Rachita Taneja fights social issues with her 'stick figures'
With her unique attempt to respond on social issues through comics, Rachita Taneja and her web comic strip ‘Sanitary Panels’ have grabbed attention of the netizens. The simple stick figures she drew talked about many burning issues in the society and even challenged the system that tries to shut any voice raising against it.
Rachita Taneja opened up about the beginning and development of ‘Sanitary Panels’ while underlining her stand on the social issues. Being a representative of the responsive and responsible youth, she has created a unique way to convey her thoughts and reactions to the world.
The Sanitary Panels was started in 2014 as a web comic strip. The first comic was political in nature based on Article 66A which penalizes those who send offensive messages through communication services.
“Many students were getting arrested for criticizing Modi government through online. They got blocked on Facebook. So I made a comic on that topic,” Rachita Taneja recalled how she started the comic five years ago.
A wide range of social issues were dealt with in the comics afterwards and the huge response received after posting the comic on Facebook was a sign that people have accepted the comic.
‘The Sanitary Panels’
“The comic was randomly named as ‘Sanitary Panels’. When I was writing for the comic, I happened to see a sanitary pad lying somewhere in the room. And all of a sudden the name popped up in my mind,” she remembered.
As the comic handles a wide range of topics in a feminist view, what other name could have suited it better?
“Because it is a feminist comic, I wanted its name to be something that immediately breaks the taboo. I liked the name ‘Sanitary Panels’ because it did the job. Also it gives the impression that the comic is going to be about the things people generally hesitate to talk about,” Rachita Taneja clarified about her choice of name for the comic.
Comics are often remembered for the images in them rather than the text part. But ‘Sanitary Panels’ could draw attention with the simple and humble stick figures.
“I use stick figures because I didn’t know how to draw. Also it is very simple and minimalistic. They are easy to draw. I can draw them quickly and communicate ideas very simply,” she disclosed the secret behind the stick figures.
Anyone can draw stick figures due to its simplicity. But Rachita is not concerned about losing the identity of her comic. After all, she started the comic to react on social issues and not to gain fame as an artist.
“I put more focus and effort on my writing and idea. Drawing is done very quickly. Writing the comic takes much more time,” she said.
About Kerala issues
Though she is Bangalore based, Rachita Taneja has noticed the recent issues in Kerala. Rachita Taneja has only one thing to say to those who oppose the Supreme Court verdict: ‘Just grow up’.
“I don’t think women are impure when they are menstruating. That makes no sense to me. Because it is a normal body process which is the basis of human birth,” she said.
“Human rights cannot be denied. Supreme court also has made it clear that constitutional rights cannot be denied to anyone. It doesn’t matter if a person is a man, woman or transgender, or menstruating or not; everyone should be allowed to practice what is written in the constitution,” she made her views clear.
“Caste also plays a key role in this issue. Because women who menstruate and belong to a lower caste are more likely to be victimised. This intersectionality should be kept in mind while discussing these kinds of social evils,” she said looking into the political aspects of the issue.
“The protestors claim that they do it out of religious sentiments and to protect tradition. Things change when people change. Sati was a tradition here, but it was stopped after realising that it was a stupid practice. You cannot keep living in the past,” Rachita observed.
Social media attacks
When asked about the typical Malayali trend of slut-shaming women, Rachita said that even the term slut-shaming is derogatory. Internet is a very sexist and misogynistic place. People can remain anonymous while trolling and insulting others.
"I have also gone through this phase of online harassing and threatening, but they do not amount to the threat and abuse suffered by those women who entered Sabarimala," she said.
People also create multiple accounts on social media just for the purpose of trolling persons who react on such sensitive issues. Even after one account is blocked they continue to harass people through other accounts.
She also knows that there is another group of social media users who use the platform positively. Though the comics was named with a taboo concept, they accepted it with open hands and found that ‘Sanitary Panels’ is a funny and tongue-in-cheek concept.
Audience of comic
People have a general tendency to perceive everything associated with images and illustrations with children’s literature or books. Though she deals with serious issues through her comic, Rachita is not concerned about the reach of the theme to the audience. She is of the opinion that comics are not treated as trivial just because of the simple images in them.
“Comic is a powerful form of art. An author may write a long article on the op-ed page to convey a message on social issues, whereas I can express the same thing in two simple panels of comic,” she said.
The major challenge is that the comics only reaches the educated, middle-class people and it does not reach the rural audience. ‘If the comic was multi-lingual and in printed format, it could have reached out to lay people who have no internet connectivity. Also I have some plans to bring out a book soon,’ she shared her future plans too.
Activism being her main career, Rachita Taneja is still fighting the social and political issues with her simple and powerful comics ‘Sanitary Panels’ and is dreaming about taking it to new heights.