“Women are Not the Only Ones Affected by Gender Politics”, Shuktara Lal

Women Writers' Festival, Kolkata
A hazy Friday morning in Kolkata welcomed the first edition of Women Writers’ Festival by SheThePeople.TV in the city at The Saturday Club. With a fine line-up of interesting and thought-provoking sessions through the day. The event kick-started with a panel discussion on, ‘Politics of Writing on Gender Issues’.

Leena Kejriwal, Anurima Roy, Ramanjit Kaur, Amrita Mukherjee and Rita Bhattacharjee participated in the panel moderated by Shuktara Lal.

Women Writers Fest KoklataWriting on gender issues

Writing on gender issues has always been subjected to deep scrutiny. In fact this scrutiny has seeped into plays, photography, journalism, and every medium through which women or in fact any gender can raise their voice. Hence politics becomes a weapon of choice for both the sides. The entitled want to use politics to keep the voice of the opposition in check. And the rebels use it to make sure that their voices are heard.

“Women are not the only ones affected by gender politics.”

The moderator Shuktara Lal pointed out at that,“Women are not the only ones affected by gender politics.”

Further she elaborated that the transgenders along with the entire LGBT community and many liberal feminist men too suffer because of this politics. Every now and then liberal creative minds struggle for the control over their own content. But for many women, the politics starts at workplace, and ends in the bedroom.

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Theatre personality Ramanjit Kaur said that women from strong economic backgrounds, are often the most helpless. The fear of losing all the comfort and facilities at hand and financial dependency, leads many to tolerate abuse in various forms. Some turn a blind eye towards a cheating partner. Some cover their bruises with makeup.


But many women, willingly compromise with their freedom of expression, because their spouses refuse tolerate it.

Ramanjit used her play ‘The Suit’ to elaborate: “It is a South African play, it talks about the politics of a relationship. We changed the ending of the play. So in the end, the wife takes the suit from her husband and wears it. The husband says, ‘Give it back to me,’ because the suit depicts power. To which the wife replies ‘Never again, it’s my second skin now.’”

The ending had been modified in this play from its original version. But it had been done so, to stimulate women of high social and economical class into thinking about where they actually stand.

On the other end of this spectrum is the artwork of photographer Leena Kejriwal, who has used her camera to bring the prostitutes from the red-light area into focus. Ironically for a profession dependent primarily on women for its survival, the economic and gender dynamics in this area are still governed as per the dictates of men.

Be it work, art or media, women are continuously challenging men in their own game at every step. And finally, the change is palpable.

Editor Arunima Roy talked about the change she has seen in the field of publishing in past few years.

“Writing a gender (basically written by women, or on women) sells. We all now know what we are doing now. Women are writing eroticas and they are talking about it. They are not using pen names. Now they write what they want to write. And there are more people who listen to them. And now this has moved beyond selling. We can say now that is works!”

But why has this change taken so long to come? Maybe the blame lies with the perception about women and their role and involvement in society.

Amrita Mukherjee thinks so. According to her,

“We are always fighting perceptions. Be a journalist, or a college student, or a housewife…whoever we are.”

To men it seems that our priorities lie in kitty parties and writing about sex and romance. They deem us unfit to do to ‘serious journalistic work’ or ‘hardcore work’.

Poet Rita Bhattacharjee summed our struggle to be taken seriously at work perfectly. She says,“As a woman, you have to work four times as hard as a man or you have to show that much more commitment, to get your work recognised.”

So where do we stand in our battle against these preconceived notions and the constant censorship of our work?

We are yet to win but we seem to be on the right track. So men might as well start listening to us.

The panel discussion ended with lines from one of Rita Bhattacharjee’s poems, in which she has compared a tree to a woman. The parting lines were:

“She is not the only one who had her tongue severed, a cross she bears with all womenkind.”

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