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Posted on 14 July 2011

Feminists and the unspoken word

Amrita Madhukalya
New Delhi

DOES FEMINISM speak of solidarity? Are feminists devoid of a healthy sense of humour? Do feminists break families?

In a post-feministic era, where old-world sensibilities are easily shrugged off for being dated, three women from different walks of life – Nivedita Menon, professor and author on gender issues, Vrinda Grover, lawyer and human rights activist and historian and feminist Urvashi Butalia – discussed all these and more at the launch of Granta 115, The F Word at The India Habitat Centre on Wednesday evening.

The quirky proceedings ranged from Butalia’s amazement at a packed auditorium for a discussion on women’s issues to Menon’s recollection of sarcastic 80s jokes at the lack of a feminist’s sense of humour to Grover’s disbelief at a Karnataka sessions court judgement denouncing an 18-year-old girl’s choice to marry because at her age, her wild hormones will come in the way of a sound judgement.

Going further on the ‘Future of feminism’ (on which the theme of the panel discussion was based on), Butalia dwelled on her relationship with Mona, a eunuch who underwent a sex change and eventually lived a long-cherished dream of raising a child, and on whom Butalia’s Mona’s story in The F Word is based.


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Butalia ponders on the complex and yet, underrated relationship men share with motherhood and the greater fluidity that India allows for those who opt for a sex-change operation, when compared to European countries.

And invariably for a discussion on gender sensibilities, Slutwalk or, (the now rechristened) Besharmi Morcha cropped up.

While Rao wondered if it was a pornographer’s dream, the panelists agreed on it being a youth-driven protest and hoped that it would serve to be a learning experience for all. And as the air was thick with everything under the sun on gender sensitivity, The F Word was somewhat pushed to the background. Menon, however, felt the book hardly had much to do with feminism and was “a narrow slice of a somewhat bland feminism”, wondering if in the West, the book was even remotely connected with feminism.

For a (somewhat) hopeful feminist, the evening gave me some long-due intellectual fodder to chew on. And as the cover suggests, the movement will persist only if you join the dots to make the larger picture.


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Posted on 14 July 2011



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