Padman Challenge just a 'stupid' trend or breaking taboos?

Published: Feb 08, 2018, 17:55 IST | IANS

Akshay has maintained that the film has sparked discussions about the subject, and "there will be a day when it will change"

Alia Bhatt doing the Padman Challenge
Alia Bhatt takes up the challenge thrown by Akshay Kumar to share her picture with a sanitary pad. 

The Padman promotions have seen at least over 30 film celebrities posing with an open sanitary napkin as part of the Padman Challenge to convey there's nothing to be "ashamed" about something as "natural" as menstruation. But is it actually helping in breaking taboos surrounding the subject, or is it just another marketing gimmick? It's Valentine's Day week, but more than the Rose Day, Chocolate Day and the likes, it's the Padman Challenge that has taken social media by storm. The challenge comes close on the heels of the release of Padman, which will hit the screens on Friday.

Among the initial challengers was Akshay's wife and author Twinkle Khanna, who is set to debut as a producer with Padman. Holding a sanitary napkin high with her hands in a photo, she tweeted: "Yes, that's a pad in my hand and there's nothing to be ashamed about. It's natural! Period. #PadManChallenge. Copy, paste this and challenge your friends to take a photo with a pad! Here I am challenging Aamir Khan, Shabana Azmi, Harsh Goenka."

They obliged.

Soon, the digital platforms were flooded with photographs featuring Bollywood celebrities like Aamir Khan, Deepika Padukone, Karan Johar, Katrina Kaif, Akshay Kumar, Tiger Shroff, Riteish Deshmukh, Mahesh Bhatt, Ali Abbas Zafar, Purab Kohli, Neil Bhoopalam, Homi Adajania, Bhumi Pednekar, Vaani Kapoor, Atul Kasbekar, Amit Trivedi, Diana Penty, Huma Qureshi, Aditi Rao Hydari, Swara Bhasker, Dia Mirza, Ayushmann Khurrana, Arjun Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, Anushka Sharma, Sophie Choudry, Sonam Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Anil Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao and Radhika Apte holding open pads in hands.

It's not just the B-Town that is going gaga over the challenge. Sports personalities like Ravi Shastri and PV Sindhu were also game for it, with many more netizens joining in. An empowering move?

Comedienne Supriya Joshi doesn't think so. "Hi, guys, something amazing happened this morning. I got my period. As many of you know, I have PCOS, so to get your period is such an amazing feeling. I immediately ran to my sanitary napkin stash but found I had run out of them."

She quipped via a social media post: "Instead, I saw my mom, dad, grandmother and my building's secretary posing with them and taking pictures. I asked them what they are doing with my pads, and they said, 'Shut up silly girl, we're taking part in a movement that will change the course of history. We're going to make periods a taboo a thing of the past! The Padman Challenge will empower women! Don't forget to use the hashtag otherwise you're not empowering anybody. I felt so empowered and inspired and I wanted to do the challenge too, but at this time everyone had thrown away the opened pads and I continued to bleed through my clothing."

She took her own challenge by posting an image in which she holds up a notepad that reads: "Don't waste sanitary napkins on stupid marketing gimmicks. Trust me guys it's the best feeling to not have access to pads when you're bleeding and the Pad Man challenge is all that is needed to destigmatise a woman's period. Kudos to champion of all causes Akshay Kumar and his amazing marketing team for championing this cause."

Her sarcasm didn't end there as she concluded her message with: "Pads are just selfie accessories any way!"

Comedienne Mallika Dua also poked fun at the #PadManChallenge.

In a series of Instagram stories, she wrote: "Always remember. Each time you feel weak, each time you feel lesser than your equals, each time you feel you've been made to feel lesser for no reason and that the fight has just about begun, when you feel society and the government have not given you your due, hold up a sanitary pad and post a picture of it on Instagram. You will feel empowered. So empowered. Bye."

One Twitter user wrote: "Sonam Kapoor is against her own film's marketing gimmick. Hahahaa. PadManChallenge."

The user shared a tweet that was liked by Sonam. It read: "Cute how Bollywood celebrities start doing stupid trends like #PadManChallenge but automatically lose their spine when asked to take stand on 'Padmaavat or when Swara was being slut shamed. Such hypocrites!"

A Facebook user tired of the challenge, suggested: "If you really want to do something, buy a packet of pads and give it to someone who can not afford it. That will be the real #padmanchallenge."

Akshay has maintained that the film has sparked discussions about the subject, and "there will be a day when it will change". Miss World Organisation CEO Julia Morley is in New Delhi as part of a world tour led by Miss World 2017 Manushi Chhillar to spread awareness on the importance of menstrual hygiene. Morley told IANS talks must be backed by action.

"We should know that it's no use when we can do a lot of talking and we don't have the action. That's what scares me. One has to put your money where your mouth is, and make sure it continues... But it's no use having a big show of words and no actions," she said.

Padman tells the story of a real-life superhero who invented a low-cost sanitary pad manufacturing machine to bring a menstrual hygiene revolution for women.

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