|By Sanjay Pandey|
Underwear with slogans may seem cute, fun and flirty but with the right slogans, they can be used as a tool to fight against the culture of rape and unfair objectification of the fairer sex.
Meet Amulya Sanagavarapu, a 22-year-old Canadian-Indian who aims to change people’s perception of sex through her new line of consent-themed underwear.
This computer science graduate from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, found inspiration for a line of lingerie from a prank by the activist group FORCE which advertised a fake line of “consent panties” from Victoria’s Secret last year.
As no company was coming forward to champion the cause, Amulya, still a student, formed Feminist Style and decided to launch her own line of consent-themed undergarments early this year.
“This product line aims to shift the culture around consent- it is not “anti-rape underwear”, but rather it aims to create a shift from sexual objectification of women to encouraging communication about sex,”
Amulya told Point Blank 7 immediately after launching her online store today.
The consent-themed panties are now available for $7.99 each on the Feminist Style website.
With rape and molestation cases making headlines around the world every day, will Amulya’s underwear line be able to change the patriarchal mindset of the society?
“Obviously, I don’t expect serial rapists to read the slogans on the underwear and think “oh, never mind then”. But I think having these products in the market would help shift the culture around consent and rape,”
said the Waterloo University graduate.
Right now if you look at the underwear slogans present in the market, what’s promoted and encouraged of young girls, you’ll mostly see sexual objectification (i.e.- “ready for anything”, “sure thing”) and things that teach that ‘no’ is a way to flirt (i.e.- “no peeking”).
Such a culture encourages men to think of women as sex objects and also for women to think of themselves as sex objects,
Her product targets school- and college-going teenagers at a time when the number of minor rapists seem to be growing by the day.
Would wearing underwear with messages help kill the mentality that sees women as a commodity?
“I don’t think the underwear is to speak for the wearer or be a focal point of sexual interactions, but it may serve as a sort of fun way to initiate these difficult conversations about boundaries and what each person is comfortable with. The main goal is to shift the underlying preconceptions about what is acceptable and encouraged in society.
Something like this would encourage peer-to-peer interaction. The cultural shift would encourage friends to show disapproval if there is any coercion involved.
There are lots of advertising agencies and media outlets that thrive on objectifying women and they need to strike a balance as selling insecurities of the fairer sex is unfair. They serve as fodder to the patriarchal mindset.
I think objectifying women to make sales is an easy way, but definitely not the only way to get the best possible results. Men’s commercials for example don’t really use men’s insecurities to sell products,”
Dove, for example, saw drastic increase in sales after it launched its real beauty campaign.
Commenting on The Times of India’s rather regressive “point of view” on Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone’s cleavage, Amulya said,
“I think it is ridiculous. The level of sexism that is considered acceptable in India is really astounding.
Their (Times of India)argument seems to be: ‘You wore something revealing at some point, so we now have the right to objectify you and write about your breasts in a national news article.
The fact that they’re even defending themselves and trying to call her a hypocrite is disgusting.”
However, the culture is starting to shift already, through social media.
The #notbuyingit campaign on twitter has gained popularity and several advertisers have agreed not to use sexist or sexually-objectifying advertising anymore.
Amulya had launched a kickstarter project that aimed to raise $150,000 but ended up collecting only $25,000. So what is the bigger plan?
“The bigger plan is the motto- “social change through consumerism”. The idea is to sell products that target sexism and promote gender equality. And for that, Feminist Style is starting with the consent-themed underwear and plans to use the proceeds to produce feminist advertising that will further expand the cause and the business.”
So will teenagers be the only target audience?
“No, not necessarily. It is important to target teenagers while they’re still learning about these social concepts, but the message applies to everyone of all ages.
When kids see the father being authoritative with the mother, they develop a preconception about men having power — perhaps ‘rightfully’ in their culture — over women.
Such a culture encourages men to chase women rather than acknowledge and respect their lack of interest.
A recent campaign against domestic violence in India portraying beaten and bruised goddesses illustrates the double standards of a patriarchal society.
But, I think this is changing over the generations; it is no longer seen as acceptable for a young man to show as much authority over a young woman as it is within an older couple.
Amulya has made the cause her career. She gained the confidence and the vision to start something of her own while working with companies like Facebook in the Sillicon Valley.
“My time in Silicon Valley inspired me to change my mindset from ‘I can’t start a company, I am just a college student’ to realizing that people who make a difference in the world are not at a completely different level of talent and knowledge — rather, they are the ones who decided to pursue an idea and learn as they go,”