Celebrating womanhood

Feminist publications

Women’s voices have consistently been eclipsed or reduced to flattened identities, says Meghna Singh, marketing and communication manager at Zubaan, a feminist publishing house. They have been printing stories of intrepid women and narratives of marginalised communities to initiate a discourse on subjects that often don’t find space in mainstream publication houses.

“We persist in pushing these voices to create cultural mirrors that are otherwise missing, for communities we are part of and in solidarity with; to challenge structural privilege in the way we know best —books!  Feminism, for us, is an inclusive ideology that attempts to recentre modes of thinking and highlight marginal identities.” she tells Metrolife.

According to her, independent publishing houses like Zubaan highlight voices that are not reflected in mainstream literary culture. “This is true for those at the intersection of marginalised identities, for Dalit women, those from the northeast, queer and trans-women — writers whose works find a home in our list,” she says.

It was in 1984 when Urvashi Butalia and Ritu Menon set up India’s first feminist publishing house, Kali for Women. Over the next two decades, Kali established its name as the preeminent publisher of women’s writing and writing on feminism and gender in South Asia. After nearly two decades of publishing and being trailblazers in creating a market for women writings, the two founders set up their independent imprints — Zubaan and Women Unlimited. “Publishing houses like ours are always at the cutting edge, taking risks and publishing books and authors that mainstream publishing often overlook. We anticipate trends, keep our ears to the ground, and are in the vanguard,” says Menon, founder of Women Unlimited.

India has seen a slow but steady rise in independent publishing houses that focus on highlighting the voice of the voiceless. One such platform is India’s first feminist portal, Feminism in India (FII), which documents everything related to feminism and serves as a platform for people to break their silence and raise their voices. They propagate on the concept of “intersectional theory” which describes the ways in which oppressive institutions — racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia and classism — are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another.

On asking why such portals are necessary, Japleen Pasricha, founder and editor-in- chief of FII says, “We need to reach out to the youth and speak to them in their own language. We also want to have better and bigger representation of women and marginalised communities in media.”

Pasricha also feels that it is important to “unravel the F-word and demystify all the negativity surrounding it”.

Agrees Menon and says that feminism has been so widely acknowledged that no one now can afford to be seen as anti-women or male chauvinist.

However, one of the major challenges faced by them is to sustain in the long run, but these feisty women are optimistic. “The major battle is that of survival. In my 40 years in publishing, things have never felt as exciting as they are now. It truly seems there are infinite possibilities. You have peers with whom you share political standpoints and can have innovative collaborations,” says Bhutalia.

“But there is also a real fear as to whether small publishing is going to be eaten up by the biggies. It’s always been my dream to prove that feminist publishing can survive, its politics intact, in the commercial marketplace,” she adds.

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