Discussing Lived Experiences Of Contemporary Women Writers
Women occupy a significant space in the trail of time, society and its revolution. However, they have been a marginalized section of society and the freedom to voice their opinions still remains a struggle for a lot many. Hence, women writers play an important role in framing and changing the narrative around gender and freedom to express. Sometimes, they are the collective voice of women as a gender and at other times, the individual voice of freedom and agency. The fourth panel at Women Writers Fest, Lucknow, organized by SheThePeople.TV, delved into the narratives and life journeys of contemporary women writers to flesh out the elemental changes brought on by them in our society.
The panel discussion was titled “Contemporary Women Writers: changing narratives, changing medium.” It was moderated by Doa Naqvi, a professor in the Department of Business Administration, a social activist and a writer. The speakers of the panel were Kena Shree, a writer, blogger, spoken word poet and storyteller; Devanshi Seth, a journalist working with Now Lucknow; Runjhun Noopur, ex-corporate lawyer, a Kathak dance, an author and an entrepreneur, and Rooprashi, a Management Executive, blogger and author of two books.
Why writing as a career for women in India is not taken seriously?
Writing is not a paid profession and not even a vocation in India. My struggle as a writer has been to become a writer that gets paid and who can proudly proclaim to be an author.- Runjhun Noopur
Writing is seldom considered as a medium to earn money and respec and a good career prospect in our country. It is usually seen as a hobby that is practiced aside from the main career or job. As a result, according to Doa Naqvi, women writers, today have a parallel profession to take care of and writing is just a side business that they do as a hobby. Besides, Runjhun Noopur, reflecting on her personal experience as a corporate lawyer turned writer, said, “Writing is not a paid profession and not even a vocation in India. My struggle as a writer has been to become a writer that gets paid and who can proudly proclaim to be an author. Along the way, I became a lawyer, did a lot of things, but everything was aimed at becoming a writer.”
How does gender discrimination against women affect their career as a writer?
Gender discrimination against women is an important factor in framing their lived experiences. Doa Naqvi, quoting Elif Shafaq, said, “Male writers are considered “writers” first and then “men”; whereas female writers are considered as “female” first and only then writers. This gender bias has a stronghold in society even today. How well-received or ill-received are writers in this gender-biased world?”
Runjhun further reflected that her struggle as a writer has been more about challenges as a writer and less about challenges as a woman. Although, she added that someday, every woman has to face gender discrimination that will affect her day to day lived experiences.
Motherhood and Writing
Another important aspect of the lived experience of a woman that has a significant impact on their writings is motherhood. Devanshi Seth, who quit her job to spend time with her child said, “More than anything it is the mother’s guilt that kills women because you feel guilty of not giving 100 percent to your child and 200 percent to your work.”
Author Rooprashi, on the other hand, said that her writing became more emphatic when she embraced motherhood.
Do not set in with conformities, do not set in for stereotypes. Live your life on your own and take stand for yourself. Unless you do it, nobody else is going to do it for you. – Kena Shree
What do contemporary women writers have for other women?
While women writers reflect their own lived experiences and voice their perspectives, they also present hope and inspiration for other women. Subsequently, the writers of the panel addressed the women with some advice on how to live life on their own accord.
Kena said, “Do not set in with conformities, do not set in for stereotypes. Live your life on your own and take stand for yourself. Unless you do it, nobody else is going to do it for you.” She also reflected on the importance of feminism and sisterhood in framing the progressive narratives of society. “If we don’t want feminism to lose its sheen, we have to promote sisterhood and solidarity among women,” she said.
Further, Devanshi Seth, exemplifying her own experience of leaving her job at TOI against the wishes of her family, said, “Follow your heart and do what makes you happy. If you are happy with your life, that makes all the difference.”
Drawing on a similar line that Kena and Devanshi Seth touched upon, Runjhun said, “Don’t let anybody else decide what makes you happy. Choose your own happiness. All of us have different definitions of success or happiness. So follow your choice and let the conditioning be damned.”
Rudrani Kumari is an intern with SheThePeople.TV.