The Hindu Lit for Life 2018

What does it mean to be a woman in India?

Ammu Joseph, Swati Chaturvedi, Gurmehar Kaur & Natasha Badhwar.   | Photo Credit: S. Narayana Swamy

Feminism is not a static concept — new ideas constantly enhance and enrich it. “Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, something like the #MeToo movement comes up, pushing the envelope for many of us who have engaged with it,” said filmmaker and columnist Natasha Badhwar, at rhw session, New Ideas of Feminism.

But as moderator Ammu Joseph launched into conversation with Badhwar, social activist Gurmehar Kaur and journalist Swati Chaturvedi, what struck the audience was how early we begin to notice the constraints of gender roles. “(In my family) when we heard Partition stories, we also heard about how ‘we’d rather see our daughters dead than dishonoured’. How does that sound to a five-year-old, who is so loved by her father that he might want to see her dead?” asked Badhwar, who remembered her brothers being encouraged to pursue medicine and engineering, while she was told to be a teacher. “The greatest love and the greatest ambition were limited by notions of gender. So when I stumbled upon the word feminism in my mid-teens, I suddenly had a word that explained my life.”

Kaur said it was school that woke her up. “On my first day at boarding, I was asked to cover my legs as there were boys present.”

Chaturvedi’s question was why, in a country where we talk of beti bachao, beti padhao, we don’t have something like ‘beti ko samjhao’. “We live in a country where although you see women holding top political positions, you still want them to be sanskaari.”

Any deviation from the norm leads to public slander, especially online — a reality all three women have faced. In fact, Chaturvedi’s experience with government-supported trolling led to her investigative book, I Am A Troll: Inside the Secret World of the BJP’s Digital Army.

Joseph asked if they if they accepted the label ‘feminist writer’. The emphatic answer: No. “It is similar to being called a woman writer,” said Badhwar.

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Printable version | Jun 10, 2021 7:56:35 AM |

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