accept ourselves. To those who love you, you will be cherished. Being big or small will never define you as a person, only what you make of yourself.

Image credits: Kali Kardia Apparel

Shivani Dadhwal

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While Ranveer Singh stands at the forefront of the cause, there are many and many more who are gradually becoming a part of the androgynous pop culture in India.

Androgyny was brought into the pop culture by the many likes of David Bowie, Prince, Grace Jones, Ruby Rose, Lady Gaga and more. Breaking a lot of gender stereotypes with their style and fashion, these celebrities have made ‘gender-bending’ a relevant term in the recent times.

Recently spotted at the Umang Police Show was Ranveer Singh, wearing kajal. When you live in a world where gender stereotypes are embedded in you from childhood, seeing a mainstream male actor rock something that “belongs” to the fairer sex is a rare sight. But it is not about the kajal. Ranveer Singh is usually seen sporting skirts, anarkali kurtas and nose rings and his bold statements are very subtly and slowly incorporating gender-fluid fashion in India.

And it is not just Ranveer Singh – Bollywood actor Arjun Kapoor wore red pumps for his movie Ki and Ka, and even though the movie failed to make an impression, it had good intentions to break the gender stereotypes. Make-up artist Elton J Fernandez, model Harnaam Kaur , are also key in shattering these labels – their statements say that guys can wear make-up and girls can have beards. And most importantly, that it is okay.

Pop culture in India is gradually becoming aware of the need to address the issues of gender stereotypes. Stereotypes are constantly being broken with the internet – web-series like Man’s World, for example, has been extremely instrumental in bringing the issue to the youth.

Gender fluidity is now becoming a part of street wear in India as well. The process is slow and careful, but it is happening. Men are now experimenting with make-up, jewellery, “girly” colours and women are donning tuxedos and buzz cuts. The definitions of femininity and masculinity are changing – men and women are leading parallel lives, and their fashion statements are also becoming evident of that.

Image Credits: buzzfeed.com

Anagha Rakta

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