Can someone who has a large fan base on social media platforms like Instagram make a difference? Is advocacy on such platforms effective enough to change mindsets and educate people?
While one can’t set definitions for real-life heroes based on how they choose to stand up to something or the platform they choose for advocacy, certainly the possibility of rebelling against stereotypes and norms through Instagram posts is slowly being explored and put into effect by many youngsters.
One such individual is actor Saloni Chopra, whom we believe is a real-life hero in every sense – from standing up to the archetypical norms prescribed to women in India, to encouraging women to celebrate themselves and what it means to be comfortable in one’s skin.
The young woman had first turned heads nationwide as one of the three protagonists in MTV’s 2016 televised series, ‘Girls on Top’, which primarily dealt with issues that Indian women face in their country.
Two years down the line, Saloni is breaking all the stereotypes associated with women via the best platform to reach the youth—Instagram! The portal is the perfect tool for Saloni to reach out to the masses and launch dialogues on relevant issues such as sexuality, menstruation, rape and slut-shaming.
“For someone who had lived abroad all her life and moved to India only at 21, the culture shock was quite appalling, especially when it came to the rock-solid boundaries set by society for women. And for a very long time, I gave in to all these dictating conditions too. Not because of my parents, but male figures like friends or lovers, who were more often than not quite domineering,” says the young actor to The Better India.
“So, there was this one time when I’d been abroad for a shoot, and I ended up staining the bed sheet at the hotel I was put up at with menstrual blood. The first thought that came to my mind was that of shame and embarrassment and that I’ll have to wash these. But then, I was like, wait a second. Why should one be embarrassed or ashamed for something as natural as menstruation and for all that matter, it could have also been blood from a regular wound on knee or elbow,” Saloni recalls.
This incident had been a turning point for Saloni, who then took to Instagram to celebrate the menstrual cycle that every woman experiences – by posting a picture of her menstrual blood and captioning it with a powerful message for all the women ashamed of one of the most natural body processes.
“It is the need of the hour that we stop shaming women or feel ashamed ourselves for menstruating!” she adds.
Another example of her work is a bold photo series, that includes self-portraits, which she used to educate and inform on some very ‘taboo’ topics – seldom broached in the open across the country. Her rebellion against such close-mindedness has undoubtedly struck a chord. She has close to three lakh followers on Instagram, most of whom are youngsters.
Of course, no revolt is without its opposers. Saloni receives massive backlash for her unabashed boldness and advocacy for fundamental rights for women on a daily basis. But she also shares that she gets a lot of inspirational messages from young girls – many times about dumping men who were ill-treating or bossing them around – after being motivated by her posts.
“That totally serves the purpose of why I’d started being vocal about such issues on the first place. I’ve been there myself and know that there are countless women out there, who just need the right amount of inspiration to get out of something that is pulling them down and I’m speaking for all of them through my posts. Though backlashes are pretty consistent and regular, I will go on because when I look at such uplifting responses, it means that I’m going the right way,” she proudly adds.
Join us in celebrating Saloni, and other real-life heroes, who chose to stand up to the system and walk a powerful and unique path, fighting to highlight all that is wrong in society.
And if you thought such battles are a feature of this generation, through social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, Saloni is the latest member of a tribe that has existed throughout history.
Like the celebrated author Manto, whose many brave and defiant stands against society’s norms go all the way back to the 1940s. The man truly exemplified the words, ‘The pen is mightier than the sword,’ through his real and unapologetic depiction of the society.
Saadat Hasan Manto or simply Manto will forever be remembered for his hard-hitting writings and with an upcoming biographical film on the writer, we hope that his legacy will redefine what it means to rebel.
Check out the trailer below:
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)