Revolution from within

Revolution from within

Female foeticide. Dishonour. Dowry deaths. Sexual harassment. Eve-teasing. Sixty three years after independence, these words continue to appear often in everyday conversation in India. Young women respond to these issues in different ways. Many have taken to voicing their opinion  and creating awareness online. The growing popularity of  blogs by women who write about their lives and their thoughts on social change is an example of this trend.

Bangalore-based writer and poet Anindita Sengupta’s blog provides her the forum to discuss issues which mean a lot o her. What started off as an idea is today one of India’s well-known feminist blogs — www.ultraviolet.in.

“Three years ago, I quit my corporate job after fighting a case of sexual harassment in the workplace. I realised that there weren’t enough resources for women to share their experiences of unfair treatment. I began blogging about my experiences and found that it generated substantial discussion,” she says.

The writer within

Anindita says she took to writing about women’s issues as a teenager but went on to write about various other subjects too. Among the writers she admires are Betty Freidan, Virginia Woolfe and Tony Morrison. Poet and critic Eunice de Souza, Tamil poet Salma and Kannada writer Vaidehi, she says, inspire her through their work. Anindita’s poetry has appeared in many international publications like Nth Muse and Eclectica. She also writes for Guardian. Her first collection of poems, City of Water, has been published by the Sahitya Akademi.

It was while working as a journalist that Anindita realised that gender issues  affected her deeply and “something had to be done”. She travelled across  India, putting away journal after journal filled with notes on what she had observed about women in rural India.

“Feminism is a loaded term and yes, it is misunderstood by many people, especially those who have little or no access to material on gender issues. I have friends who believe in equality but will not call themselves feminists because they’re not comfortable with what the term implies,” she adds.

Indian academic and eminent social activist Madhu Kishwar echoed a similar thought in an interview in 2005. “Feminism has received such disdain and backlash in India because it lacks fighting power and integrity.” (Tehelka, Dec 31, 2005).

Anindita  says, “There are multiple definitions of feminism in India. At the very basic level, it means respecting and acknowledging that both genders have equal rights and opportunities. Which means, giving serious though to issues like rape, abortion, marriage, childcare, even etiquette, all of which require a certain amount of serious engagement. Any sensible and sensitive person would do this, instead of  dismissing feminism as ‘hating men’ or worse!”

‘Spare me the stereotypes’

The ultraviolet blog is special for  many reasons. Not only does it have an active discussion forum and receive inputs from prominent gender activists and writers, it also encourages readers of both sexes to voice their views.

“I don’t perceive my blog to be the solution to all women-related problems,” Anindita says, “but it has helped create awareness, and that is a great start.”

“Even empowered, educated women are bound by the moral and social framework of our society. Social conditioning is hard to break. That’s why creating awareness among women is one of the most important aspects of feminist movements,” she adds.

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