If you’re a social media scroller like me, chances are you saw the who’s who of Bollywood posing with sanitary pads last week. While I am all for cause marketing, I think, the #PadmanChallenge somewhat misses the point. Flashing pads to a completely wrong audience, let alone wasting them, is nothing but a marketing gimmick. It’s not empowering women but only helping the film milk some more bucks.
Agreed, in a country where pads are hidden in newspapers or black bags, this is a big deal. But what’s the call to action here? Are the celebrities posing with pads also donating them? Any educational sessions or free distribution of pads among women who still use a cotton cloth? The call to action here is simply to watch the film. The PR person in me finds this to be such a missed opportunity for creating a real impact. How about sponsoring underprivileged girls with a year’s supply of pads for every 20 posts or how about soliciting donations to set up a fund supporting supply of pads in the remote areas? How about going to those villages and having the men there pose with pads? Now, THAT would mean something, no?
Now that the film is released, who’s posing with pads and keeping the conversation going? Just creating a buzz around the film, unfortunately, isn’t enough! It doesn’t really reach the people who need the awareness and education on menstrual hygiene. The campaign maybe well intended but it surely missed the point.
Having said that, let’s switch gears to talk about the taboo around periods. I totally appreciate that a topic like this is picked up by an actor with a lot of clout and is being talked about via mainstream cinema. I sincerely hope it brings the much-needed awareness around menstruation and breaks the stigma attached with it. Periods don’t make it to dinner table conversations, or any conversations for that matter. Heck, we don’t even call them periods. How many of us are guilty of referring to it as “that time of the month” or some other silly metaphor! Kudos to Arunchalam Murganantham for addressing an issue that makes most men cringe and look the other way. Full respect to him and his is a story that surely needs to be told.
But even today, forget villages, there are well-educated, urban, high income families (some who I personally know) who do not let women so much as eat on the same table or sleep on their beds during periods. It’s beyond my understanding that, in today’s day and age, smart and otherwise forward-thinking women succumb to following such stupid and illogical rules laid out by patriarchs centuries ago. These mindless traditions are still being enforced with no intention of being done away with.
These are such deep rooted mindset issues which, unfortunately, will take more than a social media campaign or a well-intended film to overcome.