Lit for Life

‘Why We Should All be Feminists’, had authors Sumana Roy, Sharanya Manivannan, Manjula Padmanabhan and Madhavi Menon in conversation with Vaishna Roy

Looking in: (From left) Sharanya Manivannan, Madhavi Menon, Vaishna Roy, Sumana Roy and Manjula Padmanabhan   | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

The hall was packed for the session ‘Why We Should All be Feminists’, held on the second day of The Hindu Lit for Life. The panellists included authors Sumana Roy, Sharanya Manivannan, Manjula Padmanabhan and Madhavi Menon. They were in conversation with Vaishna Roy, associate editor, The Hindu.

Padmanabhan kickstarted the session by declaring that she is not a feminist. “I don’t have an anti-view towards feminism. We should not all be feminist in the same way that I believe that we should not all be Hindus or Christians or Marxists.” She said that she chose generalism or humanism over feminism.

Sumana Roy found it sadly ironic that the panel was entirely made up of women.

Menon commented that while everyone aspired to be equal, some of us were more advantaged or happier than others. To say that one is a humanist allows us to erase those lines of discrimination in ways that are problematic.

The power of feminism is that it does not allow us to get away with being blind. It insists that we take notice of things and speak up.

Modern feminism is more inclusive, said Manivannan: “It includes words like compassion and empathy and looking into one’s self. It is still evolving.”

Vaishna Roy commented that the fourth wave of feminism in the 2000s happened predominantly through social media movements like #MeToo.

“For me #MeToo is important as it makes the battle of feminism visible in a certain way which makes it impossible to ignore some of the things that women are facing on a day-to-day basis,” she said.

While Sumana Roy agreed, she asked, “#MeToo belongs to the educated sector. How can we bring a change in the unorganised sector?” Manivannan answered that we should change our own eco-system, including our home and office. “Change the way you treat your employees,” she said.

When the Sabarimala issue came up, Padmanabhan said, “I do not really think about it. If someone does not want me to enter a temple, I do not want go to that temple. I realise that my attitude is not helpful for those who really believe.”

The session ended with Manivannan speaking about Kodhai, the protagonist of her book, The Queen of Jasmine Country. “Kodhai is someone who is at odds with her society. She is educated and not married off at a young age. These empowering things set her apart from the rest. She lived in the ninth century. The feminism in this book does not necessarily have to fit into the radical politics of today.”

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 8:11:42 PM |

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