Sex, life and stereotypes – Meet the women who are “doing the nasty”
BJP’s Bharati Lavekar, the incumbent MLA for Mumbai’s Versova area, has been working tirelessly on the ground for nearly two decades to erase taboos surrounding menstruation long before she was elected into power in May 2014 – and long before Akshay Kumar made it cool, through her NGO, Tee Foundation. But when she would visit schools helmed by male principals to campaign for menstrual hygiene, at first, they would insist that the boys be ushered out of the classroom for the seminar – but Lavekar stood her ground and not only ordered for the boys to stay, but for all the male staff to attend the presentations as well. “There were a lot of people who would look away embarrassedly when I would ask to discuss healthy menstrual practices. But after the seminars, they would always have a change of heart, and come and tell me that their eyes have been opened,” she tells us.
For Richa Kar and Sheela Kochouseph Chittilappilly who wanted to start a lingerie business, even naming their products invited raised eyebrows. “You couldn’t say the words ‘bra’ and panties’ in public, especially in Kerala where women stay in the fringes. Many asked me “didn’t you find anything other than this dirty business?” But it was all men who were in the manufacturing field of lingerie, and I wondered how they knew what a woman needs. The prevailing ads and products were indeed very primitive that literally made the lingerie business a dirty one,” she says.
For Richa Kar, the founder of Zivame, one of India’s first online lingerie marketplaces, everything – right from procuring the unconditional blessings of her family to procuring an office space to kicking off operations – was a stigma-laden experience. Kar recounts how her own family was skittish, initially, when it came to holding conversations about what she did for a living, with their relatives and friends.
Sreemoyee Piu Kundu, a senior lifestyle and women’s issues journalist was christened ‘the queen of Indian erotica,’ after she wrote a “full-fledged erotica,” Sita’s Curse. “I find the epithet most flattering and accept it graciously as a compliment,” she says.
When she was pitching the book to publishers, some big names asked her to change the demographic of the protagonist. “They thought, who will want to read about the sexual unbridling of a 39-year-old, Gujarati housewife heroine, who is matured and married rather than being a rich, virginal city slicker. They basically wanted to create a desi 50 Shades of Grey at best, but I refused to change a word,” she states.
For Neha Bagoria, the creator of EcoTrapIn, her Rajasthani Rajput family was aghast when she quit her job to work in men’s sanitation. “They would comment “Is this toilet work what you left your career for?” “How do we tell relatives what you are into now?” she recounts.
But when her business began to succeed – Bagoria started to find not only acceptance, but also support from the same family that shunned her.