I Attended A Feminist Book Club Meet And Here’s What I Learned
Call me names…
I strive to be a slut in a world where all sex is sinful…
I strive to be a Sphinx: part woman, part lioness…
Come, unriddle me. But be warned: I never falter in a fight. And, far worse, I seduce shamelessly.
The words ripped through me, jolting me to attention. It was my first real introduction to true-blue feminist literature thanks to Meena Kandasamy’s explicit renditions.
Please don’t get me wrong. In my 40 years of reading, I’ve read books and poems and essays and opinion pieces and pop lit and non-fiction, but to sit down with a thin little book and have such powerful allegories thrown at me was a bit new. The last time I actually went beyond my comfort zone (mostly vernacular literature) was at a Lit Fest where Tishani Doshi’s reading of her smash hit poem Girls Are Coming Out of The Woods had me goosebumpsy for days.
Out here though, it was same-same but different. Hardcore profanities and slang floated about in a mishmash of self-loathing, self-doubt and full-blown defiance towards a world obsessed with patriarchal philosophies and pedagogy. Unbridled sexuality rubbed shoulders with female feticide. A blood guzzling Kali came alive with a new Mira who aimed to “tempt the lord!” Cunning Cunts, Backstreet Girls, Freelance Wives and Lady Justice jostled to be heard without mincing words.
That was something.
Please don’t get me wrong. In my 40 years of reading, I’ve read books and poems and essays and opinion pieces and pop lit and non-fiction, but to sit down with a thin little book and have such powerful allegories thrown at me was a bit new.
I struggled to digest the emotional turmoil seething under the gush of words that literally took my breath away. There were just too many lessons there. Takeaways galore if you please, for everyone in the book club, in a way struggling to fathom the deep connotations and myriad interpretations that intertwined religious legends with today’s myths and harsh realities.
It kind of opened a Pandora’s box of repressed feelings among all present at the co-working space that monsoon afternoon. The wife. The student. The intern. The Hindu. The Muslim. The man. The woman. The other. The Delhiite. The Mumbaikar. The rebel. The stickler!
For me per se, the reading, the relishing, the regurgitation and the rumination that followed had a few clear reality checks.
One, I made a pinkie promise to myself to stop, from this moment on, calling myself slut, bitch, badass, boss lady, crazy, hormonal etc etc in jest! It’s not funny anymore and the world needs to know that. No, don’t try that hackneyed “don’t be oversensitive” line on me. Doesn’t work. The lines are drawn and the limits of tolerance have been defined. Why else would Sheryl Sandberg and Beyonce spearhead the “Ban Bossy” campaign? Why else would Amber Rose do the “Slutwalk” year after year??
I made a pinkie promise to myself to stop, from this moment on, calling myself slut, bitch, badass, boss lady, crazy, hormonal etc etc in jest! It’s not funny anymore and the world needs to know that.
Ovio disclaimer: What happens between me and my friends is between me and my friends, so we are not going into that private space. Also, hardcore lunatics and faceless trolls will continue to slang-rant, and that’s not my concern anyway. What I am saying out loud is I have decided to stop willfully concurring to this seemingly innocent name-calling shrouded in profanities specifically aimed at demeaning women! Period!
Two, and this one’s kinda huge because it involves solutions. Not empty talk. And it was triggered by this very heartfelt appeal by the men present at the meet: So tell us how can we help? Sounds simple right? But it’s too deep and complex come to think of it. What can be the correct answer to that really. The women did try to give succinct hints with words like choice and respect. But I suppose the issue is so ingrained that it’ll need a complete re-mapping of the male DNA to sink in fully. What’s heartening is that a change of attitude is very slowly building up across the spectrum.
Now don’t get excited yet. It’s too small and too early to pop the bubble. But it’s definitely there. No doubt. With shifting gender norms, evolving masculinity, progressive feminism and unchained sexualities.
The mood, but naturally, spilled over into poem mode and a haiku jam I attended expressed our hidden feelings in no uncertain terms:
Shrouded in shackles of shame
I release the pain and find accountability
#MeToo says he!
Chew on that then people, as I leave you with yet another feminist thought from the day that changed me in many ways:
Dhanam sees a world torn in half.
Her left eye, lid open but light slapped away,
The price for a taste of that touchable water.
Picture Credit: freestocks.org on Unsplash
Gunjan Pant Pande speaks her mind in her short stories, blogs, opinion pieces and poems. When not on mom duty she reads, writes, travels, watches re-runs of stand-ups, photographs, paints, knits, chats up her girl gang and cooks soul food with her twist! The views expressed are the author’s own.